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Dancing with droids: Robots perform at BAM

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These robots want to boogie.

Humans and acrobatic androids share the stage in a colorful dance performance landing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music this week. But “Robot” is more than a kinetic spectacle of music, metal, and fancy footwork. The performance is also a philosophical rumination on how smart machines have invaded aspects of the human world, said the show’s creator.

“It came out of the idea that the world is changing a lot because technology and machines are becoming part of our lives more and more,” said Spanish director and choreographer Blanca Li.

Li conveys our complicated relationship with technology without saying a word, instead creating a surreal costume- and prop-driven adventure. Each robot has a unique name and personality, and they range from toddler-sized cuddly creatures to towering metallic monsters. During the course of the show, the seven robots learn to walk and dance, and they interact with eight human performers in a variety of way, including dancing, making fun of each other, and falling in love.

“I wanted to be able to show the robots’ presence and emotion,” said Li. “I wanted them to really be able to interact with the people on stage at an emotional level.”

Li traveled the world to connect with robot makers and discover machines that fit with her vision. She picked a handful that looked cool and were sophisticated enough to dance along with the music on stage. It took months to coordinate the movements of the robots into a well-oiled choreographed piece, she said.

“It was really difficult to put it all together,” said Li. “It almost did not happen.”

She finally found the robots in France, and Japanese collaborators created the elaborate 10-piece mechanical orchestra of aluminum and resin that provides music for the performance. The band is as much an art installation as an orchestra, she says.

The performance comes to Brooklyn after two years touring Spain, France, Belgium, Portugal, and Italy.

“Robot” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Howard Gilman Opera House [30 Lafayette Ave. at Ashland Place in Fort Greene, (718) 636–4100, www.bam.org]. June 9, 11, 12 at 8 pm, June 13 at 2 pm and 8 pm, June 14 at 1 pm and 5 pm. $25–$75.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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