University of Nottingham: Future of immersive performance showcased in new creative festival

New ways of using the latest digital technology to engage and immerse audiences in performance events such as dance and theatre are being unveiled in an arts festival with a difference in Nottingham this November.

FACETS:21 is a series of performance and interactive events at two venues – Lakeside Arts on University Park and Broadway in the city centre. The festival will give artists, performers and audiences the chance to experience and explore new creative technologies first hand, and to give feedback to the experts who develop them.

The series will combine the skills of world-leading contemporary dance and theatre practitioners with the latest immersive digital technology tools offered by the BBC R&D’s MakerBox software package.

© BBC The Connected Studio
The University of Nottingham has a long and productive relationship with BBC R&D, including Steve Benford’s visiting professorship and the User Experience Research Partnership. Key projects include Databox and Living Room of the Future as well as co-supervised PhD research at the Horizon Centre for Doctoral Training. These shared interests are reflected in the new suite of digital tools that MakerBox offers to creatives.

©Julian Hughes/Tom Dale Company
FACETS:21 includes the world premiere of an immersive dance performance, ‘SURGE’ by Tom Dale Company. SURGE has been selected to be part of Dance Passion 2022 – a collaboration between BBC Arts and One Dance UK funded by Arts Council England. The performance takes place inside a digitally projected landscape with original and evocative sound from acclaimed electronic musician Ital Tek. Tom Dale Company’s work has already been hailed by The Guardian as ‘a choreographic concept album’. A short film of SURGE ‘Make Me Feel’ will be shot at Lakeside for broadcast on BBC i-Player in February 2022.

An immersive storytelling symposium and experience showcase evening will offer the chance for creatives from all over the world to discuss and try out new ways of sharing narrative experiences using the latest digital technology and ideas. The events will offer the chance to try out immersive digital platforms such as 360° film projected in a VR dome, reactive narrative that uses attention to customise the story, and different forms of interactive theatre.

Virtual Reality headset ©Julian Hughes
A Virtual Reality and Performance Playday will give artists and the public a chance to explore VR and Volumetric Capture, (this transforms performers into 3D virtual versions), as tools for performance-making.

In Facades, also at Lakeside, Digital Dance Artist Kerryn Wise, with Creative Technologist Ben Neal, present a room-scale dance-theatre VR experience inspired by iconic film scenes such as Rear Window, The Wizard of Oz and The Mirror.

The programme of events also includes a BBC MakerBox Workshop at Broadway, Nottingham. This event is a free practical session for innovative artists led by the BBC’s The Connected Studio team Participants will be able to explore the MakerBox suite of interactive tools for artists and filmmakers.

The University is also partnered with Nottingham Trent University in a project called LEADD:NG which helps Nottingham’s cultural SMEs, artists and performers develop new digital products and services. Project experts will be leading a session on ‘Monetising the Digital Offer’, an event aimed at external creatives and performance venues like theatres and arts centres.

Dr Sarah Martindale from the University of Nottingham’s Department of Cultural, Media and Visual Studies, said: “We are so excited to welcome artists, researchers and audiences to experience inspirational digital creativity in Nottingham, whether they are joining us remotely or in person. These are digital developments that really excite University experts and our partners in vibrant local creative communities.”

Tom Dale, Artistic Director, Tom Dale Company
Tom Dale, Artistic Director of Tom Dale Company, said: “We are proud to be premiering a new piece of live performance this November after what has been a challenging 18months for the company. This festival also offers an opportunity for audiences to join us for prototype sharings of our new experimental work SURGE DIGITAL – we want to know what people think of this VR installation to inform the next stage of its development.”

Kerryn Wise, Digital Dance Practitioner
Digital dance performance practitioner Kerryn Wise is currently undertaking a doctorate exploring the impact of using 360° video in live immersive performance. Kerryn said: “In the fast-moving landscape of digital performance practices, FACETS:21 is an opportunity for us to share the wealth of exciting and innovative digital performance that is happening across the region and beyond. At Displace Studio, we are really thrilled to share our current touring VR work Facades, which uses cutting-edge volumetric capture to capture real-life performers digitally and transform them into three dimensional, virtual versions of themselves. You can occupy the same space, walk around, and view them from any angle.”

FACETS:21 starts on Tuesday 2nd November 2021 at various locations at Lakeside Arts on University Park and Broadway on Broad Street, Nottingham, and runs until Saturday 13th November 2021.