Theatre Engine: FlashMob is a mash-up of live dance, electronic music, mobile phones and YOU. FlashMob begins as a game of words and ends as a dance party for all participants – with audience members interacting with movement artists and controlling lights and sounds. At its heart, FlashMob is about the simple joy of play, enhanced by cutting-edge technology. It is our pleasure to present you with a place where your actions and choices are an integral part of the performance – a unique theatrical experience, unlike anything you have seen before.
This workshop performance is part of ongoing research to develop Theatre Engine, a multi-site collaboration between Michigan State University, Brigham Young University, St. Olaf College and Kent State University.
So stand up, jump in, and enjoy the show!
Description of Performance
The audience sits in chairs arranged on all sides of the edge of the stage. The dancers enter the central stage space as the house lights dim. Each audience member has a tablet with the mobile application Theatre Engine downloaded. As the dancers begin to move, one audience member receives a short list of randomly chosen adjectives on their device. They select a word and the stage lighting, music, and dancers adapt their movements to align with the word chosen. For instance, if the word heroic is chosen the music will swell, the lights will increase intensity and the dancers will move heroically. If villainous is chosen, the music will turn sinister, the lighting will grow darker and the dancers will move with villainous intent. Example words include; staccato, lethargic, saucy…etc. The dance continues and a new audience member is given a new list of words. This section is called Adjectives.
Call and Response, the next section brings the audience closer to movement control of the dancers. Five randomly chosen audience members have control of a dancer avatar that lands on their phone. The color of the animated dancer correlates with the color of one of the live dancer’s costume. The audience member is prompted to move their device. This information is then coded into audio signals that are sent to the wireless earpieces of the live dancer. The dancer translates this aural response into movement.
Lights On/Off provides the audience a chance to explore the interplay between time, motion and space by allowing them to act as lighting designers. Five audience members are randomly chosen to have control over five distinct lights indicated by a lightswitch on their devices. If they switch it on, the light turns on. Conversely, if they switch off, the light turns off. When the lights are on, the dancers are frozen but when the light is off they move to new poses, switch places, or pick up odd props.
Drumcircle engages the audience communal music making. The seats of the audience are connected through drum-triggers to the music composer’s computer. The audience members will experience a new variation of “musical chairs,” as each chair creates a unique drum sound through the loudspeaker. This section begins with a guided rhythm but the audience is soon creating their own music.
Poses invites the audience to stand up and dance. All audience members receive text-based prompts on their devices such as “Pose Like A Ninja” or “Zombie.” Eventually, these instructions become less specific, and more inclined toward group activity (such as “Two-Person Airplane” or “Swarm”). The poses move from individual, to partner, to group and end with the entire audience moving and dancing through the space.
Photos by Jocelyn Bowman, Dean Neuburger, Todd F. Edwards, Deanna Christy
Videos by Emily Swenson and Alex Sanders,