This year, as part of our #TOMtech programme, we have the exciting democratic dance show Choreocracy coming to TOM on 17 September. We caught up with one of the show’s creators, Tim Casson, to talk about the project’s origins and the development of audience interaction in live shows.
This is a really exciting collaboration! Can you tell us a little bit about how the project came about?
Seb and I met at South East Dance’s Dance Hack event back in 2014. We met and bonded over our shared belief that our respective art forms, dance & technology, could both be a little intimidating – and so wanted to change that. We both make work that is really fun, and the first thing we made together was what would ultimately become our rainbow laser dance. We thought there was something exciting about the idea of putting the audience in control of a show, so we continued working together very slowly, and finally created the full show in 2018.
How would you describe the show to somebody who is unfamiliar with your work?
Someone described it as Bandersnatch meets Greatest Dancer, which I quite like! Fundamentally, it’s a show that the audience control in real-time via their mobile phones. It’s really an entertainment show – so it’s fun, colourful, comic, silly, sparkly, lasery.
It seems a difficult time for the idea of democratic decisions, especially when it comes to their integration with new technologies. What made you want to explore this idea in Choreocracy?
I suppose it was the challenge of making a show that was totally democratic, we started the process by going out into the streets of Brighton to ask people what they’d like to see in a show. We then spent a lot of time exploring what elements of a show it was possible to give the audience control of in real-time. I suppose there’s an idea in art that it has to come from this one genius creative mind, and I suppose we wanted to debunk this and see what kind of decisions would be made if the audience were in control collectively. A major difference with Chorecracy is that the democratic processes that we use in the show are really transparent and fair!
As labels, both ‘dance’ and ’tech’ can sometimes be seen as intimidating to people who don’t feel literate in these fields. Are there any barriers that audiences will need to overcome to get the most out of this show?
Only those preconceptions! You really don’t need to know anything about dance or technology to enjoy it. The show is also really funny, which I don’t think people expect from either of those things! You don’t need to download an app, we help everyone get set up when they enter the theatre, it’s all pretty straightforward!
The idea of audience interaction in real-time is a central theme to our #TOMtech programme this year, and a central theme to Choreocracy. How important do you think it is to reach out to audiences as active participants in live experiences?
I think that theatre is really demanding more of audiences in recent years and that there is a real audience for more interactive, immersive and playing/game-theatre. Previously audience participation was a bit naff or intimidating, and only seemed to happen at pantomimes, but I think it can be really meaningful. We’ve found that when people describe the show, they don’t say “I want to see it again” but rather “I want to play it again” which is great that they feel such an important part of it! I mean, with Choreocracy we need the audience to make decisions or there’s quite literally no show!
Choreocracy is at TOM on 17 September!