Vail Valley resident and CEO of Dance Ed Tips, Olivia Mode-Cater, launched a new web application for dancers in partnership with Dance Technologies this Tuesday, March 15.
The SPOTlight application is designed to help dancers practice and gain real-time feedback on a variety of moves and progressions, using video and AI technology to pinpoint areas of improvement when executing different skills.
“Using technology to provide high-quality, individualized feedback that enhances performance has been missing from the field of dance,” Mode-Cater said. “Motion analysis apps have been a go-to solution for this problem for over ten years in sports, yet there are no comparable solutions for the dance industry until now.”
Users access the application via their internet browser and select which skill they would like to work on from a preexisting library. SPOTlight is launching with around 15 skills that primarily focus on the genre of contemporary ballet, and Mode-Cater said that they will be adding more options in the coming months.
Once a skill is selected, the user watches a video of how to execute the move, then records or uploads a video of themselves performing it. Once the video is submitted, a patented algorithm analyzes 33 different points on the body in order to determine whether the user is positioned in the correct way throughout the movement.
The feedback is then delivered in the form of green and red dots — green dots on points that are being executed correctly, red dots on points that need to be adjusted in order to master the skill. The user also receives a score percentage that tells them how close they are to matching the demonstration.
Mode-Cater is the former director of dance education at Hoftsra University, and founded the company Dance Ed Tips in 2017 to provide resources, training and support to dance teachers around the world.
“I’ve coached probably thousands of teachers through the pandemic,” Mode-Cater said. “I show people how to make dance still fun online, and the biggest part that’s hard online is the feedback piece. Through a little zoom screen, it’s hard for us to give high quality feedback on technique and performance, and that’s what this app solves.”
Last fall, Mode-Cater connected online with a developer named Justin Tehrani who was looking to collaborate with a dance instructor to build an algorithmic dance application.
“His daughter was a dancer and kind of plateaued, and couldn’t, through classes, break through that plateau,” Mode-Cater said. “So he thought, ‘Well, I’m a developer, I can do something,’ but he didn’t have the dance knowledge, doesn’t know how to teach dance, doesn’t know what moves to do or what order to put them in. So we found each other online, and it’s just the perfect fit.”
Together, they have created an app that allows Tehrani’s daughter to practice and advance at her own pace, and bridged the feedback gap that Mode-Cater has dealt with in her virtual dance classes.
The app is designed as a premium subscription service, where a number of skills will be available to try for free while others will have to be unlocked through a paid subscription. Many of the more basic skills will remain free for everyone, while more complex movements will be reserved for subscribers only.
In addition to increasing access to personalized feedback and instruction, Mode-Carter said that it was also very important to consider body inclusivity when developing the algorithms.
“It works for any body type, which is, I think, really important in dance,” Mode-Cater said. “Dancers tend to favor the lean, muscular, thin body type, so there’s been a lot of talk in the dance world about how we need to change that narrative. If you have a body, it’s meant to dance, and you should be able to dance and get accurate, unbiased feedback.”
Mode-Cater and her partner have been testing the product with dancers from all over the country since December, and are now ready to share it with the world. Mode-Cater moved to Eagle County in the summer of 2020, and said that it has been the ideal environment in which to develop the new application.
“It’s just a really grounding place to work,” Mode-Cater said. “When you’re in front of a screen all day long, to be able to go outside and be so deeply in nature, I’ve had a work-life balance that I haven’t been able to have before.”
To be one of the first to experience the Spotlight application for yourself, visit Spotlight.DanceEdTips.com.