DANCE OF THE AVATAR: Bart Hess, the Dutch designer who took slime to new heights for Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” video and album artwork, has pulled off another trick. His futuristic costumes for “Sleeping Beauty Dreams,” a digitally enhanced contemporary ballet that premieres Dec. 7 in Miami, may cause young men to actually want to accompany their mothers. But they won’t be there for the classic fairy tale’s mushy love story or principal dancers Diana Vishneva and Marcelo Gomes in the roles of Princess Aurora and Prince Peter. Their eyes will be fixated on Vishneva’s real-time avatar projected on a giant screen backdrop, which Miami-based production company Magical Reality Group believes is the first time the live technology has been applied to a dance performance.
“I saw a rehearsal, and it’s so amazing to watch her avatar also drinking coffee on breaks,” said Hess, who incorporated about a dozen sensors into Vishneva’s formfitting suit in a reflective, foil fabric inspired by fish scales. “This technology is used a lot in film and video games but not live dance. Being a ballet, it’s even more unique.”
Hess, who’s also worked with fashion designers like Iris Van Herpen and Walter Van Beirendonck, researches a variety of materials and how to manipulate them to their most unexpected capabilities. He sliced a reflective material commonly found on street signs into long fringe for an oversize jacket that goes over Vishneva’s suit during a fight scene. Another easy costume change occurs when she slips into a draped dress whose diaphanous, silver synthetic fabric resembles silk organza.
“The goal was not to lose the real-life dancer with this huge avatar behind her, so I needed shiny materials that stand out,” he said.
Gomes’ avatar is prerecorded. His costume’s jacket of white silicon bubbles implies a futuristic version of knight’s armor. It appears to be 3-D-printed but is more akin to a homemade craft project. Hess said the balance between high art and humble craft is part of his process. The corps wears transformable costumes depicting good and evil, and dancers change on stage by diving into extra layers.
“I knew a lot of the other artists involved, and this group stood out,” said Hess of the opportunity to work with Bjork collaborator Tobias Gremmler and Thijs de Vlieger of Noisia, the Dutch EDM trio behind remixes for Skrillex and Deadmau5. “This is the most exciting production I’ve done.”
After a two-night run at the Adrienne Arsht Center, the production travels to New York’s Beacon Theatre on Dec. 14 and 15.