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Chronotopia is a dance theater re-imagining of the one of the oldest Indian epic poems: the Tamil epic Silappatikaram.

Attakkalari’s multi-media dance production is an episodical journey, which explores the movement of five performers through a physical and emotional landscape of contemporary life: birth, love, marriage, war, devastation, death and transformation. Establishing a link, between the landscape and the emotional as well as spiritual mindset of the protagonist, images from ordinary human existence encounter the intervention of inexplicable forces.

The stage scenographic environment consists of the lighting system in front of which is suspended a large scale, semi translucent projection screen upon which is projected a series of five iconic yet, visually abstract textures. Top and side cameras analyze the flow of motion from the dancers and are used to provide simultaneous input to both the lighting and projection systems. The lighting responds to the performers’ motion by either triggering set patterns, directly coupling with the dancers or creating abstract traces based on different rhythmic and temporal patterns.

The lighting scenography is inspired by both the abstract images of bodily gestures that are prevalent in traditional Indian dance forms such as Bharatnatyam as well as by the ubiquitous appearance of florescent lighting fixtures in everyday life in India.

In Chronotopia, we used the wireless technology for controlling a matrix of 6 by 6 cold cathode fluorescent lights (CCFL), and 3 handheld CCFL lights.

Since the power required for the light matrix is quite high, it cannot be battery-powered, but the use of wireless technology freed us from running cable between the light matrix and the computer controlling it. Given the short setup time in theaters (usually just one day), and especially in technically challenging environments as India, this was a considerable advantage.

For the 3 handheld objects, wireless control was critical, as the objects are carried across the stage by the performers during the show as part of the dramaturgy of the piece.

Within the light control setup itself, the DataNetwork was used extensively to exchange data between different portions of the setup, such as the motion tracking data (from a camera looking down at the stage), and pitch and beat tracking data extracted in real-time from the soundtrack. We also needed to exchange data between the light control and the interactive video, both for synchronisation of cues with the soundtrack (using frametime of the playback, published as data on the network), and for connecting the intensity of the lights to the video image (the light control was publishing the maximum output value of all the lights in the matrix onto the network, which was used to control the brightness of the video image).


  • Choreography: Jayachandran Palazhy
  • Interactive scenography: Chris Salter | Chris Ziegler
  • Interaction research/design (light): Marije Baalman | Chris Salter
  • Interaction design (video) : Chris Ziegler
  • Theatrical Lighting; Thomas Dotzler
  • (Interactive) Lighting programming: Marije Baalman
  • Lighting system design: Elio Bidinost | Harry Smoak | Marije Baalman
  • Sensing research/development : Joseph Malloch | Marije Baalman

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