An Invitation to DANCE

An Invitation to DANCE was a research project by Noud Heerkens.

This research project examines the cinematic experience of a dance performance.

Visitor and installation

During the first phase of the research, in 2015, Noud Heerkens opts for a direct ‘physical’ interaction between visitor and installation. By moving through space, approaching the screen, stepping to the left or right, the visitor directly determines the images on the screen. During public test moments it appears that this form of technical interaction raises the wrong expectations: namely that the work is about understanding an interaction scenario.  

In follow-up experiments the relationship between the physicality of the visitor and the situatedness of the experience is investigated. To keep the focus of the installation on the cinematic experience of dance, the concept of the interaction needs to be redefined.


In the film installation An Invitation to DANCE there are five bodies present, five individuals, coexisting. Their unstoppable dancing reveals the human condition. Generated by software a constantly changing assembly of images of dancing bodies, all caught in a trance by the beat of the music, are projected on five screens. In the closed off installation, the visitor becomes part of the intimate world of the dancers and is invited to dance alongside them.

The research and diverse tests with visitors leads to a ‘generative’ artwork. By moving through space, shifting the gaze and focus, the visitor ‘edits’ the far reaching cinematic deconstruction of dance in realistic, poetic and abstract images. Accordingly, the acting body and the associative brain influence the character and intensity of the experience. ‘It’s a form of mental interaction where the public becomes co-author of the work,’ Heerkens says, ‘and in here lies the essence of this situated, cinematic experience of dance’.

The experience of Volkskrant critic Mirjam van der Linden fitted in well with this. Describing the installation by Heerkens and choreographer Loïc Perela, shown at Eye Filmmuseum in March 2018 during the Cinedans festival, she wrote:

‘The pulsing music and multiple camera angles suck you into the monomaniacal dance, producing a physical sensation.’ – Volkskrant

User research

A first user research is conducted with students during the Studium Generale 2017 at the Master Institute of Visual Cultures in Den Bosch. Findings are processed in the exhibited prototype during the Cinedans festival in Eye Filmmuseum in 2018.  

An advanced version of the installation is exhibited in June 2019 at the art space TENT in Rotterdam. Together with anthropologist Minke Nouwens, Heerkens designs an intense users research around the question: What is the role of the body in the experience of the installation. During the exhibition three different set-ups of the screens (SOLO, ARENA and PANORAMA) provoking different interaction with the audience are installed. Together with students of the department of fine arts of St. Joost School of Art and Design, the researchers observe the visitors, and interview a group of nine volunteers coming from the domain of dance, cinema, new media and visual art.  


This empirical research conducted into the role of the body in the perception of the work was subsequently described in the peer-reviewed publication written by Nouwens, Heerkens and van Dartel An Invitation to DANCE: Making Sense of Viewer Interaction in Installation Art. The paper will be presented during the ISEA 2020 Conference October 2020, in Montreal Canada.  

Video Essay
In the 23 minutes video essay ‘The Audience Experience of An Invitation to DANCE’ filmmaker Noud Heerkens continues this research. Based on conversations with ten professionals from the arts he questions his assumptions, reflects and draws conclusions. The participants visited different set ups of the film installation and were afterwards interviewed by Minke Nouwens, anthropologist and artist, and Heerkens.

The video essay centres around two screen set ups, called ARENA and PANORAMA, each of which provokes a different physical and mental response from the visitor. The size of the screens, the software-driven image editing as well as the sound mix remain the same. Only changing the set-up of the screens enables to explicitly investigate the role of the body in the experience of dance.

Through the interviews Heerkens investigates the hypothesis that: When there is an interaction between body and artwork, between film image and memory this will enable the visitor to determine the character and intensity of the experience. The video essay intends to state that the visitor becomes the co-creator of the installation

completed research, 2016 – 2020.

Principle investigator
Noud Heerkens

Other researcher involved
Minke Nouwens

Michel van Dartel

V2_ Lab for the Unstable Media (production and presentation partner)
Filmmuseum EYE (presentation partner)
Loïc Perela (choreographer)
TENT Rotterdam (presentation partner)

Avans University of Applied Sciences
Cinedans (production and presentation partner)
Dansateliers (production partner)
Council of Rotterdam (production partner)
Fonds 21 (production partner)


Stichting Picos de Europa

Avans University of Applied Sciences

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