In preparation for this year’s dance concert, Integrated, middle and upper school students researched topics related to technology, AI, and how we as humans relate to these machines in our everyday lives. Students thought critically about their personal experiences with tech and created pieces inspired by their findings and curiosities. Their works explore how we can utilize AI as a resource moving forward, while also giving space to the many moral and existential questions that come along with developing non-human intelligence. Two Upper School students, Hayley Trockman and Mattie Sulivan, reflected on their own processes and interviewed peers to give the audience an inside look into the complex questions underlying this year’s concert.
Reflecting on Process: Dance Students’ Voices on Integrated
By Hayley Trockman, Class of 2024, and Mattie Sullivan, Class of 2025
During the summer workshop our dance teachers, Sophia Cutrubus ’18 and Grace Riter ’18, presented us with the question: how can we express our thoughts about the advancement of technology through dance? At first, we were unaware of just how many different paths we could take to explore this growing industry. But as we dove deeper, we discovered that this topic left us with endless questions and conversations to have. Both our Intermediate and Advanced Dance Ensembles classes endeavored to answer these questions with open minds and a willingness to delve into our movement explorations.
How can we express our thoughts about the advancement of technology through dance?
Junior Mattie Sullivan decided to ruminate on their individual relationship to transforming technologies, using their piece to uncover a duality that often comes with spending huge amounts of time online.
“When I was presented with the theme of this year's dance concert I felt excited, overwhelmed, and honestly scared,” said Mattie. “Walking into dance class this year, I was full of ideas but really struggling to articulate them. Even a couple of days ago I was reminded of our initial question: can you really express all of these feelings through dance? But in the few weeks leading up to the concert, I feel confident that our relationships with AI and technology have and will continue to be voiced.”
They continued, “The Internet has been my primary form of communication with those I care about and my main source of entertainment. On the flip side, I have observed the detrimental effects an Internet addiction can have on a person. For my piece, I focused on both of these aspects of Internet usage. By manipulating the energy qualities of my movement I was able to portray both loneliness and connection. In our creative processes, we dove into the complexities of using the Internet and AI, and through movement we have been able to tell our unique stories.”
In Mattie’s work with the Iron Lions robotics team captain, junior Evan Weinstein, they discussed how technology has a different kind of intelligence than humans do. Evan highlighted that we don’t need to fear AI; rather, we should focus on how we set boundaries around its use.
He said, “AI is incredibly important because as we learn to harness the power of computing, technological strides become more accessible. When we don’t need to worry about spending time regulating budgets and doing mundane tasks, the future workforce will be able to put our collective energy towards doing new things while AI can maintain what we already know. Additionally, AI will be able to pick up on patterns that humans can’t. This level of pattern recognition can also help us predict and regulate our response to relevant social and environmental issues.”
While neural networks and AI are incredible tools, they are just that—tools. We can learn to use them as innovators and problem solvers, but at the end of the day they can only perform as well as we teach them.
Evan also pointed out, “While neural networks and AI are incredible tools, they are just that—tools. We can learn to use them as innovators and problem solvers, but at the end of the day they can only perform as well as we teach them. AI is an advancement that we need to understand and accept. I urge the support of AI and hope that we can help learn within our communities to set our generation up for success.”
Senior Hayley Trockman gave a look into what her process looked like as she learned about how AI-generated images are created.
“I believe in integrating technology into our lives with human intelligence guiding its role,” said Hayley. “I began the process of choreographing a piece that specifically looked into the ways that AI-produced images are created from our insecurities and unrealistic beauty standards. However, after speaking with Rowland Hall staff member Ashley Atwood, her advice of ‘accepting the new and upcoming’ resonated with me. I realized that we can’t put all of the blame on technology—because we are actually the ones feeding it the ideal body image through our engagement with social media. Whether it be likes and positive reactions, or critical comments, AI recognizes this trend in data and takes that information to generate its own images. My piece is a commentary on that process. The use of mirrors as props represents how AI-generated images become both reflections and distortions of our own insecurities.”
Senior Lauren Bates pivoted the conversation in a new direction, with her inspiration coming from the increase in the use of AI to help process grief.
“My initial idea dealt with how AI does not feel or process grief the same way that we do,” said Lauren. “However, as I did more research, I found a number of articles talking about ‘Grief Tech.’ I learned that there is already technology that allows people to feed information from their loved ones who have passed into AI chatbots. Subsequently, the software can recreate their personality and identity. This has brought up a lot of ethical and psychological concerns, along with questions about if this is a healthy way to process grief. I was initially inspired to create this piece after listening to Kendrick Lamar’s ‘United In Grief’ and applying its meaning to dance. For me, dance has always been a way to express ideas that are too difficult to express with words.”
I hope that our audience will resonate with both our fear and love of technology, and spend a minute thinking about their own relationships, both on and off the screens.
As we have reflected on the past months of choreographing, researching, and critically evaluating our relationship with tech and AI, we hope that the concert encourages our audience to turn inward and think about how they relate to technology in their own lives. As Mattie Sullivan said, “I hope that our audience will resonate with both our fear and love of technology, and spend a minute thinking about their own relationships, both on and off the screens.” We want this moment in time to allow viewers to take pause and evaluate where we are and how we want to move forward.