Multimedia dance, music and NASA imagery conveys a feeling of the one-ness of Earth, a show for the whole family
By Robin Rowe
HOLLYWOOD, CA (Hollywood Daily Star) 2014/5/8 – “Bella Gaia means Beautiful Earth,” says Bella Gaia director and composer Kenji Williams. “This experience shows you not only the beauty, but the incredibly complex interconnected nature of our planet, without saying a single word.”
Think of Bella Gaia as an IMAX film like Baraka, with Space imagery from NASA, mixed with live music and dance. Bella Gaia takes the audience on a spectacular multimedia journey to transform your view of life on Earth. Created in conjunction with NASA, Bella Gaia explores the relationship between human civilization and our ecosystem by combining satellite imagery of Earth, time-lapse nature photography, and cultural heritage footage with live performances of music and dance.
“The biggest challenge in putting on this show is trying to explain in words an experience that is difficult if not impossible to explain in words,” says Williams. “However, once people experience the live show it is immediately understood, and they want to bring all their friends and family.”
Williams founded Bella Gaia in 2009, after astronaut Mike Fincke and hearing about the transformative ‘Overview Effect’ Fincke experienced while viewing Earth’s beauty from the window of the space station. “I wanted to replicate and simulate this transformative feeling to those of us who can’t yet go to space,” says Williams. “The project started small and quickly grew with support from NASA. I gradually started auditioning and adding more musicians and dancers to create an ensemble theater show, involving large scale projections of Earth, satellite data, cultural heritage footage, and top live musicians and dancers performing world music and dance.”
Bella Gaia uses a special software made for planetarium dome theaters, a kind of super Google Earth that is a flight simulator for the universe. It accesses NASA satellite data and simulates the most photo-realistic renditions of the Earth. “I have the ability to download clouds from NASA’s servers, up to the previous day, or map active fire readings up to the latest week,” says Williams. NASA uses supercomputers to create additional scientific visualizations. William’s team uses After Effects, Maya 3D, Final Cut Pro and Logic Audio to produce the show.
The show has been performed over 200 times in ten countries, including the Guggenheim Museum, the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, at the UNESCO Headquarters, and for the U.S. State Department as part of Barack Obama’s Cairo Initiative.
Williams first presented the idea Bella Gaia at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Washington D.C. “From that point on, I presented at twelve NASA events,” says Williams. “And, the scientists, astronauts, and administrations at NASA have provided critical in-kind and financial support, curating rich scientific visualization animations that I include into the show, as well as funding Bella Gaia’s education program that engages k-12 kids in Earth science.
“The show visits and celebrates different cultures around the world, by zooming down from space into countries like Egypt, New York City, Japan, and India,” says Williams. “Thus, the musicians and dancers had to be world-class musicians representing the arts from these countries. I am based in New York City, so all performers are based in New York, allowing us to rehearse and develop the show. The performers also had to be able to play multiple genres in order to create a financially viable touring show.”
Bella Gaia performers: Kenji Williams, Kristin Hoffmann (vocals, keyboard), Yumi Kurosawa (Japanese Koto), Deep Singh (Indian Tabla, Drum Kit, Indian vocals), Lety ElNaggar (Egyptian Nay, Jazz Sax), Irina Akulenko & Lale Sayoko (Bellydance and Indian dance). Tour manager Kaori Noriyasu.
Bella Gaia will be releasing its first CD/DVD album this fall. “I would like to continue to build the Bella Gaia brand and keep exposing the show to more people around the world,” says Williams. “The next stage is a larger theatrical show, in our own custom designed theater that brings the best of the full dome planetarium immersive experience with the latest in live interactive theater performance and technology.”
Bella Gaia is coming to Santa Barbara, California, on May 10th at the Granada Theatre. , Further live shows on the east and west coasts are to be announced.
Williams recently performed a a live jam session with astronaut Koichi Wakata orbiting in the space station. See the video…