Contemporary dancer Paige Fraser performs alongside a mirrored visualization of herself, showing how new depth-sensing technology can help tell a compelling story.
Paige Fraser’s mom worked a few doors down from a dance studio in the Bronx and when her squirmy daughter turned four, she enrolled her in ballet lessons. That day changed Fraser’s life forever; it was the day she found her calling.
Fraser is a professional dancer. The now 24-year-old Jamaican was the first African-American Clara in her school’s version of The Nutcracker. She’s toured internationally with the renowned Ailey II troupe and is a founding member of Visceral Dance Company, a contemporary dance studio in Chicago.
By all measures, Fraser is a success, but there were dark days when she felt her world crashing down on her. At age 12, she was diagnosed with scoliosis, a severe curvature in her spine. She was told she’d never be a professional dancer.
“It was overwhelming and confusing,” said Fraser. She had to wear a back brace to school and while she slept. Doctors told her she’d need surgery, that they would need to install metal rods in her back. It was terrifying news.
But her parents found a chiropractor who worked with dancers and showed her surgery wasn’t the only way. It would take hard work, commitment and loads of perseverance, but the Frasers had no doubt their daughter could do it.
Last fall, Intel teamed up with Fraser, choreographer Tone Talauega and Mirada Studios to find a unique way to tell Fraser’s inspiring story using technology.
By employing 18 Intel RealSense cameras powered by 6th gen Intel Core processor-based PCs, the team created an ethereal reflection of Fraser that followed her movements throughout the dance.
Tone Talauega has choreographed artists like Backstreet Boys, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Brown and Pink. He used Fraser’s backstory to shape the choreography. She starts the dance crunched down, in abstract poses that represent her scoliosis and struggle. It transitions into a more powerful, athletic dance where she finds herself, eschews the brace and breaks through.
“This is an incredible way to fuse human creativity with the power of technology,” Talauega said. “We’re pushing the envelope of what’s never been done before. The future’s bright when we figure out how to bring together humanity and tech.”
“The technology is the tool that allows us to tell the story,” said Andy Cochrane, digital director at Mirada Studios, a visual effects studio that pushes technology and its ability to accompany the art of storytelling. He said they wanted to show Fraser’s struggles and perseverance in a universal way that allows people to viscerally relate to her story.
By building an environment that responds whenever Fraser is moving, the team was able to tell a unique story. Paul Tapp, Director of Technology for Intel Marketing, said Intel RealSense technology and the ability to sense depth affords a new opportunity in the realms of expression and creativity, and its potential is just now becoming unleashed.
“This is a really nice way of showing how, with RealSense and high-performance computing, you can unleash the creativity of a dancer,” he said.
Attendees at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show got a peek at Fraser’s live performance on the spotlight stage.
— Intel (@intel) January 8, 2016
For Fraser, who’s faced years of ups and downs in a competitive profession, the projected dance partner is like having an earlier, other self, dancing with her. During the dance, giant boulders on the screen fall down around Fraser. She’s able to crush them with a powerful kick or dramatic shove. Meanwhile, her 3D-projected double follows her every move, almost backing her up her bravery.
“It almost feels like my essence is dancing with me,” said Fraser, adding that the Intel RealSense dancer embodies her struggle, her overcoming hardships and the message to other athletes and dancers to continue doing what they love. She said she expresses so much emotion during the performance that she almost feels like she’s falling, driving her to the edge.
“The RealSense dancer is that spirit that I carry wherever I go,” she said. “It’s that little voice inside me that encourages and pushes me…and confirms the power I have inside myself. When I do this solo, I’m able to let go and be free.”
Mirada’s Cochrane says Intel’s RealSense technology is a way for computers to understand the world in a whole new way. “It’s a new pair of eyes,” he said.
Editor’s Note: In this Experience Amazing series, iQ explores how computer technology inside is enabling incredible experiences outside. We look at how computer technology powers new experiences and discoveries in science, the maker movement, fashion, sports and entertainment. To learn more about the tech behind these stories, visit Experience Amazing.