Creating Social Impact Through Technology In Dance – By Producer Frances Livesey

For theatre, alongside its younger (and somewhat better-funded) cousins in television, film and gaming, power lies in immediacy. For the former, this is in one respect quite literal: there is a certain magic in the connection that we find through existing in the same space as the players on stage, just inches from the drama. But in a society ever more digitally-minded, and at the same time plagued by a silent epidemic of loneliness, how can we use theatre together with screen-based technologies to build immediate connection, both with the stories we tell on stage, and with one another?
This drive towards connectivity lies at the heart of our latest project, ‘Playscape: How to Build a Galaxy’ — a dual performance and interactive workshop experience, designed to be taken to young people in community settings. Performers and participants alike collaborate, explore and play within both physical and digital space, in an experience uniting dance, motion capture technology and a game-inspired virtual universe projected onto
surrounding screens. It is a project that also prioritises social impact, with a particular focus on young people impacted by social exclusion. To date its reach includes young people living in sheltered accommodation, children in receipt of free school meals, and young mothers with children in foster care, amongst many others.
Last month, I was invited by Falmouth University to deliver a keynote speech on how at KDE Dance we are using technology and creativity to create a positive societal impact, as part of the Research & Knowledge Exchange segment of their Core Academic & Technical Training. For anyone as unfamiliar with this concept as I once was, knowledge exchange is the practice of taking knowledge generated from academic research, and using this to generate positive economic, environmental or social impact, often through collaborations with external organisations. Falmouth is on a mission ‘to be the leading institution for nexus between creativity and technology’, and having been lucky enough to see a small part of this process in action, it is easy to imagine their success in this endeavour: it was incredibly inspiring to hear about ongoing work on campus and beyond, for example supporting SMEs across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to integrate immersive technologies into their businesses.
‘Playscape’ is of course a product of knowledge exchange itself, having been developed through our residency at Goldsmiths, University of London. It was wonderful to have an opportunity to share our learning from the project, both as an evidenced example of how creative technology can drive positive social impact, and as a testament to how powerful relationships between academia, industry and community groups can be. I was also immensely grateful for the insightful and thought-provoking conversations I was able to have with other speakers and delegates — all of which are invaluable as KDE Dance moves forward with ‘Playscape’ and as an organisation.
Despite having arrived equipped with no less than three different types of sunscreen, I returned to London with not inconsiderable sunburn, but nevertheless a fresh excitement for the future of technology in dance theatre. Watch this space for more from ‘Playscape: How to Build a Galaxy’ and Katie Dale-Everett Dance!
Frances Livesey, Producer
Photo by Steve Tanner