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(Credit: Will Shively)

Dance Revolution

BalletMet blends video game nerdery and nimble feet

By Morgan Landis

Published April 1, 2012

You can almost the see the faux domestic sitcom standoff happening in your head: wife/girlfriend wants to get fancied up and go the theater – and boyfriend/husband would rather advance his rank in Call of Duty.

Well, Columbus’ BalletMet has constructed the perfect medium-as-mediator: DanceTech.

The new performance will combine three very different types of personnel to create an interactive, video-game inspired performance.

The concept may sound pretty high-tech for a traditional ballet, yet it’s the perfect date night for gamers and tech lovers who need to get out of the house.

“I had just done an interview on WOSU radio and a week later a guy from BalletMet contacted me,” said Sean Beeson, the award-winning composer (seen at www.seanbeeson.com) who created the score for the piece. “Usually when I compose, they give me the game and I create the music. It’s kind of opposite in this case,” Beeson explained. “First came the music, then video implantation, then the choreography.”

After Beeson was contacted to create the music, BalletMet approached the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD) at The Ohio State University. There they found Associate Professor of Design Alan Price, who works with software and hardware used mostly for authoring video games. His component of the project is the graphics interacting with the BalletMet dancers. He describes the visuals as 3D computer animation that actually reacts to real-live events, like in a video game.

“In this case, we plan to have a combination of Microsoft Kinect cameras and other video cameras tracking the movement of the dancers, which will then influence the way the computer graphics move on the screen. In some cases, we are using the video tracking to influence the sound during the performance, as well,” explained Price.

“There is a part of the performance that will be entirely generated by the dancers,” Beeson continued. “If the dancer is a flute, depending on how they raise, lower, or move their arm will change the pitch or speed of their instrument.”

So the dancers, choreographed by Jimmy Orrante of BalletMet, will dance to the music as they normally would, but the images surrounding them on stage will change with their movements – and sometimes the music will change with their movements, too.

“It was this premise of video games that I was influenced with what we might do for the performance, and certainly an interesting juxtaposition of working with the classic form of ballet in combination with the modern technology and aesthetic of video games,” clarified Price. “I don’t think this is what the end result will be about, however. Instead, it will be about how dance, music, and the visuals driven by computer technology can influence each other and meld together in a work that stands on its own.”

DanceTech will run from April 20th though 28th at the Capitol Theatre. For more information, or to buy tickets, visit www.balletmet.org.


sallyj @ 04/20/2012 08:51 pm

This concept was most exciting to watch. The fabulous dancing, the exquisite costumes, the beautiful music, the incredible techno backdrop visuals that meld all of this together was spectacular! I thoroughly enjoyed it! Congratulations to all who played a part in creating this wonderful DanceTech program!