Alexander Whitley, Sandra Rodriguez and Normal Studio

Future Rites is a collaborative VR dance performance based on the seminal ballet The Rite Of Spring, combining live motion capture, real-time animation and AI.

This live-performance VR experience uses movement as a means of exploring the primordial connection between humanity and the natural world, reflecting on the impacts of collective choices.

Using live motion capture, users are joined (locally or remotely) by a small cast of dancers, placed within a rich virtual world of sound and motion where boundaries between human body and natural world are dissolved. Translating actions into effects that mirror the swarming patterns seen across myriad forms of animate life, the experience invites users to move with the performers and join the ritual dance.

Through an AI motion analysis system, users’ everyday gestures are enhanced, seamlessly connecting to dancers’ movements and the environment that surrounds them. Interactions subtly encourages viewers to move – higher, lower, fast or slow. Audience members feel they are gaining control, but they are in fact unknowingly puppeteered into joining the sacrificial dance.

Walkthrough video – 2020

Intended audience

This immersive experience, in reinterpreting a classic work of art can bridge several key target audiences including classical and contemporary dance, music, new media and tech arts.

Through its technical innovation, Future Rites widens the reach of the Rite of Spring beyond ballet and classical music audiences, introducing new generations to the rich narrative and reflexive provocation the piece has always elicited. With its core themes relating to contemporary crises it also carries a strong educational component.

In its primary form as a multi-user VR experience audiences are expected to enjoy Future Rites at performing arts and new media venues and festivals.

Creator’s statement

Scientists have long proclaimed the impacts of our action on shifting of climate, populations, viruses… Yet, each shift also brings new customs: future rites. Just like Stravinsky’s composition, Future Rites is a calling. To find beauty in chaos, and transformation in sacrifice.

Through our bodies, we form knowledge and bonds we can’t through language. In combining AI, VR and dance, we invite visitors to embody a crucial question: in our quickly changing environment, what and who are we willing to sacrifice?

Technical summary

The experience is built using the following elements:

  • Vive Pro headset and trackers with wireless adapters
  • Perception Neuron motion capture suit
  • Unreal Engine
  • Optimal space of 7x7mt to enable 7-9 people to move around comfortably
  • 360 audio

Project team details

  • Alexander Whitley – Choreographer, Director, and Performance Lead
  • Sandra Rodriguez – Director, UX and Experience Lead
  • Sebastien Grenier-Cartier – Creative Producer and Design Lead
  • Marc Winklhofer – Technical Director
  • Donna Meierdiercks – Producer
  • Dominique Joly – Producer
  • Emi Del Bene – Project Coordinator
  • Tia Hockey – Dancer

Team profile

Future Rites is co-produced by Alexander Whitley Dance Company, Normal Studio and Sandra Rodriguez. The team works collaboratively and ideas are developed with each member’s input: all creative and technologist members have a strong track record and wide-ranging experience. Future Rites aims to make dance relevant and accessible to a wider audience.

Past work

  • 2020 – Chomsky vs Chomsky: First Encounter
  • 2020 – Banq
  • 2019 – Cité Mémoire, Icarus
  • 2019 – Celestial Motion II
  • 2018 – Celestial Motion
  • 2018 – Manic VR
  • 2018 – Big Picture VR
  • 2018 – Anote’s Ark VR
  • 2017 – Sép7imo Día – No Descansaré
  • 2016 – Deprogrammed
  • 2016 – Life Reflected