Lazuli Sky

Birmingham Royal Ballet have stepped boldly out of seven months of theatre closures to premiere a new ballet chorepographed by Will Tuckett with designs by Nina Dunn and Samuel Wyer and lighting by Peter Teigen.

Lazuli Sky has opened at Birmingham Rep and Sadler’s Wells, London in front of a socially distanced audience.

The ballet was commissioned by Carlos Acosta early in lockdown in the kowledge that his company of dancers would need something to work towards to keep them fit and motivated. He approached Will Tuckett, who immediately started discussing ideas with his creative team, Sam and Nina.

The themes of the ballet track various stages of the first lockdown: the process of stopping to notice nature on brief exits outside the home; the strange nature of existence under new restrived circumstances; the sense of foreboding and fear that sometimes accompanied these days and nights. The music – John Adams’ Shaker Loops – propels the dance to life and the dance elucidates the complex layers of music.

Nina and Sam worked together on the space and visuals. It was uncertain as to whether scenic workshops would be able to operate so the physical design was based on stock items that most theatres tend to have: dance floor, cyc for rear projection, black gauze and full black cloths and the projetced images were used to define the space and narrative supporting the dancers’ movements. In addition, Sam designed fan-shaped costumes that provide additional structure within the space and behave beautifully with the movement of the dancers and light.

Notch was also used for generative visuals. Luigi Sardi was both the media server programmer and Notch artist that Nina collaborated with to create visuals that track the dancers’ movements and to create supporting effects that evolved live within the design.

The process of making the work involved constant scenario planning and creative thinking to track and pre-empt the ever evolving health crisis and government guidance and several times it looked as if rehearsals or performances would have to be called off. Nevertheless, the team and BRB and Will’s team worked tirelessly together and the results were well worth the endeavour.

The ballet opened two theatres: first of all The Birmigham Rep in the company’s home town then Sadler’s Wells, the home of London dance. The socially distanced, reduced capacity audience recievd the ballet with all the exuberance of a full house and the press response has been equally enthusiastic. Lazuli Sky has also been nominated in the Critic’s Circile National Dance Awards for best classical Choreography

Nina’s team has also been responsible for the live recording and online broadcast of the triple bill with Harrison Cooke leading the process and assisting the company work towards a model that they can use for future broadcasts.

Blue-i Theatre Technology provided the equipment for both the broadcast and the projection.

The piece is accompanied by an Augmented Reality App that uses volumetric capture to deliver dancers to any space viewed on a smartphone. James Simpson partnered with the team as creative technologist to create the capture and the app, which pushes the boundaries of what this technology can do. It will be used as the basis for a longer piece in due course. Meanwhile, here’s a sneak peak:

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