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Art entrepreneurs create choreography app

ASU graduates are combining art with technology to develop an iPad application for dance choreographers.

Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts alumna Amanda Nguyen said she found herself always carrying paper and writing down the stage positions for every dancer as a choreographer.

“It was very time-consuming,” she said.

Nguyen said she wanted to do something to solve that problem.

She collaborated with W. P. Carey School of Business alumnus J.J. Tang to find a solution. They worked on a concept of an iPad app called BlockLight that allows users to choreograph without the use of pen and paper.

College of Technology and Innovation alumnus Danny Martinez helped develop their idea into a product.

“(BlockLight) makes the creative process easier,” Nguyen said.

She said users can create pegs to represent dancers and move the pegs on the “stage.” The saved pages create a timeline of the dancers’ movements.

Nguyen said the company has other competitors, but none of them have the unique features of her app.

Tang said users can share the pages with other users and add comments, similar to the function of a Google Document.

“It’s a more efficient way to showcase work,” Tang said.

Nguyen said she talked to many dance and theater companies who are interested in using the app and sees the product eventually being used by marching bands and sports teams.

Nguyen, Tang and Martinez’s team was one of 20 teams to receive funding from the Edson Accelerator Program in June.

“The application process was rigorous (and) we had to think of (BlockLight) in terms of a marketing plan and define who we were … in terms of a business plan,” Nguyen said.

As part of the application process, Nguyen and her team presented a seven-minute pitch to a panel of judges.

Tang is also a two-time Edson grant winner for the Mechaddy, an operating device for mechanical wheelchairs.

The $12,000 grant will help them further develop their app, which they hope to have done by the end of 2012.

Tang said ASU has given them a lot of support by finding mentors and providing them with financial support.

BlockLight received initial funding of $5,000 in September 2011 from the Pave Program in Arts Entrepreneurship at the Herberger Institute.

The Pave Program promotes entrepreneurship in the arts by providing creative students with education and financial support though its venture incubator program, said program director Linda Essig.

“Artists are inherent entrepreneurs,” she said. “(Artists) need to have the skills and mindset to create their own opportunities and to create work.”

Nguyen’s app fit the program’s criteria of being innovative and solving a need in the arts, Essig said.

Nguyen said that with technology being developed so rapidly, art doesn’t seem to be keeping up.

“It seems like theater and dance are really behind,” Nguyen said. “Nothing is being done to cater to theatre.”


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