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Brooklyn Ballet Hacks "The Nutcracker" With Wearable-Tech Tutus

Equipped with motion-sensitive LED lights, fouettés have never looked better.

Opening night photos courtesy of William Ward.

Say hello to the techno tutuVectors, Marys, and Snow opened the2014 season of the Brooklyn Ballet, a show that combines live music, ballet, and wearable technology. For the tech involved, the nascent dance company have collaborated with Nick and Sayak Vermeer, William Ward and Olivia Barr, members of hacker collective NYCResistor, to construct interactive LED costumes that change brightness based on movement.


It gets even better: Vectors, Marys, and Snow is only the beginning. This year, the company seeks to debut a "hacked" update to cornerstone ballet, The Nutrcracker. 

In order to “fully realize the technological aspects of the Snow and Drosselmeyer 1.0 design,” Brooklyn Ballet has a goal of $10,000 on Kickstarter. But with only 37 hours, and roughly $3530 left to go, the Brooklyn Ballet is still greatly in need of your help, stat!

As far as the technology goes, the LEDs that line the dance dresses are run on custom microcontollers, motion sensors, and an accelerometer attached to the dancers' skirts. When the ballerinas perform arabesques, pliés, and the French words for "leaps" and "twirls," glowing "snowflakes" embedded in their dresses react and blink down their clothing. Each pixel can be individually addressed for color, brightness, and activation, at this point making it literally the only snow we’ll tolerate in April.

Above, watch pop-and-lock dancer Mike “Supreme” Fields perform as Drosselmeyer, the magician from The Nutcracker, wearing a hand-sewn Pexel shirt outfitted with accelerometers.

"When the dancer jumps up and down or left and right the accelerometer sends the data to the micro controller," Olivia Barr, one of the designers at NYCResistor, explained to The Creators Project, "that data is then interpreted by the code we wrote in the micro controller and sent to the LEDs to light up." The programmers can control the sensors' sensitivity, so even a small flex of Fields' pectoral muscles will spark the lights.


Worth noting: NYCResistor’s hardware designs and code are open-sourced, so fellow innovators can expand upon this kind of intersection between dance and technology.

While Vectors, Marys, and Snow runs until April 13th, NYCResistor are already working on their update to The Nutcracker. "We have some ideas for projection mapped scenery as well as possible continuations of our previous work that created projected visuals in real time in response to the dancer's movements," Barr told us. "Our team would like to push the boundaries of interactive wearables."

The Brooklyn Ballet's an impressive job integration of wearable technology into the art of ballet has us already looking forward to the next digitally-enhanced dance.

For more information on the performance, visit the official Vectors, Marys, and Snow website, and pledge your support for The Nutcracker via Kickstarter. __