What better a venue for choreography and dance than the Guggenheim museum in New York City? The home of paintings by Manet, Picasso, and Van Gogh is also a fine exhibit space, with its twisting, cavernous rotunda architecture and flat, white bottom floor. It was in this space that Daniil Simkin and other dancers performed Falls the Shadow, a show which meshed 3D projection mapping technology, music, visuals, fashion and dance.
The dancers’ movements were tracked with motion sensors, generating 3-D mapped visuals that will were then projected onto surrounding surfaces to create a visual feast for museum goers. The costumes, designed by the artistic director for Dior, were designed to intensify the expressive nature of the choreography, creating an abstract map on the dancers’ bodies. Viewers stood in coiled lines along the rails of the rotunda, which were also part of the Falls the Shadow performance.
3D Projection Mapping and Technology at the Guggenheim Performance
World Stage, a long-time technology partner for the Guggenheim, acted as consultants for Falls the Shadow. The artists, Daniil Simkin and company, brought most of the ideas and some of the technology to deliver on them, says World Stage director of marketing Shawn Oatey.
The rig uses cameras, projectors, and a custom software to take a real-time feed of the dancers’ movements and display generated images based on those movements on the floor surrounding them. Shadows played an especially large role — the software, “VVV,” is designed to study the shadow of a scene and react based on what it sees. The results are flowing lines and columns of color and shape which follow the dancers, almost spirit-like, through their choreographed movements.
World Stage provided the projectors and fiber distribution for all signals and a network from which to control all of the 3D projection mapping projectors. They used five Christie HD 14K projectors to display the designs created by the father of Daniil Simkin, also a respected choreographer.
“Because the viewing was from all around the rotunda, every perspective was unique, and having projections from above on the floor and banisters of the rotunda made it all the more interesting. Most theater productions can’t take advantage of visuals mapped on a floor,” says Oatey.
Challenges to World Stage and Daniil Simkin
World Stage and the Daniil Simkin team began collaboration efforts in March of 2017. By the time the show premiered in early September of the same year, they created a stunning set which needed to be taken down after each of the three 30-minute performances.
“When we do an installation at a corporate event, there’s a very specific need and we can kind of own the space,” says Oatey. At the Guggenheim, a renowned art museum, you can’t build and test for days in advance. We had to do all proofs of concept early and off-site.”
Additionally, the team had to figure out a way to project the dance visuals directly downward on the floor of the Guggenheim. But Oatey says that problem was pioneered by the artists themselves with lots of research into a custom mirror-bounce setup.
“We find that a lot of the creative folks find ways to understand a part of tech they are interested in, then dive deep into how it works. They’ll figure out ways to push the envelope with these tools. We see the connection between artistic messaging and these technology pieces that people are only starting to understand,” Oatey says.