Rebecca Evans: You are only the sum of your data

Trinity Laban alumnus Rebecca Evans is currently working on a digitally interactive mobile phone app led dance performance, David, with her company Pell Ensemble.

Produced by Step Out Arts

Rebecca evans blog

Image: David by Mira Loew

What was your inspiration behind David?

The inspiration behind David was data – how we’re using data and how we’re moving towards an uncertain future. We’re caught up in this huge technological wave and we don’t know where it’s going to land, but we keep feeding it, and I’m interested in examining that. I was also inspired by an outdoor performance I had done with a walking app, and that was the first time I encountered using mobile phones in dance.

You invite the audience to use their mobile phones, could you tell us more about what this involves?

The audience scan a QR code which takes them to a mobile app / website. There are projected screens in the space which give the audience information, and the audience then bring David to life. The audience start giving data which helps to shape David and the world around him.

The interactions on the mobile are actually quite simple – from a coder’s perspective maybe not! – but from an audience perspective, things like holding, swiping, really quick choices and ways to interact that immediately show up in the space, and David responds. We try to bring audiences out of their phones and into the performance space as much as possible. The only feedback will be in the performance space rather than on their mobile phone screen.

At the moment we’re working at a limited audience of around 40. You would have a unique projected avatar on the screen, so we have limited spaces. You can really see when you press a button that your avatar is moving.

You and your dancers, David Orgle and Stefania Pinato, are all Trinity Laban alumni. How has it been working together?

It’s been fantastic! I’ve worked with David for around three years now, so he’s really been a part of developing Pell Ensemble, and Stefania is fantastic, they both give a lot. They’re both incredibly creative in the space, really solution based. What’s really wonderful about them is they really understand what it is to be in a collaborative environment. There’s about 8 artists in total collaborating on this project, each from different backgrounds, and they’re able to wrap their heads around the different elements whilst feeding into that process which is great!

We’re all Trinity Laban alumni, and we will hopefully be back at the Laban Building for a week in April to rehearse. It’s nice to come back and to be using the facilities, bringing everything back full circle around ten years after I’ve graduated!

How are you finding working with technology?

I’ve found that technology can be incredibly expensive and it is a very cost heavy project because of the amount of people involved and the time needed to develop a digital piece. It’s very different from having say five weeks consecutively in the studio – this is a four month creation with weeks of dance time dotted around. People have given up a lot of their time because they’re so interested in the project, and they really want to develop something new.

We’re looking to develop a live stream, hoping to team up with a University that has an interactive digital arts subject and a dance subject. This can help us develop what that live stream could be and could possibly even be out on tour with us. An example of putting this to use could be that we’re at a venue and there’s schools that want to see the performance but might not be able to come – we can then do a live stream and that can go out to them and they can use their tablets that they’ve got in the classroom to interact with David.

What’s next for you?

We’ve got performances at the end of April at Redbridge Drama Centre and the University of Bedfordshire brought by Bedford Creative Arts. These are more showcase performances, and then for 2018 we’re looking at having another small development period to really refine the code and build out the live stream. There’s a lot of digital wrap around the performance, so before you come there’s a website you can go to and interact with David and then after the performance your data is made into a visual expression of you as an individual in the performance. We plan to be developing that in 2018 and then we’re looking at contacting venues for touring. And then we’ll see!

Also being a part of 2faced Dance Company’s THE BENCH programme last year has been so great and really helped to raise the profile of the project.

For more information visit the Pell Ensemble website.

Alice White

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

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