Arts & Culture

Lights, Camera—Play, Pose, and Watch

Creative dance duo ScRach MarcS reimagines dance in accessible Augmented Reality filters

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Going through the motions of daily life, we notice more expressions of street art beyond concrete and city pavements. Dance is also no longer limited to the perimeters of a stage. ScRach MarcS, the award-winning dance duo Rachel Lee and Marcus Tan, has been expanding the possibilities of the arts in Singapore by reimagining movement.

Led by a desire to continue connecting with audiences, their latest Got to Move project Lens Lens Revolution is coming to life on our phone screens in three bite-sized Augmented Reality (AR) filters. Their aim is to give audiences an accessible avenue to connect with the arts, encouraging people to dance from just about anywhere.

We speak to the creative duo to understand their inspiration and insights from working on a project that combines both traditional and contemporary elements, old and new tools.

Image courtesy of ScRach MarcS

Fusing the Old and New

Produced in collaboration with in the wild design studio, the AR filters consist of a mini game (“Play”), an interactive selfie (“Pose”), and an augmented dance performance on social media platforms (“Watch”). In each filter, ScRach Marcs integrates traditional movement and music elements to modern street styles.

Why did you decide to include traditional dance elements in Lens Lens Revolution?

We have always been intrigued by the history and heritage of dance styles. Many street styles are created from Western culture. Being in Singapore, our culture is a unique fusion of East and West. Thus, it made sense to combine traditional elements with modern ones for the project.

Who did you consult with for the project?

To create movements for the AR filters, we consulted with contemporary Malay dance artist from P7:1SMA Norhaizad Adam, contemporary Indian dance artist with Maya Dance Theatre Shahrin Johry, and Chinese dance artist Li Rui Min. It was a conversation between us and the mentors wherein we would say, “hey let’s try this out!” We asked them, “are there more movements like these?” From that, we learned how intricate traditional forms can be. Each culture has its own norms and symbolisms, and their dance styles reflect that. It was interesting to find out about the intentions behind some movements. In turn, we shared our understanding about street dance culture.

For the “Watch” filter where most of the choreography happens, Haizad was involved in helping us understand and translate traditional movements into something more modern. We consulted him to see what and how much of the traditional movements we could change. The movements were then incorporated into our performance video for the “Watch” filter. We tried our best to keep the movements authentic, while modifying some of them to express a fusion of tradition and modernity.

What did you learn from the exchange with the mentors?

We are still using the same tool — the human body. A lot of movements have similar ideologies behind them. There are many origin stories and meanings behind each movement, which exist in both traditional and street forms. They were created as tools to express thoughts, emotions, and tell stories.

Through the exchange, we saw our similarities and shared the same enthusiasm to explore expressing these similarities while celebrating our differences. The project is another step towards wider collaborations in the future for all of us.

Image courtesy of ScRach MarcS

Going digital

This project is one of ScRach MarcS’ more tech-based works, which is different in approach and implementation from their usual site-specific works, performances, and dance films, which sometimes used technology as a medium. For Lens Lens Revolution, technology played a larger role in being the work itself.

How did you conceptualise Lens Lens Revolution?

This year, Got to Move went fully digital. We thought of how people usually interact with each other today. Instagram stories and TikTok have become powerful communication tools in the last few years, it’s hard to deny their influence. With the use of simple filters or effects, people can have fun while creating interesting content.

We wanted to create filters that enable people to move and experience dance differently. Similar to our previous project, “SMILE”, a semi-digital street interactive performance, we came up with the idea of “Play-Pose-and-Watch” for Got to Move, to allow users to interact with dancing across the three AR filters.

Why the choice of Augmented Reality?

We love the idea that the lines are blurred between the real and the digital worlds. AR allows you to experience something special in everyday spaces and places. AR allows artists to create experiences that are personal to the spaces the viewers are in. There are a lot of factors to consider for user experience, such as clarity of instructions, filter timing, device compatibility, and graphics animation.

How was the experience experimenting with technology?

It was definitely challenging since we’re limited to our knowledge of the front-end of technology. We can imagine what we want to see and what we want technology to do, but the feasibility and scalability of our ideas may be hard to gauge. Therefore, we relied and trusted a lot in our tech partner in the wild. They have been very easy to work with and provided us with their valuable insights.

Tech is a little tricky because it’s constantly evolving and at crazy speeds. People’s attention spans while using technology are also very limited. We had to find ways for people to engage with the content quickly and through more common interactions. For example, people pose all the time on social media, so we thought why not build on that idea? But just make it more fun by telling them to move in between poses.

Through this project, we’re seeing even more potential for technology to play a bigger part in our future projects; as well as the potential for our future projects to play a bigger part in the tech world.

Image courtesy of ScRach MarcS

How was the choreography process different for this project?

The process of creation always begins with either conceptualising an idea or bringing an idea to life. When we think of what we want to do or say, we usually keep in mind how we want our work to be experienced. Being in a physical space has a very different energy and relativity of space. In a digital performance, we have the advantage of camera angles and post-editing to help augment the experience. Digital allows us to break the limits of a physical performance. We can revise the video, flip it upside down, create mirror effects, or change the angle to focus on details.

Choreography was especially fun this time because we had to work within the space and the camera as a digital piece. The real challenge was choreographing the camera work. The post-production process is a whole new addition since it can totally change how someone experiences your work. Post-production controls what the audience sees. With that in mind, it could affect some of the physical choreography.

We feel that for digital performances, the choreographer has to communicate with the director a lot as they are both the choreographers of the digital piece. During the choreography stage for the “Watch” filter, creative director Clara Yee of in the wild, attended one of our rehearsals. We created movements and tweaked angles in real-time with the test filter. It was an interesting experience since we adjusted movements according to the filter. It was almost as though we were using the actual filter while imagining the effects.

Image courtesy of ScRach MarcS

Any key differences between physical performances and digital interactive performances?

For a live show, we usually perform the piece in one seamless flow. Any imperfections are all part of that beauty and the idea that whatever you are watching is happening in real-time – there are no pause or restart buttons. When shooting a video, we can indulge in multiple takes and segment the performance into cuts and scenes. It comes with a drawback though, since shooting multiple takes eliminates some of the magic and rawness that comes with a live piece that seamlessly flows.

What do you want audiences to take away from participating in Lens Lens Revolution?

Please have fun and not take yourself too seriously while using the filters. Just go crazy with it. We are trying to remove the pressure of it being for dancers by introducing elements of dance with easy interactions through the filters. We hope this develops an interest in more dance experiences in the future.

What can we expect from ScRach MarcS next?

Do expect to see us in more works this year — both under the flash and in the flesh.

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