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With much of the planet addicted to Fortnite, the arts community may have no choice but to level up on the tech front if they’re going to tear people away from their screens. Miami-based Magical Reality Group thinks it’s found the next big thing in live performance, starting with its commissioned dance production Sleeping Beauty Dreams, whose world premiere was held in Miami on Dec. 7 in conjunction with the star-studded art fair Art Basel Miami Beach. Classical ballet patrons and other dance purists may turn up their noses at its principal dancer’s real-time avatar, rave-like digital effects and EDM score — but hey, you can’t stop progress.
“We want to entertain the American people, and for them to be impressed and squashed,” said Magical Reality Group CEO Ed Ratnikov, a concert promoter in Moscow. “Rem [Khass, the firm’s creative director] knew dance and its old costumes were not here anymore. We had to make it contemporary.”
Performed at the Adrienne Arsht Center, home of Miami City Ballet (MCB), the show and its futuristic concept couldn’t diverge further from the regular company’s Balanchine heritage. It was probably the first time some of the audience members had ever whipped out their smartphones to film, as if they were at a rock concert. Like the character of Marie in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, which MCB performs here next week, the classic fairy tale’s Princess Aurora dances her way through fantastical themed vignettes and dream sequences, each with its own avatar design. Diana Vishneva stars and is the only dancer whose costumes feature sensors to generate her larger-than-life avatars on scrims.
“Each avatar is different, so I had to learn to move with each of them. The music was a challenge, too,” said the exhausted Vishneva after days of eight-hour rehearsals to master an entirely new exercise. “It also was the longest ever that I was on stage, even more than a 42-minute mono-performance I did with a French choreographer.”
The result, which garnered a lot of “Bravos” — a good sign as it heads to New York’s Beacon Theatre on Dec. 14 and 15 — comes off as more of an art performance. The digital imagery mashup is reminiscent of Matthew Barney’s The Cremaster Cycle, David Cronenberg’s disturbing biomorphism, the Rorschach test, Ava in Ex Machina, and dazzling gold and kaleidoscope numbers that are King Tut meets Busby Berkeley. It’s no wonder Marilyn Manson is already on board.
“He wants to be part of the show, so we’re making a promotional video of him wearing the sensors, and he’ll transform from a demon into Diana,” says Ratnikov, who’s also working with Live Nation to promote the New York performances. “We’re tweaking the show for a big national tour.”
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