New York's Metropolitan Opera House seats 3,800 people. Moscow's Bolshoi Theater holds 2,153. When the Royal Ballet hosts a special event in London's massive O2 arena, the dancers perform for a comparatively giant 20,000.
But dancing for more than 200,000 people at a time? That's simply not something most concert dancers are used to.
So when we heard that L.A. Dance Project's series of livestreams over Memorial Day weekend reached more than 500,000 views total, with its most popular stream hitting 211,300 views, it got us thinking. How does that sort of viewership affect a small troupe like LADP? And how does it feel for the dancers to perform for the equivalent of the entire population of Salt Lake City?
One obvious benefit of this success: People everywhere from Russia to South America could get a glimpse of the troupe's residency at The Chinati Foundation without having to schelp to Marfa, Texas. Several comments on the stream showed that for many, this was clearly their first exposure to contemporary dance. (See Exhibit A, below.)
For most of us dance lovers, it was our first glimpse at Carla Körbes and Janie Taylor since their "retirements" from Pacific Northwest Ballet and New York City Ballet, respectively. (Please excuse us while we drool over their duet. More, please. Please?)
Director Benjamin Millepied has made it clear that he wants LADP to be as active online as it is in theaters, so congrats to him on hitting this one out of the ball park. In just over an hour's worth of livestreaming, the audience far surpassed what the troupe could have reached even in a month of performances at one of the world's largest opera houses. (In comparison, World Ballet Day has reportedly reached 350,000 in 24 hours.) Talk about building your brand.
What's interesting is that this livestream wasn't what we're typically used to: It was more of a live dance film happening in real time than an intimate peek in on rehearsal. It was highly curated, with a cinematic feel; more of a final product than a look behind the scenes.
But that still leaves the question that many dance companies are asking today: Can you can convert free livestream viewers into people who actually purchase tickets to watch dance at a theater? Will they be intrigued enough to pay for a more intimate dance experience? Or will they feel like they can just stay home and get their dance fix online instead?
In Millepied's case, ticket sales don't seem to be his end goal. He's got bigger plans in mind, and has told us that he's actively pursuing other sources of revenue, like a clothing line and possibly brand-name licensing opportunities. We're curious to see if other companies will follow his lead, and take advantage of their own livestreams in creative new ways.