The internet has been abuzz about ElevenPlay -- the dance troupe that performs live onstage with 24 illuminated drones as their co-stars.
"It didn't stick out like a gimmick, it stood out like a convergence of art really overlaying with the technology," said Hammer Theatre Center executive director Chris Burrill.
Drones are just the beginning of what's in ElevenPlay's bag of tricks. The dancers also perform with iPads and other connected things.
"It's so funny you say 'things' because that's actually the title of the program," said Greg Kastelman, vice president of Cadenza Artists, the group that's bringing ElevenPlay to the U.S. "They're using things in their dance. They're using lasers, they're using drones, they're using 3-dimensional objects."
It's "dances with drones" for one night only Saturday at @hammer_sjsu. @elevenplay is a Japanese dance company that fuses tech with live performance onstage. I got to talk to the people behind their first US tour today. (Video credit: Daito Manabe, Rhizomatiks Research) #ArtTech pic.twitter.com/U9Cj8Xibbe— Jonathan Bloom (@BloomTV) January 26, 2018
The group's aim with this production is to have an artistic conversation about what those "things" mean to us, Kastelman said.
"We have human reactions to objects, whether it's our iPhones or our computers, we have those personal attachments," he said.
San Jose will be the first stop on ElevenPlay's first-ever US tour. When they arrive, they'll be bringing a lot of luggage on the plane from Tokyo, including drones, controllers and specially made light-up cubes that are beefy enough to stand on. They'll also bring a full staff to operate them.
"There's 12 people on tour and there's five performers onstage," Kastelman said. "It takes drone operators, it takes videographers, it takes sound engineers."
In fact, the Hammer Theatre Center began the process a year ago to make Elevenplay the first piece of its new ArtTech series.
"These different groups that we're presenting in this series have really melded the technology with their storytelling," Burrill said.
ElevenPlay has performed in augmented reality, the dancers appearing side by side with their own digital avatars to an audience wearing special glasses. The effects come from the Rhizomatiks, a research team that uses motion capture and sensors to weave the digital into the analog medium of dance.
"Months and months and months and months of technical preparation for one night," Kastelman said. "And that's kind of the magic of theatre."
Click here to purchase tickets to see ElevenPlay.