Ready Salted Code’s [data]Storm is a technological ballet where programme notes tell me that “classical ballet and computing collide”. The production’s visuals and choreography “use Met Office storm and climate data to interpret computer science concepts relating to internet, networks, signal processing and encryption.” As an audience member with limited technical knowledge, though, I didn’t get a sense of how any of this had been used.
The stage is set sparsely with some white 3D objects that slightly resemble icebergs. Presumably this links to the Met office data, but for me the connection stops there. The group of female dancers give it their all throughout the performance and there’s nothing wrong with their dancing. Sadly, though, I felt the technological elements just get in the way of their work, hindering rather than helping them.
The collision of classical ballet and computing is crudely visible in the costumes, which consist of classic loose, floating dresses adorned with strips of LED lights. More of a statement might have been made had the dancers been covered in lots more lights, with more attention given to the placement. As it was they just looked last-minute, which is a shame as I’m sure they weren’t.
Supposedly “the performance will be enhanced by the use of wearable technology, data visualisation and video projections on 3D objects”, but I think more work needs to be done if these things are really going to heighten the performance. The projection at times seems to be changing in tune with the dancers movements, but I couldn’t quite tell if this is an effect of the wearable technology or not. Throughout most of the dances we are met with a shifting web of interconnected dots – I presume representing the data.
A lot of the dances make use of a number of light boxes being passed around the stage. Again, I’m presuming these stand in for our data being collected and moving around the internet, but the symbolism isn’t strong enough. I really wanted to get some sense of comment on the subject matter, and some idea of connection to it, rather than seeing images that I supposed vaguely related to it.
When the dancers made their first entrance – bizarrely to dance three pieces from last year’s show before [data] storm – I had an inkling of what the show could be. The lighting is low and the dancers hold torches along with the LEDs on their costumes; all these bulbs dancing around made me think of images of our cities at night, with the lights of our modern technological lives always twinkling.
The subject matter of the performance is certainly interesting and I was excited by the prospect of a ballet engaging with this. [data]Storm doesn’t manage it for me this time, as there is too much vagueness and too many loose connections. The final sequence, danced to what I’m sure is the Jurassic Park theme music, is most perplexing indeed.
I am not, as I’ve said, the most technological of audience members. So perhaps had I been someone who works in computing and understands data I would have got more out of the show. However, I’m not sure needing such specialist knowledge should be a pre-requisite for enjoying, and at least being able to gain some understanding from, a piece of theatre.
[data] storm played at The Old Market as part of the Brighton Digital Festival. Click here for more information on the company and their work.