Inside Aether: The live motion capture dance performance seen at LSC After Dark

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If you came to Liberty Science Center’s LSC After Dark: Science Speakeasy party last night, you may have seen something beautiful and mysterious hidden within our secret speakeasy: an illuminating dance performance, where the dancer’s moves were reflected via lights and visuals on screen.

See it for yourself:

That was a performance from Aether, a New York-based group that combines dance with live motion capture to create a stunning immersive experience inspired by the four elements: earth, air, fire and water.

We caught up with two of the group’s members, Kat Sullivan and Sergio Mora-Diaz, to learn more about the science behind their project and why they believe it’s important to integrate dance with technology.

Explain, exactly, how the technology behind Aether works.

Sergio Mora-Diaz: This is a motion capture piece, which means, basically, that we are gathering data from from the movements of the dancer using different sensors embedded on a suit they’re wearing. Then, we use that data to create live visuals.

Kat Sullivan: And this data is sent wirelessly over WiFi, as opposed to more traditional systems where they have a camera rig using infra-red cameras to detect the motion. This is all done without cameras.

What interests you about the relationship between dance and technology?

KS: My background is in computer science and dance, which everyone thought was really weird. But it made perfect sense to me. I approach dance in a very analytical way which is different from a lot of my peers, but I felt that technology could be something that could push storytelling and dance and the art itself.

SM: To me, it’s about understanding the way a dancer moves and performs in space, since my background is in architecture. I’m really interested in the idea of exploring space and how the dancer moves around space and how you can visualize that through geometric patterns, or different visual elements in a screen or in a projection.

What kind of messages or feelings do you want people to take away from your performances?

KS: For me, it’s kind of a calming piece. Even though it has this bit of a spectacle quality, it still is a very intimate thing where you have this singular performer affecting everything. It’s her relationship with the music that drives what is happening in all the visuals.

SM: I would say my main interest is to provide an experience for people to immerse themselves in the experience that we’re providing them. I think it’s interesting for people to try to understand or make connections between what they’re seeing and understand that what the dancers are doing is actually having an effect in the space.

What kind of feedback do you get from people?

KS: I think the biggest thing is people just say it’s like nothing they’ve seen before, which is really special for us because digital performance is not new. It’s not something we invented. But we kind of want to push the limits and take it in new directions. We want to create a unique experience, so it’s very validating for people to say that.

Learn more about Aether on their website.

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