The world of dance and tech­no­logy con­verges in an innov­at­ive and thought-pro­vok­ing man­ner with the cre­ation of FRAY, a hip hop dance theatre pro­duc­tion. Con­ceived by a team of pas­sion­ate artists, FRAY builds upon pre­vi­ous works like FURY, push­ing the bound­ar­ies of live per­form­ance through the integ­ra­tion of video games and AI. This fea­ture delves into the inspir­a­tion, cre­at­ive pro­cess, and core mes­sages behind FRAY, shed­ding light on the col­lab­or­at­ive efforts that bring this unique pro­duc­tion to life.

The con­cep­tu­al­isa­tion of FRAY was driv­en by a desire to tell a real and thought-pro­vok­ing story that res­on­ates deeply with audi­ences. Kate Duhamel reflects, “I wanted to tell the FRAY story because it’s real and thought-pro­vok­ing, and I hope it cre­ates a sense of con­nec­tion for the audi­ence. I also wanted FRAY to be inspir­ing, not only for the qual­ity and cre­ativ­ity of the per­form­ance on stage but also for the mes­sage it leaves you with to consider.”

This pro­ject evolved from brain­storm­ing ses­sions with a dan­cer in the US, with whom Duhamel had pre­vi­ously col­lab­or­ated on film and live per­form­ance pro­jects. Over sev­er­al months, a shared exper­i­ence of lov­ing someone strug­gling in some way emerged as the core dra­mat­ic chal­lenge of the story. This deeply res­on­ant theme became the heart of FRAY, con­nect­ing the col­lab­or­at­ors and, ulti­mately, the audience.

Emma Hou­s­ton & Paulina Gor­gon Photo cred­it Luke Lentes

An off-the-cuff men­tion of video games sparked a cre­at­ive epi­phany, lead­ing to the integ­ra­tion of gam­ing as a cent­ral ele­ment in FRAY’s nar­rat­ive. Duhamel explains, “Gam­ing con­tin­ued to emerge as the cent­ral pas­sion and the private and excit­ing world the two main char­ac­ters share. The role that gam­ing plays in this story was def­in­itely one of those exper­i­ences where the story finds you rather than the oth­er way around.”

This inspir­a­tion led to the decision to expand the pro­ject to include a real video game. Col­lab­or­at­ing with a game stu­dio in Spain, the team developed a PC game, FRAY Game, set to release on Steam just before the live show. Addi­tion­ally, a mobile game, FRAY Jam, invites audi­ences to engage inter­act­ively, bridging the gap between the vir­tu­al and live per­form­ance worlds.

FRAY takes a bold step by incor­por­at­ing AI into its nar­rat­ive and per­form­ance. In the story, the older broth­er, Ziya, cre­ates an AI char­ac­ter named Lucious, who plays a key role by inter­act­ing with the char­ac­ters on stage. The cre­ation of Lucious involved a multi-step pro­cess, includ­ing record­ing dia­logue, film­ing a live dan­cer, and using advanced 3D mod­el­ing to anim­ate the char­ac­ter. This extens­ive use of AI not only brings Lucious to life but also pushes the bound­ar­ies of 3D mod­el­ing and per­form­ance art.

The col­lab­or­a­tion between Kate Duhamel and Jonzi D, Artist­ic Dir­ect­or and Dir­ect­or, is pivotal in shap­ing FRAY. Along­side Cho­reo­graph­er Ola Papi­or and Music Super­visors Mic­all Parkn­sun and Rom­mel Arasa, the team delves deeply into each scene of the script. Jonzi D’s expert­ise in hip hop lan­guage, move­ment, and music grounds FRAY authen­tic­ally in its cul­tur­al roots. His infec­tious energy, col­or­ful char­ac­ter dir­ec­tion, and strong artist­ic vis­ion sig­ni­fic­antly enrich the pro­duc­tion, bring­ing a vibrant and dynam­ic qual­ity to the rehears­als and performance.

At its core, FRAY explores the rela­tion­ship between two deeply bon­ded broth­ers and the chal­lenges they face as tech­no­logy blurs the lines between the digit­al and real worlds.

“I hope FRAY leaves audi­ences with thought-pro­vok­ing ques­tions about how AI cre­ates new ways in which tech­no­logy enters into human relationships,”

Duhamel shares. Most import­antly, FRAY aims to emphas­ize the neces­sity of human con­nec­tion, even in an increas­ingly digit­al world.

The release of FRAY Game on Steam offers fans an immers­ive exper­i­ence, allow­ing them to engage with the story by step­ping into the shoes of Tul­lio, the young­er broth­er. The game chal­lenges play­ers to solve puzzles and dance battle enemies, mir­ror­ing the nar­rat­ive of the stage show. This rhythm-based game requires play­ers to stay on the beat of the music, effect­ively trans­form­ing them into dan­cers. This innov­at­ive inter­sec­tion of gam­ing and inter­act­ive per­form­ance expands the audience’s

FRAY stands as a test­a­ment to the power of col­lab­or­a­tion, innov­a­tion, and storytelling. By seam­lessly blend­ing hip hop dance, gam­ing, and AI, this pro­duc­tion offers a unique and thought-pro­vok­ing explor­a­tion of human rela­tion­ships in the digit­al age. As FRAY takes to the stage and the vir­tu­al world, it invites audi­ences to con­nect, reflect, and dance to the beat of a new nar­rat­ive frontier.

‘FRAY’ is show­ing Fri­day 21st June & Sat­urday 22nd June, 7.45pm
Sadler’s Wells, Lili­an Bayl­is Stu­dio — Tick­ets 

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About Nadiya Shay

Hip-Hop Journalist, full-time reader and dreamer.