Rainbow Dance Theatre's "iLumiDance" takes place on a blacked-out stage, with dancers dressed in all black so they are only visible through multicolored lighted wires woven into their costumes.
This creates an effect that is comparable to watching line drawings in neon colors dance.
But the show's true magic becomes apparent as the performers take advantage of the ability to be unseen when the lights in the costumes are off to create otherworldly effects: dancers vanish mid-leap, an owl disappears and reappears elsewhere on stage, a dancer costumed as a luminescent butterfly floats in midair, supported by other dancers who are invisible in the darkness.
Darryl Thomas, Rainbow Dance Theatre's co-artistic director, said the purpose of the show is to use technology to expand what the human body can do with dance.
"We want people to say 'I had no idea you could do that with dance,'" he said.
Monmouth-based Rainbow Dance Theatre is bringing a holiday themed version of its “iLumiDance” dance show to the stage at Corvallis High School Thursday and Saturday. (See the related story for showtimes and other details.) The show will feature some holiday songs, like selections from "The Nutcracker" with accompanying dance using electro-luminescent light wires to create illusions and effects on stage.
Tickets are $12 for students and seniors and $15 for adults. Thursday's performance is at 7:30 p.m. and the Saturday performance is at 2 p.m.
Valerie Bergman, Thomas' wife and co-artistic director, said the idea of iLumiDance is to combine technology and art to create a magical experience.
Bergman said the origins of the show date back about a decade when Thomas got really interested in electro-luminescent light wires. She said Thomas is part dancer and part computer geek and began experimenting with the lights and their shows have constantly been evolving ever since.
“It’s a work in progress as the technology progresses,” she said. Bergman said act one of the show uses more analog effects in its costumes, puppets and props that represent earlier iterations of their use of their self-made light technology. The second act, however, reflects their newer techniques, in which a central computer controls the lights on everything on the stage.
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“We can do so much more in terms of split-second timing than we ever could before,” she said.
Thomas said the first costume they developed with light wires built into it took around 300 hours to make.
The company did two preview performances of the show at Corvallis High School on Tuesday, which were specially geared to teach students about how the show’s technology works behind-the-scenes.
Thomas said the idea of the preview shows was to teach kids about the design process. To do this, the performances showed off different prototypes of some of the stage technology the company has developed. Students got to see what the costumes look like with the house lights on.
He said the preview performances showed the parallels between the engineering design process and the artistic creative process, in that both use refinement and fine-tuning to perfect something.
"We use the same process an engineer does," he said.
Thomas said his goal with the shows is to reinvigorate live theater by creating effects on stage that can't be replicated on a screen.
The shows will feature eight performers who are part of the company's regular performances around the Pacific Northwest and Southwest Canada.
Tickets are available at CSDTheaters.com or 541-750-7990.