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A Brigham Young University animator's tribute to the late, great dance choreographer Martha Graham could very well have been the most-watched thing on the Internet on Wednesday. And it's only 15 seconds long.
Google, the world's largest Internet search engine, displayed Tuesday night and all day Wednesday an animated Google masthead for the company's home page. The "Google doodle" was created by Ryan J. Woodward, an associate professor of animation.
Upon entering the page, the hand-animated clip for Google's masthead showed dancers gracefully performing famous moves choreographed by Graham, best known for her works "Appalachian Spring" and "Lamentation." The "doodle" was designed in celebration of Graham's 117th birthday Wednesday, as the search engine often changes its masthead to reflect special dates.
"She'd be very pleased," said LaRue Allen, executive director of New York City's famed Martha Graham Dance Company, which worked with Woodward on the animation. "Martha loved anything that was new and fresh and would have just been delighted by this."
Woodward teaches animation and also creates storyboards for Hollywood movies such as "Iron Man 2" and the upcoming "Cowboys & Aliens." He was asked by Google last March to produce the Graham tribute after the Mountain View, Calif., search engine company viewed a short film he produced last year.
That 3-minute video, called "Thought of You," was an experimental animation of dancers that Woodward wanted to make to express his more artistic side. He recruited a choreographer and dancer from BYU's dance department last fall to make the short. "To make an animated short and do it in a more artistic way that's non-commercial was very adventurous for me," Woodward said.
More than 2 million people have viewed Woodward's short on both YouTube and Vimeo. At first, Google planned to fly Woodward to New York to work with the Martha Graham Dance Company.
"Then I turned around and looked at the wall behind me," he recalled. "There was a poster of an announcement that said the Martha Graham Dance Company was going to be visiting BYU."
During the company's visit, the creative director and a dancer worked with Woodward to choreograph moves for the animation. Then he produced the animation on his computer in about a month and delivered the final product a week ago.
"They were just absolutely ecsatic," Woodward said about the dance company's reaction to the animation. "They really feel it holds the integrity of who Martha Graham is. And that's of most importance to me."
In a statement, Google said: "This combination of diligence and serendipity really shines through the final result on today's Google homepage and we hope our users enjoy it."
And the resulting response from fans of the animation has been tremendous, Allen said.
"We've had so many hits on our home page and Facebook page," Allen said. "People have written us with emails, and they say it's fabulous for dance and for us as a company. They say it couldn't happen to a better artist."
Woodward's personal websites crashed twice from too many visitors since the animation went live Tuesday night, he said.
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