Dance Matters: Dance Gone Viral

Companies are getting innovative on YouTube.


Nicole Wolcott and Larry Keigwin #sharethemattress. Photo by Whitney Browne, Courtesy Keigwin + Co.

Chances are you watched the clip (at least once), gave it a “like” and shared it with a friend. New York City Ballet principals Maria Kowroski and Ask la Cour dancing Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain on 4 World Trade Center was a hauntingly beautiful 9/11 tribute. But it’s hard not to recognize what led to over 900,000 YouTube views, and mentions by Forbes, The Huffington Post and Shape magazine, as marketing genius. NYCB is one of many companies running video campaigns that have gone viral. These aren’t your standard performance or behind-the-scenes clips. They often place dancers where traditional performances can’t exist. They’re intimate and smart, and reveal the colors of a company and its dancers.

Viral videos can be such important marketing tools that some companies are using PR firms to help shape their strategies. With Goodman Media International, Keigwin + Company’s #sharethemattress series, inspired by the company’s first work Mattress Suite, garnered nearly 100,000 collective clicks. Guests like recent Matilda: The Musical dancer Ryan Steele and “Project Runway” alum Austin Scarlett prompted call-outs from celebrity blogger Perez Hilton and OUT magazine. And it even turned into a meme: Dancers of the Houston Metropolitan Dance Company were some of many who made their own #sharethemattress videos. “It was designed to bring the company to a new audience and reconnect with the dance world,” says Goodman rep John Michael Kennedy. “Gather a group of attractive people with great bodies in their underwear and people are compelled to watch.”

Other companies have stumbled into lucky hits. At Colorado Ballet, corps de ballet dancer Sean Omandam originally made a video of Giselle going to a diner for fun. But the week it went live, the company saw a 45 percent increase in the number of unique visitors to their website. And new Facebook likes were triple the average new likes per day, says CO Ballet public relations manager Sanya Andersen-Vie. The unexpected success turned into a new strategy: The company has asked Omandam to make a video for each remaining performance of the season.

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