By clothing-bag, 04/04/2023

Virtual reality is introduced to a ballet show in France

“Let's give them the chance to immerse themselves in the middle of the action, something they've never seen before!”: French choreographer Kader Belarbi offers a 'world first' by introducing virtual reality in “Toulouse -Lautrec”, his new ballet.Virtual reality is introduced to a ballet performance in France

With this show that opens the season at the Capitole Theater in Toulouse (south-western France), from October 16 to 23, the former star dancer of the Paris Opera innovates with state-of-the-art technology “that will allow the spectator project yourself onto the stage”, with a virtual reality headset.

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“We added an 'annex' to the show, a supplement that brings a new look. That of the painter” explains Kader Belarbi, who has directed the Opera de Toulouse for a decade.

Kader Belarbi confesses that, before dance, painting was his first passion. During the time suspended by the pandemic, he drew a lot to polish his creation on the life and work of Toulouse-Lautrec, born in Albi (southwest) and who embodied the "soul of Montmartre".Virtual reality is introduced to a ballet performance in France

Virtual reality is introduced to a show of ballet in France


Immersion in intimacy

“Painting and dance are two linked arts (...)” he explains.

In each of the six performances scheduled in the Capitole, fifty spectators can, upon payment of 63 euros (USD 73), see a dozen two-minute scenes in 3D through virtual reality (VR) headsets, "where it is Lautrec who looks".Virtual reality is introduced to a ballet performance in France

In this way, they can appear “in the middle of the stage”, among the dancers, cross their eyes, and be excited with an unprecedented complicity.

“Toulouse-Lautrec is a true hedonist, an observer of the human soul. He lived three years in a brothel. The proximity to virtual reality is really parallel to what the painter lived” affirms Belarbi.Virtual reality is introduced to a ballet performance in France

“We have captured a 360° image with eight cameras, plus one in the sky. Then, we do some stitching in post-production, so that each VR sequence creates a 'sphere' (of images) around the viewer," explains Luc Riolon, one of the French masters of dance documentary.

Technological complexity

“When filming dance, one always wants to be as close as possible to the dancers. Here, we transform the viewer into a 'voyeur', exactly what Toulouse-Lautrec was”, he assures.


This technological complexity hasn't destabilized star dancer Natalia de Froberville. “With virtual reality, you have to pay more attention to space,” she says, explaining that you don't have to go out of range of any of the cameras.

“The cancan is something new for me. Pure fire! Champagne!" says the Russian star who plays Jane Avril, icon of the cancan and the Moulin Rouge “who was called 'Jane la Folle' (the Mad) or 'La Mélinite'”.

From this experience, the classical dancer retains “the emotion of the living spectacle”, which evokes the universe of Lautrec, the reddish colors of the wigs, the eroticism of the cabaret outfits and the elegant underwear magnified by the designer costume designer Olivier Bériot.

This show immerses the ballet in the energy of the Belle Epoque, to the sound of the devilish rhythms of the cancan and java. With this image technology at the service of emotion, some viewers can enter the painter's intimacy and catch the eye of Jane Avril, his muse.

A feat possible thanks to the “Z CAM V1 camera, unique in Europe. The other is in the space station with the French astronaut Thomas Pesquet”, says the director Luc Riolon. (E)