Performer: Ed Grimoldby. Photo: Larkin Media. Costume: Ian Mitchell & Liz Dees

Ed Grimoldby is a projection artist and fire performer, a graduate of the University of Hull who has fused his video design with poi dance as part of his PhD. His latest project, Find Your Flow, takes his art to a whole new level.

Heading up GrimVisions, an award-winning company specialising in digital dance and projection mapping, Ed refers to the way his interactive video design can accompany a performer’s movement: “For instance, if the dancer reached out their arm, a bolt of lightning might come out of it in the projection.”

He also explains how he has merged this work with his skill as a fire and LED performer. “I’m creating a dance duet between myself, spinning my LEDs in a form called poi dance, alongside my interactive projection design.”

In this Q&A, Ed answers a few more questions that explain what Find Your Flow is all about and how you can experience it online for free.

Why did you start working with projection?

I learnt about projection at university. I realised I wasn’t the best actor and felt a bit disappointed because I’d always wanted to be one, but I saw that it’s maybe not the right thing for me.

Then I started experimenting with projection and doing video designs for simple shows. I found a real nice niche that I filled well and thought there’s a lot of potential here; it would be nice to try to do something no-one else is doing.

What about poi dance?

This is a much more exciting story. I was staying in this very remote lighthouse in far north Norway, miles away from the shore, doing video editing and web design.

One of the other guys who was working there doing the roof of the lighthouse – he was a climber who had come in to do it – had brought his fire poi with him. He was a guy from New Zealand called Jay and we were working together for a month, so I asked him if he could teach me the basics.

It was just such a magical learning experience, I got to spin fire under the Northern Lights. It felt like a very profound moment.

Is this the first time you’ve combined poi and projection?

Yeah, it’s the first time and, as far as I’m aware, no-one else in the world has done it. There’s one Japanese company that has done it very briefly but that’s the closest thing I can find. So, this is the first time I’m doing research and development on it. It’s a twofold process.

The other half of it is recognising what a niche poi is, how fun it is and how it would be great to share the joy of poi with as many people as possible. This has included inspiring people to take up learning poi, providing tuition and online learning materials for them to take their first steps and make their own poi, and exploring the opportunity to do something new.

It’s a great way to move your body, which maybe you feel more confident with because it’s your arms instead of your legs. Some people have a preference for that. It’s just been a really good way to encourage mindfulness and creative exercise in one little package.

The idea is that people look at those lessons and think ‘oh that’s awesome’ and then think ‘let’s see what Ed’s up to’ and then I show them the cool video duet. Or they see the video duet and I say, ‘hey, you could learn to do this as well’.

Is that educational side already up and running?

Yeah, I started up this outdoor meet-up group where I’ve been teaching people how to spin poi in Pearson Park in Hull. It’s been very informal, originally the plan was to go through different dance networks and things like that, but I really prefer how it’s worked out.

People walked up to me and said, ‘are you spinning poi?’ and I was like ‘yeah absolutely’ and they said, ‘oh my God can you teach me,’ and I said, ‘yeah of course I can’. That went from four people to eight people and now we have a little group of ten that meets every fortnight.

How is prep for Find Your Flow going?

We did a demo a few weeks ago of the two shows with the projection all synched up. While there were patches where it wasn’t quite working, for the most part it looked great, and I’m really excited to share it with people.

We’ve got a really talented LED engineer working on the show who’s been wiring up my costume to flash alongside the visuals. The video itself is some of my best work. I mean obviously you’re always getting better, the more you practice at your craft, but I’m really happy with the combination of the two.

What’s it like to perform in this sort of medium? Does it have to be quite precise?

It’s my first time performing in one of my shows so that’s quite nerve-racking because I’m not really a dancer myself. I’m more like a choreographer and even then, I’m not really a choreographer. I just know how to make projections look good with dance and that’s about it.

It’s been a big challenge for me to actually get into the space – I recently learned how to count music. It is very precise; I have marks that I need to hit on beats in the bar and I’ve just got to count those beats and know that I’m in the right place at the right time.

A lot of it is very tightly choreographed and then there are moments where I go into free spinning, but then I have to return to a mark for a specific moment otherwise the illusion of interaction doesn’t work.

Where do you start with developing a piece like this? Do you start from a piece of music or from something you want to do?

I started off with the tracks of music that I wanted to perform to, and I wanted to do two very different shows. One’s scored by violin and the other’s an intense dubstep staccato track so I thought that would give me two very different bases to work from.

Then I normally go from music to colour. I start thinking, how am I gonna score the show with colour and what kind of energy do I want it to give off? The violin one is themed around dreams and sleepwalking, so it’s scored with blue and white lights. Then the more intense one is about mechanisation of the human spirit, so it’s scored with vivid neon greens, akin to The Matrix, I suppose.

Then I do the choreography. I programme the poi to display the right pictures at the right time, allowing the correct animation, with a sort of idea of what the projection is gonna do. Then I do the projection and go back to the poi programming and synchronise everything on one timeline.

What’s the plan from here on?

I really want to share the work with circus performers in the industry and show them that there is a workflow for doing interactive projection alongside their shows. I have a couple of friends that are helping me connect to the industry professionals to show the work off.

I’m really hoping the work gets some interest locally. It’s a short performance format so I think it’s ideal for opening up events and closing conferences. A small tech display, as it were.

After that I’d like to return to the project and start integrating more acrobatic movement. I’ve been learning a little bit of acrobatics alongside it, but I think I’ve got a long way to go before I’ve got my flexibility up and am able to dance the way I really want to dance.

Where can people find GrimVisions?

You can find a selection of my work at www.grimvisions.net.

Find Your Flow premiers on my YouTube channel at 7pm on Friday 30th July, so make sure to tune in and experience it live. If you can’t make it, the performances will remain on YouTube, as I want as many people as possible to enjoy my work.