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'The center of a storm': Audience members to experience a hurricane through dance, technology

Graduate student performance at MIX Center feature augmented reality technologies

A dancer performs in front of a screen depicting a hurricane

"category FIVE" will show at the ASU Media and Immersive eXperience Center on Oct. 13 and 14. Courtesy photo

October 11, 2023

Each year students from the graduate program in dance at Arizona State University present their thesis projects in the “Emerging Artist” showcase.

This year, Dean Saifullin and Isabella Lepp collaborated to bring their project, “category FIVE,” to audiences at the ASU Media and Immersive eXperience (MIX) Center on Oct. 13 and 14. 

Lepp and Saifullin knew they didn’t want to choreograph a traditional show on a stage. With “category FIVE,” they’ve created a perfect storm of dance and augmented reality technologies, something only possible at the MIX Center.

“It’s a tremendous place to host, showcase and take a performance to the next level,” said Paul Amendola, events technical director at the MIX Center.

The audience will be fully immersed, viewing the performance from all sides on the second-floor balcony to see the 360-degree interactive projection of a hurricane. The mix of audio and lighting on this unique stage will also bring the storm to life.

“It’s simply an extraordinary blank canvas for an interactive, one-of-a-kind show experience,” Amendola said.

Patrons will be a part of the show instead of just viewers. They’ll walk through the set of a home, passing by a bookshelf and coffee table.

Then a storm destroys it all.

“It’s going to create specific emotions,” Saifullin said. 

How do I react to this? How does my mind and body respond? How do I proceed? These are all questions audiences will ask themselves while being a part of the show, according to Lepp and Saifullin.

“We wanted people to leave understanding what they were a part of, not wondering what they just saw,” Lepp said.

Audiences will move to 20 feet above the set, looking from the top down at a hurricane of dancers destroying the home they just walked through.

Dean Saifullin and Isabella Lepp view the stage from where the audience will be positioned. Courtesy photo

The audience being above the dance was something Lepp and Saifullin had to account for when designing the choreography and costumes for the project. Movement had to be more expansive, and costumes had to have some form of movement.

“We didn’t want the dancers to get lost in the space from being too small,” Lepp said.

“I always said that I either would like to be a dancer or a meteorologist so that I could stand at the center of a storm and report on it,” she said.

Experience “category FIVE” at the MIX Center Oct. 13 and 14. There are multiple showtimes each night starting at 6 p.m. to give audiences a personal experience as they walk through the hurricane.

Tickets must be purchased online at the Herberger Institute Box Office. Ticketing is limited for this special event, and audience members will need to be able to stand for a minimum of 30 minutes and travel throughout the space. Please inform staff when checking in for elevator accessible accommodations.

Content transparency: This performance will include intense audio and visuals, including alarms, red flashing lights, strobe lighting and the simulation of a hurricane. May include physical touch. Patrons will be asked to fill out a consent form prior to participating.

Written by Benjamin Adelberg

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