Dancing in the Dark

For full effect, turn off the lights, bump the video up to 720p, and switch to full screen. Live stop-motion and believable antigravity — prepare to have your mind blown.

I’m a sucker for good dancing of any genre, but here the combination of sick moves AND tech creates such an entirely novel, totally trippy experience that I can’t stop hitting the replay button. Apparently Miral Kotb — the founder of iLuminate, which makes the remotely-controlled electroluminescent wire suits — had a similar thought in mind when she brought together her dual studies of computer science and dance into this product. iLuminate makes both EL and LED systems that can be attached to clothing or objects, controlled wirelessly via a variety of channels [for pre-programmed effects or real-time manipulation], and last a good 4-6 hours on a tiny Li-Ion battery. It seems like a pretty simple bit of technology, just applied in a striking way.

In a clever bit of product placement, Team iLuminate — a dance troupe affiliated with the company — competed in a recent season of America’s Got Talent, and “luminography,” as they call it, has caught the eye of a couple big-name performers. Mostly they use EL wire to accentuate body outlines and leave it at that. But let’s be honest — the Japanese group in this video, Wrecking Crew Orchestra, makes everyone else look silly. While the Wrecking Crew Orchestra dancers are fantastic to begin with, it’s their innovation in playing with the visibility of the dancers — generating and removing bodies at will and inducing superhuman feats with the aid of hidden helpers — that bumps the performance into a new realm of choreography. The technology forms the basis for physical interaction. Deciding what the audience won’t see becomes just as important as the movements they will. And a couple of light tricks shift the intersection between science and art.

Finally, I just have to ask: how the hell do the dancers find their places in dark??

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