Volumetric Performance Toolbox + Suga’


Valencia James, Lead Artist

Thomas Wester, Technical Director

Ben Purdy, Technical Direction

Holly Newlands, Technical Artist

Sorob Louie, Hardware Development

Marin Vesely, 3D Artist

Ra Malika Imhotep, Experience Guide

Sandrine Malary, Experience Guide

How can there be new dance creation and performance in the time of COVID? In the crisis faced by thousands of theatres and dance companies, performances have been cancelled and the creation of new work halted. With the future uncertain for large gatherings and high-contact activities, this project provides a safe alternative for creation and performance with new opportunities for positive social impact. This work was initially created for the 2020 Rapid Response for a Better Digital Future at Eyebeam

Promotional video I produced for phase one of the project.


Volumetric Performance Toolbox offers accessible, user-friendly technology built to empower creators to perform from their own living spaces for a virtual audience. VPT ushers in new possibilities for the creation of and experience of live performance in immersive web environments, while focusing on the creation of a product that requires minimal equipment or previous technical expertise. The toolbox aims to build an expansive community amongst the creators the tool is built for: Movetment Artists of all backgrounds, orientations, and abilities, with priority to marginalized communities.

The first phase of the Eyebeam program culminated in a public live virtual dance performance by Movement Artist Valencia James held in Mozilla Hubs. Valencia said this of the pilot performance: “In times of pandemic, we need a space where we can still engage with art communally. Here we are in our various spaces, and yet we could feel this togetherness. I could feel as a performer this exuberance and exhilaration, and all the adrenaline that I would normally feel in a physical performance, here in virtual space.”

View of the Kinect's RGB image (left) and depth image (right)

Valencia and I then wrote a successful proposal for a second round of funding from Eyebeam to extend that project into an educational program that took the form of a virtual artist residency to make the toolkit we had developed accessible to other creators. This process also involved replacing the high-end PC and Azure Kinect camera we used in the first phase with an affordable hardware kit that uses a Raspberry Pi computer and an Intel RealSense depth camera. The second phase resulted in a showcase of the work of eight resident artists following several weeks of Zoom workshops and co-creation in Mozilla Hubs and Spoke. We open-sourced the educational resources and code that we created in this process on our Medium and GitHub pages.

During this time, Valencia and the team developed her initial performance into a multi-scene virtual experience called Suga’. This project transports audiences through the historical reality of the TransAtlantic Slave Trade and the establishment of the sugar industry, which has had a lasting legacy on our world today. Suga’ weaves together movement, family stories, and cultural heritage to imagine virtual environments as a site for healing and reclamation of spaces that were historically filled with pain and injustice. We continue to exhibit Suga’ at various international festivals today.

Live performance still in Mozilla Hubs from Suga’ at SIGGRAPH 2021.