CNN  — 

Hardened dance purists might tell you that no film can do justice to the experience of the stage, where creative performers toe the boundary of the impossible before your eyes.

But dance is changing, with innovative directors employing lights, computers, and camera trickery – including projection-mapped lighting, stop-motion illustration, and creative cinematography – to create experiences that go beyond what the stage can provide.

Immerse yourself in seven uncanny dance performances that use tantalizing new techniques, state of the art technology, and outright trickery to take dance to the next level.


A dancer trapped inside a cube, wrapped with silk-thin fabric, tears apart her minimalist surroundings. Her actions are improvised live, and translated into the digital world by an entanglement of Microsoft Kinect cameras, complex algorithms, and high-definition projectors. The studio behind the project, France’s compagnie Adrien M / Claire B, say the setup represents a bedroom, where the dancer crosses the boundary between the waking world and the realm of dreams.

Little Dreams

Animating a dance sequence takes all the difficulty out of it, right? Not if you’re Wilkie Branson, who created over 4000 hand-cut characters over the duration of a year, making “800 takes” of each shot to get everything right. The British filmmaker, choreographer, and BBoy-inspired dancer delved into his personal archive of dance footage, and created a new stop-motion world for the dancers, among his coffee cups and morning papers.

Light Spin

Eric Pare took over half a million pictures of contemporary dancers in the dark “using light-painting, stop-motion and bullet-time techniques,” he says, to achieve this incredible effect. The Montreal-based visual artist asked dancers to enter an intimidating ring of 24 DSLR cameras, and set them a herculean task.

Shooting each frame would last for a 1-second-long exposure, where the dancer would have to stay statue-still. They would then have 2 seconds to move to their next pose before freezing again. Repeat, repeat, repeat for 6 minutes – and the result is a 10 second clip.


Dueto brings together technologies ancient and modern to evoke an eerie sense of memory and nostalgia. The digital and Super 8 analogue film shows English National Ballet dancers Fernanda Oliveira and Junor Souza – both originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – dance their way through the story of their arrival in London as young dancers.

The filmmakers MJW productions created the project for U.K. TV station Channel 4’s Random Acts series, along with their surreal “The Try Out,” which deploys the full arsenal of camera tricks, creative editing, and warped choreography to create its unsettling result.


France’s Centre Chorégraphique National uses projection mapping techniques to transform the stage into a living canvas for 11 dancers who withstand a barrage of digital rain, play among computer-generated bubbles, and see the floor below them collapse into perilous rocky terrain. Originally conceived – like Hakanaï, aboveby artists Adrien Mondot and Claire Bardainne, the result is “a work on illusion, combining energy and poetry, fiction and technical achievement, hip hop and circus.”

Emptied Gestures

New Orleans-based artist Heather Hansen uses hypnotic, pendulum-like arching movements to translate her dancing body onto canvas. She says she is “exploring ways to download my movement directly onto paper, emptying gestures from one form to another.” The process, captured by photographer Bryan Tarnowski, is as captivating as the end product.

Become One

Israeli director duo Guy Sadot and Matan Tamarkin merge computer graphics and expressive dance in this film for the Israeli Ballroom Dancing Fund (see also the impressive sequence at the top of the page). The film by studio FilMill introduces a third dancer to the tango: digital geometric forms that grow out of the human dancers’ shapes and bounce off their movements.