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Ballet’s brave new world in virtual reality

Six dancers go around you. chesséing 1 inch away from your face. Queue a tense display of jumps and lightning transitions. You are wrapped in movement and nervous to capture the action. Dancers rush into pairs and women now have brave moments. It’s all feet, feet, feet: it sways at extreme angles around the man and is in perfect harmony with the invisible piano trill.

You are close enough to see sweat and streaks, but only as an invisible voyeur. This isn’t a nightmare throwback to a childhood ballet class, but I’ll be using an Oculus headset and Helen Pickett’s on Friday night. petal..

Boston Ballet has been a ballet-style innovator and has asked three choreographers to create works that are entirely designed for VR. This latest suite — Zoom in Ken Ossora, a remade version of the famous picket petal,and In (my) line, in (my) heart By My’Kal Stromile — It will soon be available on your Oculus headset (or smartphone).

“For today’s people, we have to be a living theater,” says Boston Ballet Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen. “To do that, we had to take this risk.”

Boston Ballet is the first major company to combine VR and ballet so far. And instead of bending the classic choreography to meet the needs of the virtual environment, the latest ballet is designed for headsets — all original pieces with choreography depth and technical knowledge.

“Zoom in” by Ken Ossora

When watching Ossora Zoom inThe rainbow colors created by clever lighting cover each dancer and make them look like a different world. His wording subtly refers to other forms (Spot Kathak, Salsa, Martha Graham Spiral).Standing in the middle of a wavy semicircular body, each moves like a snake Port debraDiscover how eye contact can change the spirit of your performance.

Due to the design itself, VR dance Meaning It will be this internal organ. The audience is just a little away from the complexity of actions, occasional trips and slides, choreography and gestures. Pickett describes this experience as “movement landing on the skin.”

Today, an audience with a full agency is no longer dictated by the artistic choices made by the creative team. Boston choreographers have noticed that VR breaks the established practice of dance performance. No matter where the viewer looks, something different is happening.

“All choreography should be designed to move in a circle around the camera,” Ossola says. “I have discovered a new way to guide the audience. To keep them excited, you need to manage the space.”

In the case of Stromile, he treated the VR-enabled camera as the dancer himself and approached humans and machines as artistic equivalents. He designed a solo set featuring a handheld camera. The camera is passed from one dancer to another, providing a powerful perspective to the viewer. Cameras have begun to embrace their own language of movement, admitting that Strolly “doesn’t recognize it and the audience becomes part of the choreography.”

This intimacy also suggests a clear pitfall — most VR dances. Too Close for comfort. VR overturns ballet fantasy as a perfect structure. The dancer has been identified as erroneous, as a clever choreography. Wearing headgear and standing effectively in the middle of the stage makes escapism and the sense of magic difficult.

Helen Pickett’s “Petals” Boston Ballet © Liza Voll

It’s not just the audience that has to adapt. “It was difficult to rehearse the work,” says Ossora. “The dancer’s energy depends on sensing the tension of the audience. Obviously not in VR.”

“Each dancer has to dance everything like a solo,” says Stromile. “Because someone can choose to look at you all the time.”

Since choreography needs to adapt to the unique pressures of VR viewers, will VR dance itself become a sub-genre and the second cousin of the proscenium?

Pickett is enthusiastic about that possibility. For her, working in VR was “breathtaking. This level of intimacy is thrilling and I’ve been working on it throughout my career.”

Sydney Skybetter, a professor of choreography at Brown University and one of the world’s leading thinkers at the crossroads of dance and emerging technology, isn’t surprised that VR is finally coming to the industry. “The stage as a concept was actually a disruptive technology when we first entered the world of ballet, so don’t be surprised if modern technology inevitably overwhelms old technology,” he says. I will.

The Scottish Ballet has consistently promoted the introduction of ballet into the 21st century. In 2017, it became the first ballet company to announce the digital season. Foresighted artistic director Christopher Hampson believes that the next big thing in dance and technology will be the combination of tactile and VR, the technologies that can create a tactile experience. “It could open up a whole new realm of movement. It challenges creators to think differently,” he says.

One such creator is the Alexander Whitley Company, which goes against the genre.The Royal Ballet-trained Whitley team is working on Diaghilev’s interpretation Sprin’s ritualg.. His future Future ritual (Scheduled to premiere next year) Use artificial intelligence to allow the audience to dance with the pros.

“It will be a very participatory experience,” says Whitley. Audiences can control their avatars and move with the dancers. Whitley believes that “the first language of dance is emotion” Future ritual Talk to people at that most basic level.

By its very nature, dance uses emotions and empathy to bring us back to our bodies. But dancing on a virtual stage has an immersive power that completely eliminates us. Boston Ballet has broken new ground, but the real test of VR life is where to go from here. Over time, it will be clear whether other companies can continue to push the boundaries of ballet. This is a form of art that is not known for embracing modernity and progress.

“If the younger generation can experience ballet like this, I think they will come to the theater,” says Pickett. “And certainly, it’s a discussion for other companies to get involved.”

Boston Ballet will soon release the latest VR work bostonballet.org

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