The experiment

With collaborators Axelle Munezero, an artistic director and dancer, and Marc-André Cossette, a musical programmer, the stage was set to understand the impact of musical manipulation by professional dancers using new technology on audience engagement.

Our dancers were a natural choice. Axelle and Kevin Gohou – aka Maddripp – are both pros on the whacking and krumping circuit. Their style of free, expressive, and hyper-energetic dance is perfectly suited to exploring the possibilities of onstage collaborative creativity. To enable the dancers to manipulate the music, they were outfitted with MYO movement sensor bracelets, devices at the leading edge of gesture control technology. The bracelets were programmed according to each performer’s height, tension and unique forms of movement, ultimately equipping them to curate their own experience.

Axelle and Maddripp
Axelle and Maddripp

The effect on the audience 

Despite a backgrounder explaining the relationship between the dancers and the technology, it was difficult for the audience to fully perceive how the performers were actually influencing the music. So, how do you make sure then that the music control is understood? More importantly, how can this be used to strengthen the relationship between the performer and the audience?

Put in context
Put in context

Performances you can feel

To hopefully strengthen the audience’s immersion during the performance, we had additional technology ready for them to try out (and actually to try on). Enter the haptic vest! This vest enables the spectator wearing it to feel the musical changes by the performers through vibrations at the chest and the back level. The audience could now see and sense the dancers’ musical change decisions. By experiencing what they were seeing from a completely new sensory perspective, their connection to the artists and the performance had been completely reframed in exciting new ways.

Playing with these observations 

We concluded that, in a performance context, music detection and control technology used alone doesn’t hold enough theatrical potential. But throw on the haptic vest, and the possibilities become considerable. After our test performance, we brainstormed about other possible avenues of exploration with these technologies. What if the performer could simultaneously control other scenic elements beyond music, such as lighting and special effects? What if a spectator could select a performer of their choice and only feel the vibrations of his or her artistry? Our senses are telling us that perhaps this interactive, participative relationship between audience and artist is the real future of live entertainment.

The masculine was used as neutral to lighten the text.  

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