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‘Three days, three cities, three theatres – Infinite ways to imagine the future of dance’ – This is the tagline that greets you when you visit Dansathon‘s website. Exciting in concept, the initiative sets out to push the performance genre of dance to a new level. Fusing the latest tech with some of the world’s most forward thinking dance practitioners and performance makers, innovations in how we perceive dance will be challenged. Dance Producer JiaXuan Hon tells us more about the forward thinking initiative!

Hi JiaXuan! Dansathon will take place at Plexal, Here East (the future home of Sadler’s Wells) from the 28th to 30th September. How are you feeling ahead of the event?

Excited and a bit surreal. Can’t believe we’ve planned this for almost 8 months… an event is nothing without the people involved and I’m incredibly excited to see what happens when they all finally meet!

Dasnathon is a dance and technology hackathon exploring innovations in dance in 3 cities – London, Liège and Lyon. What are the expectations from the teams that take part? How are teams chosen to take part?

The aim of Dansathon is to find innovative ideas in making and experiencing dance, and to do so by bringing together individuals to form new teams. We defined 7 specific roles in a team that we think are conducive to the creative process (dancer, choreographer, developer/technologist, makes/technician, designer, communicator and facilitator). Applications are invited from individuals and we match their profiles to these roles. Of course, we acknowledge that many individuals are multi-skilled too – we have engineers and designers who dance, dancers who code, technologists who are neuroscientists etc. The key is that as a collective we make something that harnesses the strengths of both dance and new technologies, and to do this where everyone in the team has an equal input, and not one dictated by another.

Of course the European dimension of the event is very exciting. Producers from all 3 cities and the Foundation have been meeting in person once a month since February to design this event together, whilst respecting each city’s unique conditions. It’s really wonderful to have the opportunity to have colleagues elsewhere working on the same goal!

Supported by BNP Paribas Foundation, the winning team will be rewarded a fellowship of 10,000 euros, and additional support from Sadler’s Wells, Maison de la Dance de Lyon and Théatre de Liège – how crucial is this support after Dansathon ends?

Very much. We don’t have many KPIs and this is one of them. When we designed the event, it wasn’t just about the buzzy atmosphere you typically get from a hackathon, but also how to sustain this after the event. We expect to see the some form of iteration of the winning projects 6-12 months following Dansathon.

Dansathon is a celebration of tech and its imcreasing influence within society. What technologies will be used/explored during the event?

Each city has different tech partners and experts as mentors which very much dictates what tech we use. In London we are heavy on the body sensors side, which is great as our coaches all place the human body at the centre of their work. Some tech includes EMG and motion tracking sensors as provided by our tech partners Neurogears, EAVI from Goldsmiths, University of London and Sainsbury Wellcome Centre.

I would argue Dansathon is a celebration of dance and the moving body more than tech. Technology is pervasive in our current world and will continue to be, why shouldn’t dance be too? Its benefits alone are a long list, we already have anecdotes, stats, in depth scientific research etc. What we want to do now is to push some of these thinking around body intelligence into tech. Human computer interaction is, as a matter of fact, finally moving beyond the screen (2D) and going into a 3D interface (full body immersion). The tech we invent are becoming more like ourselves that can “think” and move like humans, so let’s tap into dance practice where there is a huge body (pun intended) of wisdom and knowledge in full-body interactions.

The event will include support from some of the UK’s respected talents in both design and tech. How will they support the creation process?

We are privileged to have many experts as coaches and mentors in London. Coaches will be with the teams for all 3 days and with a holistic, helicopter view, they push the content level up to ensure high quality ideas can come through in these 3 short days. There is after all an established practice in dance / tech at least in the past 20 years, so it’d be important to dig further than the surface. Mentors are invited for their very particular skills set that help complement the full narrative of the work that teams will create.

What does Dansathon look to achieve?

I’ve mentioned a few aims in previous questions. To explain further, essentially we’re looking for true collaboration of dance and technology. Personally I find the methodologies and tension between both fields very interesting, and could lead to amazing sparks; so I am an advocate of both, and have found others who think the same. There just aren’t many opportunities where the structure, framework and resources allow for this, so we really look forward to achieving this at Dansathon.

Sadler’s Wells has been looking at how to maximise the opportunities offered by digital technologies and this pretty unusual project came up as part of the mix – a tremendous timing on all fronts!

The team’s projects will be judged by a panel of influential performers makers and commentators within the arts.

What is the criteria for a potential winning piece?

We will be issuing a number of challenges, and will look for responses that are creative, inspiring and feasible (remember if it wins, it needs to be somehow brought to life afterwards!).

What advice would you give to aspiring producers?

For me producers connect all dots – the creative ones, the pragmatic ones and the unexpected ones. Not all dots can be connected, so find your own space in your practice and optimise yourself for it.

Questions by Lucy Basaba.

Dansathon will take place at Plexal, Here East from Friday 28th until Sunday 30th September 2018. For more information on the production, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop