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Updated: 15th April 2019 20:36Calgary

Performers dance their way out of a video game in new Calgary show

Mark Kunji Ikeda and Richard Lee Hsi are co-creators of 8-Bit: The Video Game Dance Show, which opens Wednesday at West Village Theatre in Calgary.

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Co-creators Mark Kunji Ikeda and Richard Lee Hsi combine contemporary dance with classic games

Mark Kunji Ikeda, left, and Richard Lee Hsi first launched 8-Bit at the 2013 Calgary Fringe Festival. Now they're bringing it back to the stage. (Ellis Choe/CBC)

Mark Kunji Ikeda and Richard Lee Hsi are the creative minds, and performing artists, behind 8-Bit: The Video Game Dance Show.

If you're a fan of classic video games, you'll know 8-bit games from the '70s '80s and '90s. From Donkey Kong to Double Dragon, Duck Hunt to Frogger, Space Invaders to Street Fighter, 8-bit games set the standard for all the games to come.

They also inspired a Calgary Fringe Festival hit in 2013, which is now returning to the stage.

It's called 8 Bit: The Video Game Dance Show, created and performed by Mark Kunji Ikeda and Richard Lee Hsi.

"It's dance, theatre and comedy," Ikeda said.

The story involves two feuding step-brothers who get trapped inside a vintage video game system. They have to dance and occasionally fight their way out.

The show, described as contemporary dance wrapped inside a witty, original one-act play, opens Wednesday at the West Village Theatre in Calgary community of Sunalta.

"There is a story tying all these elements together," Hsi said. "They get trapped in a killer video game system, and the convention of this video game system is that they have to dance these games. And so they have to dance their way out."

"We start with the most simple games, and the most simple dance," Ikeda said. "So we start with Pong, with very basic movements, and then we get more and more through different systems, until we grow in complexity from both in the dance, and with the music, and with the lights, until we're now going into Minecraft and Fortnite, and having these multi-player online games that are very complex in terms of the dance."

Music matches dance

Composer Darren Fung, a three-time Canadian Screen Award nominee, was able to perfectly match the tone of the dance moves and the music.

"In past work, Darren has taken inspiration from symphonies, and he recomposed the New World Symphony for me," Ikeda said. "So I knew that he would have the right tone when I asked him to take the flavour of video games and video game music."

Hsi said the music is a big part of what makes the show work.

"I love the video gamey-ness of it, along with the fact that it is also an original composition… specifically composed for our choreography," Hsi said. "So all the hits that you're hearing, the accents and the music, are going along to an actual video game fight that we're having at that point in the show."

The dance moves are wide-ranging.

"It's mostly contemporary dance, some balletic moments, some hip-hop moments," Ikeda said. "It's a bit of everything in the way that we wanted different voices for different games."

Listen to the full interview on The Homestretch, including musical samples:

Catch the premiere of 8 BIT: The Video Game Dance Show April 17 at West Village Theatre.

With files from The Homestretch

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