Statistics professor and choreographer

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Statistics and methodology professor Barton Poulson is a successful example of how to connect two seemingly opposite career fields – modern dance and data science.

Poulson was introduced to the modern dance community through his wife, Jacque Bell, who is a modern dance choreographer. They would go to many performances and compare their views on the different pieces. This played a role for Poulson when he became a member on the board of directors for Repertory Dance Theatre.

Poulson’s interest in modern dance led him to design a project at the University of Utah that involved computer design, data visualization and the use of Microsoft Kinect to create a video and motion capture of dance improvisation.

When Poulson’s project was complete he showed it to the director at RDT. The director liked what she saw and asked Poulson and Bell if they would design a piece for RDT’s fall show. The piece that Poulson and his wife designed was called “Hello World.” It was an interdisciplinary, multimedia collaboration that was performed at Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center on Oct. 4-6.

Poulson’s responsibility when working for RDT was to produce the visuals that were projected onto a screen behind the dancers. He was also in charge of the sound design for “Hello World”, while his wife choreographed the dance.

“This experience has been revolutionary for me,” Poulson said. “I had always been around the artistic community but never a part of it. For me this has been an extraordinary connection between statistics and visualization with dance and art.”

Poulson’s new found interest in data visualization led him to propose and receive a grant from Utah Valley University to put together a show of his own. This performance will be called “Dance Loops” and is anticipated to be showcased this spring. The inspiration for this piece came from the cellist, Zeo Keating, who does many performances where she accompanies herself with the use of computer software.

“I want to do with dance with what she does with music,” said Poulson.

Poulson is asking for any interested students to meet in the GT building room 618E from 11:30-12:30 every Thursday.

“I want anybody and everybody. I think every student on campus could find something that would interest them that would add to the show,” said Poulson. “I just need people to show up and get involved.”

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