What is the relationship between dance and code? At first, they might seem radically different, but both dance and code are languages — tools of communication as well as expressions in their own right. They are also the sums of their parts: each choreographed arm lift or head turn is like a command. Only when interlinked do motions and lines of code tell a larger story. Programming and dance also consider the audience, situating viewers (or users) within a narrative or experience.
The worlds of dance, software, and light converge with electrifying results in iLuminate, the entertainment company created by Miral Kotb, which combines wearable LED technologies with choreography performed in the dark to create interactive audience experiences. Think of iLuminate as high-tech choose-your-own-adventures for live events.
In her TIDE presentation in Orlando on June 11, 2019, Kotb shared her extraordinary personal journey as a software developer and dancer and her approach to co-creation.
TIDE also welcomed another luminary — Srinivas Rao — who views creativity as a powerful currency in the digital era. Rao is the founder and host of the wildly popular podcast “The Unmistakable Creative,” where he’s interviewed more than 700 people from every corner of life to discover creativity’s secret recipe. He is also a bestselling author of three books, including The Art of Being Unmistakable. At TIDE, Rao shared his vision for harnessing the power of creativity to stand out in an overcrowded, digitally cluttered world.
Creativity as Strategy
“We live in a sea of sameness,” Rao said. “Scroll through your Facebook newsfeed on any given day. Whatever you post, it is probably the same as the content from the billion people using Facebook. When you look at websites, why do they all look exactly the same? It’s not limited to online entrepreneurs but every industry.”
To shake a paradigm or zig when everyone else is zagging, Rao suggests making creativity a core business value and practice. At TIDE, Rao will share “principles from human behavior and behavioral psychology to help people express their creativity and apply it to business success,” he said.
Light is an important element in most dance productions, but for Miral Kotb, light takes center stage. With technology incorporated into every dancer’s costume, changing code transforms the visual experience in real-time. iLuminate’s immersive co-creation and co-inspiration practice helps the team break through disciplinary silos.
“Co-inspiration is so exciting because we find new respect for what other people do,” said Kotb. “A dancer can meet a software developer and think, ‘Oh, it's all PC. I don't get it,’ and they might go their own way. But we force people from very different backgrounds together — not just economic backgrounds, but also expertise backgrounds. We bring costume designers, dancers, engineers, and more to work closely together rather than separately.”
At TIDE, Kotb, who has been dancing since she was “able to walk and writing software since the age of nine,” shared a high-octane presentation about ways to inspire each other to realize our fullest potential. iLuminate’s stunning results are only possible when diverse talents ideate in concert. This collaboration becomes its own form of unexpected art.
AV Breaks New Ground
The challenges of leading iLuminate’s motley team are becoming more common in technology-driven projects. From large-scale projection mapping to sound sculptures to genre-bending events, creative output is becoming more collaborative.
AV integrators and consultants can play increasingly pivotal roles in creative pursuits, because they know the tools and infrastructure requirements. AV professionals understand what is and is not technically feasible. An AV designer might even push an artist or a project in a bold new direction because of their deep knowledge of the breadth of technological possibilities.
Indeed, AV is a special skillset that can engender imaginative processes. When more stakeholders view AV as an integrated experience, new creative opportunities will emerge. Creative vision is fundamental, but without execution, it lives only in the artist’s head.
Srinivas Rao knows that to disrupt an industry, you need to see with new eyes: “We've been socialized to pay attention to people who are in positions of authority. But, it’s often the people who challenge conventional wisdom that make the most enduring impressions. Sometimes, the change has to come from somebody who is basically a misfit within an organization, who is willing to rock the boat a little bit and take small risks.”
Those calculated risks will help procure valuable feedback and iterate off that feedback to keep advancing in a low-stakes environment.
Empathy Makes Us Unique
As artificial intelligence and automation infiltrate more of our daily lives, empathy and creativity will give humans an edge. One way to nurture empathic creativity is to support cross-pollination earlier in the process. As Kotb sees it: “Helping kids experience co-inspiration, from a young age, could help create a new generation of anti-bullying, more empathetic people.”
Instead of ignoring an idea or person that’s different, Kotb says, “accept it and explore it. Co-creation is a skill that could help students at a young age and as they forge ahead in their professional careers.”