New age requires new approaches to art. Balletristic aims to find out how cutting-edge technology may expand the horizons for ballet and dance, exploring digital pieces that already exist. The first in line is “Clinamen”, a 9-minute film created by French digital artist Hugo Arcier for Paris Opera’s virtual stage. Here dancers’ bodies and theatre’s space are represented as particles of the constantly moving universe.

Author: Hugo Arcier

“Clinamen” is a film in computer-generated images where dance movement is expressed as pure as it can be. It introduces us to a new vision of the Palais Garnier and futuristic Paris.

The title of the film - “Clinamen” - is inspired by Lucrecius’ poem De Rerum Natura and Epicurean physics. It signifies a force that allows to deflect the trajectory of atoms and make them collide with each other. The dancers also have this faculty and, through this declination of atoms, the ability to create. The whole film is the visual expression of this phenomenon.

I am the author of the project. The creations within the 3d Stage are really what we call “carte blanche” in French - once the project is accepted, we have total freedom. This is my third project inspired by Lucrecius' poem. One of the main ideas of De Rerum Natura is the atomic theory and I wanted to make a film about this idea with everything represented as atoms. I also wanted to play with human perception of movement, what could be the minimum representation of a choreography, or how abstract shapes and spheres can come to life thanks to movement. We are able to connect all the spheres in our imagination to visualize dancers’ bodies and my immense desire to create this project partially comes from that magical detail.

For “Clinamen” we made a 3D scan of the inside of the Palais Garnier using Lidar, a laser scanner. Then we did a motion capture of the dancers in a professional motion capture studio. With all that data we started the 3D work: modeling, animation, rendering, etc. We also worked on a 5.1 soundtrack and needed special equipment.

Christine Bastin was the choreographer. I talked to her and explained the concept of the project and the different parts of it. I had the picture in mind, but it was not easy to imagine it collectively, so our collaboration relied mostly on mutual trust. It was, in fact, easy because our tastes are alike. I tried to give her freedom, so she could express her style. The only real constraint was the timing and the different parts of the film. The result totally lives up to the expectations, there is a lot of subtlety and sensibility in the choreography.

The film took quite a long time to be finalized, nearly 2 years to work it through from the very beginning to the very end. It was hard to find and hire a full team (choreographer, dancers, 3D scanners, 3D artists, motion capture team, musicians, sound team) and make schedules that would be suitable for everyone. But once all the data is collected, the image creation stages take between 2 and 3 months.

“Clinamen” is a praise of movement where movement is expressed in its purest form. We can barely recognize the bodies, but their movements are always there, the tiny dots of the decor are moving as the actors move. The spectator naturally incorporates into this universe, initially abstract, and connects distinct elements to generate an imaginary body. The film also offers an original re-reading of the Palais Garnier, a building transformed into a surprising space made of atoms, as virtual as it is mental. Aboard this ship we travel towards the future.

We have recently shown “Clinamen” on the 360° screen at La Villette and it was impressive. At the beginning of 2020, we are going to show it at Le 104 Paris, as a part of Séquence Danse festival, on 3 screens with extra content included. It is possible to enjoy the film even on a simple computer or a tablet, but of course, it looks more than perfect in the form of an installation or a cinema show.

I see technology as a layer on top of reality and believe it can open up new horizons. It cannot replace certain things, like the real bodies, but it is something that helps, bringing new possibilities. You can show the invisible or subtract some layers of reality and express movement in a new way. The interesting part about Clinamen - aside from the representation of the dancers - is that it offers a different point of view on choreography. Traditionally, dance halls offer exclusively frontal point of view. In Clinamen, however, the choreography can be watched in 3D form from every angle possible. The bodies of the dancers have to perform in 3D, it is a new way of thinking for the choreographer to keep in mind.