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VRT - 25/01/2024
Ballet dancer takes to the stage again, thanks to a special prosthesis and AI

David Framba thought he would never dance again after a motorcycle accident cost him one of his lower legs, but he’s back on stage now with the production Limp

Lisa Bradshaw Fri 26 Jan  16:50

Belgian ballet dancer David Framba once danced with the Paris Opera Ballet, but a motorcycle accident about 10 years ago brought it all to an end. His right leg had to be amputated below the knee.
Everything started changing when choreographer Ugo Dehaes contacted him to ask him to work with computer models, robots and AI. The result is the production Limp, which Framba dances a duo – with a three-armed robot that chooses its own movements.
“In the beginning I was a bit sceptical because I hadn’t danced in seven years,” Framba told VRT. “I didn’t feel like I was in good enough shape anymore to do this. But little by little, we tried things out, and it ended up working.” I hope that we can share this with others and inspire people like me
Ballet dancer David Framba A computer programme developed by Dehaes together with VUB records Framba movements and translates them into a kind of AI-enhanced stick figure. Framba can dance with the “choreobot” and also learns new moves from it.
“The programme can take the movements and put them together in different ways,” explains Dehaes. “Like it can take the arms from one movement and put them together with the legs from another to make new, original combinations of movement. And then you get a dance from it.”

As the choreography developed, it became more and more about Framba’s personal story – his experience and hopes and disappointments with every new prosthesis. None of them allowed him to dance the way he did before.
Choreographer Ugo Dehaes (left) and David Framba

Eventually, a wholly different kind of prosthetic limb turned out to be the answer: an iron bar with a round tip, like a big toe. It help David to recreate ballet steps, giving him the freedom of movement he needed to feel like he was really dancing again.
“Over the last few months, I’ve learned to enjoy dancing and performance again,” he says. “I hope that we can share this with others and inspire people like me who had an accident or an illness and had to have a limb amputated. I’m showing them: There is life after amputation.”

Limp is performed across Brussels and Flanders until April

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