Berlin-based CyberRäuber collective theater CyberBallet is an interactive virtual reality (VR) installation, taking viewers on an immersive journey of movement and dance from the point of view of artificial intelligence.
Held in 25-minute sessions, each with four participants, this standalone virtual reality experience was conceived and produced by Marcel Karnabeke and Bjorn Lingers in collaboration with Karlsruhe-based dance company Badisches Staatsballett.
CyberBallet explores what it means to be human, being able to have a body and move around a physical place. “The idea for this production was conceived in 2019. When the ballet company approached us for a collaboration, we were already in the process of thinking about artificial intelligence and what it might mean in the field of art, especially the performing arts. So, we made an attempt to connect the two fields and explored the question of how the machine perceives for movement,” says Lingers.
To put the piece together, Karnapke and Lengers captured the movements of the professional dancers, processed the data through machine learning algorithms, and transferred it to an interactive 3D stage. As a spectator, one can only watch or perform.
Speaking about the process of putting this together, Lingers says, “We wanted to film what the dancers were doing. At first, we recorded traditional 2D video and then used 360° and 180° 3D cameras to record the dance troupe’s movements in a prepared setting. We also used a motion capture suit, which It contains more than 19 small sensors that can be attached to the terminals.
Choreographed by German-Brazilian choreographer Ronnie Maciel, the production features fine music by Israeli composer Micah Kaplan.
immersed in space
In the parade, each participant gets a designated 5m x 5m space in the hall where the installation is equipped. At first, the viewer – equipped with headphones and VR headsets – is transported to outer space, surrounded by infinite expanse and stars. While one can see several dancers moving their bodies to the music, there are two huge video walls facing each other, with several storyboards playing simultaneously.
“Of course, one can’t see everything,” says Lingers, adding that it’s even more interesting to watch how people interact. “Every reaction is special. Many moved and danced along with the choreography, while some focused on what’s going on on the picture wall, ignoring the dancers. Any kind of reaction is fine. We don’t want to force anyone to do anything. Interesting. to see how people interpret things, what they see and what they don’t see,” he shares, adding that while CyberBallet was their foray into virtual reality experience with dance, the team is already producing the next dance piece.