Light? No one says it moves. It dances. Nuance, a new short by French filmmaker Marc-Antoine Locatelli, takes that turn of phrase and makes it literal, pairing an orb of light with a street dancer in a frenetic choreography of shadow and illumination.
The piece came out of a school project at the Beaux-Arts d'Epinal, where Locatelli and his fellow students were asked to imagine how art would continue to evolve. "I began wondering if man would succeed in taming a new kind of music," Locatelli tells Co.Design. Specifically, the director envisioned a future in which dance and music were conjoined, a self-referential loop in which a dancer would move his body to rhythms that, in turn, the movements of his body produced.
In Locatelli's film, a dancer, Lucas Boirat, is seen moving with a ball of light that he can use almost like a photonic mixing board, looping, stretching out, stuttering, and otherwise altering the electronic track that accompanies his movements. The orb will split in two so that Boirat can scrub the track across the floor, or wind the light around his shoe, kicking his foot rhythmically to bounce the music.
Naturally, all of this was accomplished through animation. Inspired by the work of German-American abstract animator Oskar Fleschinger and contemporary video artist Bill Viola, Locatelli started by filming Boirat dancing to the track "Ants" by electronic musician edIT. "I chose the track because it's very rhythmic, and it allowed me to work on shape movement, acceleration, and slow-motion, as well as take poetic breaks," he explains.
From there, he imported the footage into Adobe After Effect to add the animated lights. "I wanted to see how graphic shapes could emphasize or reveal parts of the music that had otherwise remained hidden."
The finished result is hypnotic. The way Boirat uses the ball of light to influence the music he's dancing to feels not just organic, but innately physical. The light he manipulates has gravity, magnetism, and resistance—qualities that are passed onto the music surrounding this strange choreography between the material and immaterial.
You can see Nuance on Vimeo here.