Future Rites is an immersive Virtual Reality experience in which the user is able to take part in a reimagined version of the ballet The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinksy. It is being spearheaded by the Alexander Whitley Dance Company from the UK. They’re known in the dance industry for their integration of technology into performance. Future Rites aims to offer audiences a new, engaging way to experience attending a ballet- they themselves become a part of the performance. Audience members are able to directly impact how certain characters move, and are welcomed to join in on the dancing. The characters’ actions are performed live through a motion-capture system to replicate the movements of a professional dancer.
This experience taps into users’ sense of proprioception and kinesthesia. The audience’s own body is used as input for interactions, allowing them to feel connected to the piece on a physical level. From the trailers, I can tell that Future Rites also is particular with its use of space and color. The tone of the entire ballet is set by the expansive landscapes and warm color schemes, jaggedy textures. Everything feels dry. This is very appropriate considering the narrative that this ballet strives to tell. It is about the renewal of the Earth from this dry, withering state to one in full bloom. Through a creative lens, the experience stays true to the original ballet. From an experience design standpoint, it brings a new interactive element to a traditionally one-sided artform.
The audience not only experiences an extension of reality by entering a completely virtual world, but also through engaging with the performance itself. The reality of what their bodily movements look like and what the reflections of these movements look like, is extended in the world of Future Rites. When moving their hands, the trees next to them sway in response. The dancers around them, too, take on a different form in the virtual world, becoming objects that move in ways that are impossible to occur in our version of reality. This experience would most likely stimulate an ethereal feeling. The scenes at different points of the narrative have different energies to them. At points of conflict, the audience might feel fearful or overwhelmed. At points of resilience and celebration, they might feel more calm or joyful- the colors, shapes, and textures I was able to pick up on in the trailer seemed to reflect just that.
In the future, I could imagine this same concept being implemented as a remote, communal experience. Rather than having each experience be individual to the one user, perhaps there could be a version where they are able to dance with and traverse the story with another audience member. Part of the magic of a live performance is being able to experience it with the crowd around you or the people who came with you. Implementing this affordance would serve as a way to do this, and connect the audience members with one another.
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