With Fusion at the Leipzig Ballet, AI-Hype Hits the Dance World

Harry Yeff's 'Fusion' has grabbed headlines as the first “AI ballet,” But with humans behind the concept, choreography, compositions, stage design, and performance, is the label deserved?

Credit: Ida Zenna

In late May, the German company Leipzig Ballet debuted Fusion, a multimedia production created by artist Harry Yeff and an extensive list of collaborators. Two composers, Gadi Sassoon and Teddy Riley, along with dramaturge Thilo Reinhardt, worked with Yeff on the music while Mario Schroder choreographed and Paul Zoller is credited with stage design. Oper Leipzig is hosting the production, which premiered on May 28 and runs through July 8, performed by the city’s acclaimed contemporary dance and ballet company.

In this long list of collaborators, one name is repeatedly touted in coverage of the work: AI. To give credit where it’s due, neither Oper Leipzig nor the ballet’s promotional materials call it an “AI ballet” in the same way no fewer than six publications do. Yeff, a neurodivergent artist, often experiments with voice technology in his work. Fusion explores the balance between humanity, AI, and nature, pulling inspiration from Plato’s concept of the divided self. Yeff used the technology to create synthetic voices for the ballet’s musical overtures.

Credit: Ida Zenna

“As a neurodivergent director and coming from a working-class background, this feels like a moment to be trusted to fuse so many worlds into one work,” Yeff says. “It’s a sign there’s more openness for new kinds of expertise to be celebrated, regardless of where you come from.”

For ballet, a notoriously slow-to-evolve discipline, using AI in the creative process is newsworthy and—depending on who you ask—worth celebrating. Yeff’s own description of the work, “a timely reflection on the relationship between humanity and technology,” is both apt and uncommonly timely for the medium, especially considering that Leipzig Ballet has existed since the late-17th century. Whether it makes sense to call it an “AI ballet” when humans oversaw everything, including the hundreds of hours spent training generative models to contribute to the work, is a question we’d love to ask Yeff.


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