Expanded writing

I Am _Your_ Pyrate Dancer: she doesn’t walk the plank, the planks walk with her.

May 8th, 2024


 I want to live out by the sea. . . .—Tina Turner, Private Dancer (1984)

I Am _Your_ Pyrate Dancer is a net.art performance that draws from dance, electronic literature and minimal computing aesthetics to craft a time-based experience of a text unfolding by Nancy Mauro-Flude and Jo Pollitt. Summoning Tina Turner, with a metal hook as a hand and a steel claw vernacular, through passing and parsing, the Pyrate Dancer plunders, traverses, and transfigures letterings to disrupt normative vernacular exchange.

The Pyrate Dancer loses her footing on the boards. But because she is dancing—unbolting concrete poems as simultaneously as they emerge—she doesn’t walk the plank; the planks walk with her.

 I am _your_ Pyrate Dancer, performance still of digital artifact, screenshot (2020). An anchor appears as the nexus for the distributed booty of the dancer; the matrices of a graphical environment are the planks on which she treads and on which pirates are traditionally known to walk.


To tread the boards is an expression used by many performing artists, indicating their work takes place on a stage that was customarily made of wooden planks. Instead of treading the boards, two dancers move through a network of fibres, simultaneously performing from remote locations (lutruwita/Tasmania and Whadjuk Noongar Country in Western Australia).

The abstract planks on which dancers tread and on which pirates are traditionally known to walk are not unlike the matrices of a graphical environment. Transfiguring a web browser into a stage is enabled through software imbroglios of Internet connectivity, which are embraced similarly to how dance practices of on-the-fly improvisation, rehearsal, and live performance are navigated on the boards.

Across the expanse of the web browser, the Pyrate Dancer turns, spins, and plots nascent directions through a tempest, her compass point a quivering ambit. Demonstrated in the screenshots of I am _your_ Pyrate Dancer and the digital artefacts from the performance that can be found at this URL  https://divination.cc/Nancy-Jo-Inteterminate2020/I_am_Your_Pyrate_dancer.html

The choreography undoes passages, trips, interrupts, and relays.  The inequalities implicit in the previous dances, in which the dancers have been inscribed, affirmatively act to rewrite these narratives and redistribute the dance via Karen Barad’s “infinite set of possibilities, or infinite sum of histories, entails a particle touching itself, and then that touching itself, and so on, ad infinitum” – the dispersal of corporeality through (and with) the ether.


Nancy Mauro-Flude and Jo Pollitt, Text_Drives, performance still, Backspace Theatre, 2003. The authors in a previous dance of computation and terpsichorean incursion.

The black box stage of the networked computer terminal imports the kinetic abstractions through augmentations of touch. The dancers converge in translocal space, performing as interlocutors through the character Pyrate Dancer, an intermediary in the choreographic score whose swaggering enunciations stretch across temporalities.

The interstices between the markings, where X marks the spot to supersede placement of the toes, \0/ are marks of an energetic state, a text-based gesture of a convivial wave through a forward and back slash, with a numeric zero representing a head. Nancy Mauro-Flude and Jo Pollitt, I am _your_ Pyrate Dancer, performance still of digital artifact, screenshot.


Choreographic score in the web browser as performance space, starring symbolic characters manifesting from parsing of code and writing
as dancing. Nancy Mauro-Flude and Jo Pollitt, I am _your_ Pyrate Dancer, performance still of digital artifact, screenshot.

The ambiguous scourge and hubbub of dance constraints are discussed by Yvonne Rainer “My own forays into this territory border on a kind of banditry, the need for which has slowly evolved out of a dilemma imposed by subject matter”

I Am _Your_ Pyrate Dancer strips away dance, language, and data to reform them in a way that may better speak to alterities. The performance offers a mélange of agendas and “cut-up” techniques that radiate in multiple dimensions and planes. In solipsistic conversation, the Pyrate Dancer actant muses about gender, embodiment, habitus, and morphology as she demystifies the elite world of contemporary dance and the isomorphic realms of computer subculture.

The dance work emphasises how the kerning transpires in the cells, the blank spaces, and the interstices between the letters and/or markings. The nuances of digital and somatic literacies and abstracted compositions are delivered through a typographic drama. The actions of inner processes of keystrokes, the act of pressing, and the reciprocity of touch enable an audience to comprehend the embodied cadences of networked presence.

Transmuting existing content as raw material upon which to improvise and riff, the Pyrate Dancer reworks the mise-en-scène of liveness, inexorably challenging figurative corporeal capture through editing the .html and JavaScript—and recording keystrokes in real time with Time Based Text (TBT). TBT is a digital poetry computer program made and conceived by media artist Jaromil, founder of the Dyne.org software foundation, in collaboration with net artists JoDi (2008) and developed further by Nancy Mauro-Flude (2013) for live performance. The process of writing and reading is made prominent in the software accessible through a computer terminal that “records all typing and plays it back exactly the way the text was typed the first time, including all hesitations and misspellings.” TBT “is a new form of digital poetics . . . implementing interactivity, new software and network communications. . . . [A]ll kinds of digital media can be given a ‘human touch’”. TBT records the acts of reading, writing, and typing, emphasising the processes involved in the velocities of embodied cognition.

This is an excerpt from the essay “I Am _Your_ Pyrate Dancer : Choreographic Computabilities Dancing inside the Interstices of a Visceral World” published in Leonardo 56 (1): 50–57, by Nancy Mauro-Flude and Jo Pollitt. The article describes how the performance I am _your_ Pyrate Dancer (2020) offers an alternative to commonly deployed hybrid notation systems in choreography. The performance event is a choreographic score and artifact that advances transdisciplinary developments in contemporary choreographic practice. A case study is provided as an example of how gesture, executable code, computational poetics, script, and syntax can endure beyond. The novel application of plain text computing, with all its constraints, not ordinarily connected to terpsichorean practices, paradoxically exhibits a nascent realm in which dance-making futures may endure.

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