The Brigham Young University Department of Dance and Department of Theatre and Media Arts, in collaboration with Michigan State University, present Theatre Engine: FlashMob, a multi-media performance that combines live dance with smartphone technology on Thursday and Friday, March 26 and 27, at 7:30 p.m., in the Margetts Theatre of the Harris Fine Arts Center at BYU.
Both performances are free and open to the public, with general seating and no ticket required.
Theatre Engine: Flash Mob is a continuing performance research project made up of computer programing, smartphone technology, live dance and electronic music. Using a custom interactive smartphone app, audience members will have control over the performers and performance space. Instructions to download the custom Android App will be available upon arrival at the theater and audience members can also check out a tablet with the app pre-loaded.
The project began in December 2013 as a collaboration between director Allison Dobbins from Michigan State University, set designer Todd Edwards from St. Olaf College, music composer Bill Sallack from Kent State, and BYU’s lighting designer Michael S. Kraczek.
“The project as a whole has been a great opportunity to use technology to foster human interaction,” said Kraczek. “With all of the technology we use in our world today there seems to be less human interaction. This piece uses technology to encourage human interaction.”
Using an app developed by software designers at Michigan State, audience members will control avatars of each performer on separate smartphone. As audience members move their phone and enter commands, the computer program takes the GPS/accelerator data from the device to a server which translates that into audio cues for the performers, who interpret them into various moves.
BYU Movement Director Kori Wakamatsu found a theme of discovery running through the production, whether in discovering effective ways to work with a team scattered across the nation or finding new ways to present dance and audience interaction.
“I am excited for the audience to experience this kind of performance,” said Wakamatsu. “I am trying not to have preconceived expectations. This project is about play, and I hope that play unfolds here at BYU.”
No two productions of Theatre Engine are alike, and that is by careful design. Not only are the dances different every night, but the production is updated after every performance with each new hosting institution building onto the piece by reacting to audience participation and feedback.
The production debuted at Michigan State in 2014 before progressing to St. Olaf College earlier this year. Future performances of Theatre Engine are in development, including a recent invitation to perform at the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space in the Czech Republic.
Additional crew for Theatre Engine: FlashMob includes Software Designer Charles Owen, Software Design Assistant Scott Swarthout, Movement Director Anthony Roberts and Stage Manager Emily Blaquiere.
BYU student dancers featured in the production are Danielle Ashby, Elise Marie Calcote, Aubry Dalley, Brianne Pottorff and Clark Ripplinger.