Designing projections for world premiere of 4OUR

Although school just started, it's already crunch time for Eric Chad, an MFA student pursuing theatrical design, as he wraps up his summer project as the visual director for 4OUR.

4OUR is a dance performance created by Joe Laughlin, award-winning Vancouver choreographer at the ScotiaBank Theatre. Laughlin will be joined on stage with three other dancers -- Gioconda Barbuto, Heather Dotto and Kevin Tookey.

Chad joins the 4OUR dancers as they explore the concept of growth and development.

“It's a deeply personal and visually striking new creation exploring family dynamics and cross-generational relationships and singular moments that changed our lives,” said Chad.

The dancers also reflect the central theme of 4OUR. From just starting out to being a seasoned veteran, each dancer represents a different stage and dynamic in life. Chad’s role in 4OUR is to add what Laughlin calls “magical moments” to the performance.

As the visual director, Chad is in charge of projections and he has been working on generative design for the production. Generative design builds off of a set of basic parameters to create new and random visual images and videos each time. Thus, every performance will be slightly different because generative design will never form the same image or video twice.

Working out this software was no mean feat for Chad. While he was familiar with the software, he was using it in a completely new way. He is still working out the kinks of the software and has an ongoing love-hate relationship with it.

"Today it’s working for you and the next day it’s a nightmare," he said. "It’s a bit of a roller coaster.”

In spite of the challenges he faced, the end results are stunning.

In addition to his work with generative design, Chad is working on another task which uses projection as lighting. Staying away from typical images of forests or sandy beaches, Chad will be projecting directly onto the dancers to represent emotions and add to the space. Projecting onto the dancers will not only make them more visible, but also add another dimension to the dancing by adding texture and movement to the dancers.

Compared to his previous designer roles on other productions, Chad has much more creative freedom in 4OUR. While Laughlin is the key visionary for the production of 4OUR and has certain thoughts and concepts in mind, Chad holds the artistic rein for the visual designs.

Like everything else, projection is an integral part of the performance.

“Dance is not just dancing -- it’s the lighting, it’s the sound,” said Chad. "You can have that introspective where you can see the projection work, see the dancer and see how they come together to form a single thought."

Everything is starting to come together now as the preparation for 4OUR enters its last stretch.

"Seeing how the transitions are happening, there has been a lot of new choreographing [and] new scenes," said Chad. "As far as the central theme of the piece, it hasn't really changed -- it's strengthened. It's quite nice. The dances change. Everything is starting to mesh."

4OUR begins at the Scotiabank Dance Centre on September 30.