In a collaboration that involves the most fearless and innovative creators in dance, music, digital mapping, technology, and music, “Sleeping Beauty Dreams” (SBD) will hold its world premier performance at the Adrienne Arsht Center Ziff Opera House on Friday, Dec. 7 prior to traveling north to New York’s Beacon Theater. The international team of artists have been amassed by architect, writer, director and producer Rem Khass, who seeks to explore new possibilities in art design and open parameters in traditional performance. The project has been brought to life by Magic Reality Group Inc.
The tale of "Sleeping Beauty" is a familiar one that has been told and retold since the 14th century. United with the glorious Tchaikovsky score in 1890, "Sleeping Beauty" has been performed as the most classical, and difficult, of full length ballets. It was made into Disney’s timeless movie in 1959 and scores of books, music, films and artworks have been inspired by this classic tale of love, discovery and magic.
In 2015, Khass conceived the idea of investigating and visualizing what Princess Aurora of "Sleeping Beauty" may have been dreaming during her 100 years of sleep inviting a new twist, exploration and journey into unchartered territory. He scoured the world to find artists who could make this vision a reality, who were leaders in their field, and who would make audiences think differently about what live performance could be.
The global cast of creators includes “light “ artist, Laurent Fort, digital designer, Tobias Gremmier, costume designer of Lady GaGa fame, Bart Hess, artistic director and choreographer, Edward Clug, and Thijs de Vlieger from EDM pioneer musical trio, NOISIA. It is a group of passionate and successful individuals whose opinions each have impacted the project. Putting them all together was a daunting maneuver to pull the best work collectively from each individual.
A center point in this team is no less than the international Russian ballerina Diana Vishneva, known throughout the world for her dazzling technical brilliance, extreme physicality and astute musicality. Meticulously ballet trained at the Vagonova Academy in Leningrad, with a performing career that has encompassed every major classical ballet, Vishneva is forward thinking about dance and art. Starting her own foundation and contemporary dance festival, Context, she feels a responsibility to explore what the future of dance holds and to bring innovative attention to audiences. This is a perfect project to challenge that vision.
It is Vishneva, partnered by super star, Marcelo Gomes, who is the figure for the intricate and elaborate avatar mapping, a task that encompasses every part of the mind and body.
Speaking from her dressing room at the lofty North Miami Greenwich Studios where rehearsals have been underway, Vishneva spoke candidly about "SBD" and working with the team of creatives. She had just presented a short preview performance the evening before and was feeling physical and mental exhaustion combined with the exhilaration of the initial unveiling of what will be seen at the Arsht. Conversations were had in English with the assistance of an interpreter when Vishneva needed to break into her familiar Russian language to better explain herself.
Vishneva said, “This short preview for an audience was a first step. We were still creating all during the day, so in the evening, you’re still full of concentration.”
Working to create an avatar on screen makes one think very differently about the movement. What normally would work for dance in a regular performance, does not clearly translate onto a screen. It took many adjustments to understand and translate the movement through the technical ability.
“The mind is working with the technology, the body is working. It requires constant thinking, pushing your brain to work harder, ”Vishneva said.
To create some of the magic, there are numerous avatars that have been designed.
Vishneva continues, “Some avatars are the upper body or head, some just your legs, some your arms, some only your spine. I need to see how the movement adapts to the picture, how the avatar moves. Some details work well. Some big movements work on the screen, but are not interesting for me as a dancer. Our challenge was to figure all of this out.”
“I don’t just communicate with my own body,” she continued. “I have to communicate with so many aspects together. Every move can be seen on the screen, the lights, the sound.”
One challenge was that as the choreography developed, the technology also adapted and grew to create new possibilities. So there was a constant “work in progress” feel to the development and process.
Working with the music of NOISIA added another layer. The music creates an atmosphere that has a rock concert quality. Each element adds something special and specific to the performance, and Vishneva carries the responsibility and perhaps, control, of the many elements.
“With my ballet training, my roots, I have been preparing for this type of role my entire career. Ballet allows you to do any style of movement. The constant honing of technique, artistry, the discipline has been a great preparation. 'SBD' is very contemporary and challenging in different ways, ”Vishneva said. “Everything I’ve done has added a layer that is leading to my next role.”
Realizing a dream can encompass numerous incarnations. "SBD" evokes a surreal world where time is ambiguous, reality is distorted and horror competes with beauty. There is an elusive atmosphere that permeates the performance.
Choreographer, Edward Clug, sees this project as an experience and investigation into a dream world that carries a certain flavor of mystique. "SBD" is a project that has never been done and audiences will sense that.
Clug said, “The specifics and the nature of this project are rather different than what we are used to doing in general. I realized right away that I was not just creating choreography, but I was implementing a meaningful element that would fit in and work well with the other elements involved - the tracking system, the sensors, the music, and the story. As we know, dreams are not really well structured.”
“We talked a lot and had a lot of meetings for the past year,” Clug said. “The real understanding came after a few days of rehearsals. We had to make quick and efficient decisions in order to make them work. Diana is in a constant dialogue with the images she is creating. It is very complex and every day we discover new solutions. We try to keep it within an area of perception where audiences can figure out the system, but we still keep surprising them.”
Clug feels strongly that the theatrical aspect of the piece is essential.
He said, “We don’t want to remain just on the level of effect and incredible images. So we have to balance all of this, have moments where the technology is not present. We exchange the ‘lead’ into this journey.”
Bart Hess has created costumes that are visually stunning and include the numerous sensors required for the intricate mapping. He doesn’t want to hide the sensors but feels that they become an integral part of the costume and affect the entire performance. The costumes reflect the distortion and convoluted nature of the dream world that is being created.
Putting all of these elements together, keeping track of who is doing what and when is a larger than life feat. Behind the scenes, the person responsible for overseeing the smooth execution of this complex production is Nick Assunto.
Assunto said, “SBD is very different from a standard dance production. We have a lighting designer, audio engineers, four people doing all the video, avatar design, as everything happens in real time. I make sure that it all happens as it should. We make sure that every seat in the theater enjoys the same quality of performance. We have a hyper realistic sound system meaning that we have audio surrounding the entire theater. Diana is wearing a special device that makes the sound follow her. We’re controlling with motion, the sound, the lights and the video. Sounds come from all over the place. It has never been done like this.”
Without losing the timeless need for physical training and artistry in dance, perhaps utilizing the technical ability seen in “Sleeping Beauty Dreams” is an exciting glimpse of what the future of performance might entail.
Performances are 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7 and Saturday, Dec. 8 at the Adrienne Arsht Center Ziff Opera House, 1300 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33132. Box office: 305.949.6722
Purchase a VIP ticket and you will have the opportunity to meet Diana Vishneva and the other talented artists of Sleeping Beauty Dreams during a special meet and greet champagne reception.