The latest work from ‘genre-defying’ choreographer Alexander Whitley harnesses motion capture technology to explore the biological form of the human body. This spectacular new stage production asks, are organisms just algorithms? Is life just data processing? Whitley’s experimental new work Anti-Body uses motion capture technology in a unique and visually thrilling dance experience that sees dancers perform together live and in virtual space.

Renowned for creating ambitious, interdisciplinary, and thought-provoking work with innovation and digital technology at its core, Anti-Body is Whitley’s first new work for the stage since the Covid-19 pandemic and will preview at DanceEast on Friday 8th October 2021 and Oxford Playhouse, in partnership with Oxford Science and Ideas Festival (IF Oxford), on Tuesday 26th October 2021.

Three performers appear on stage between large screens wearing costumes incorporatingmotion capture suits, isolated yet connected digitally in an interactive space.  Individually, as they start to move, their gestures are captured and projected on to the screens, filtered in real time through layers of striking motion responsive 3D visuals created by Unchartered Limbo Collective and accompanied by an electrifying score composed by 2021 Mercury Prize nominee Hannah Peel and music producer Kincaid.  This extraordinary ‘virtual dance’ allows each performer to interact with not only their own projected image, but those of the other dancers, symbolising the tensions between mind and body, containment, and connection. Collaborators include Luca Biada of digital design company Fenyce, dramaturg Patrick Eakin Young, and costume designer Juliette Ho.

Alexander Whitley says, “I’m interested in the subject of the post-human or trans-human, which, in its most extreme form is the idea that we can download someone’s mind onto a computer chip. I find this both fascinating and completely absurd, but an example of digital technology’s tendency to dematerialise experience and pull us away from a reality grounded in the flesh. So, the piece asks questions and explores themes around what it means to exist in this hybrid, real/virtual world.” 

The profound impact of technology on human behaviour and expression has long been a recurring theme in Whitley’s choreography, most recently in Overflow, which explores what it means to be human in the era of big data and received its London premiere at Sadler’s Wells earlier this year, and his pioneering Digital Body project, an open source and always evolving platform for digital dance collaboration using motion capture and games engine technology to investigate how dance can exist in purely digital form. This enquiry was further extended in Chaotic Body 1 and Chaotic Body 2 which take inspiration from Chaos Theory.

As part of this year’s IF Oxford, Whitley will once again team up with scientists from Oxford Flight Lab and young disabled and non-disabled dancers from Oxford’s Parasol Project, whose real-world movements have been reimagined by digital artists and musicians, to premiere new Digital Body film Ascent, which explores connections between how birds fly and humans communicate through dance.

Whitley is also currently developing Future Rites which takes the seminal ballet, The Rite Of Spring, into virtual reality (VR) for the first time in an immersive and collaborative performance experience combining AI with real-time animation to allow audiences to form part of the dance. Elements of the work will form part of the 2021 BFI London Film Festival Expanded programme on 13th  and 14th October.

Anti-Body is supported by Arts Council England, DanceEast, DCMS Culture Recovery Fund, John Ellerman Foundation, ERMAK Group, MA scène nationale – Pays de Montbéliard, Nicholas Berwin Charitable Trust, Charles Glanville, Garfield Weston Foundation and the generous support of individual donors. In kind support from Queen Mary University, London, Target 3D and Sodium.

Date: Tuesday 26th October 7.30pm

Venue: Oxford Playhouse, Beaumont Street, Oxford OX1 2LW

Tickets from £10: book online here

Recommended age: 8 plus

Warning: this performance contains flashing lights.

Find out more about Alexander Whitley here, or on Facebook at alexanderwhitleydance, on Twitter at @alexanderwhitley, and Instagram at whitleydance

Find out about Oxford Science and Ideas Festival (IF Oxford) here