Is Virtual Reality Ballet the Next Big Thing in Audience Engagement?
Fog envelops you as swans and sylphs flash right past your shoulder. This is Peter Leung's Night Fall, a new virtual reality 360 dance film featuring Dutch National Ballet. It puts you inside the "white acts" the film portrays as though you were a member of the corps.
Over the past year, ballet companies and premier artists have been creating new work and adapting existing ballets for the virtual reality world via 360-degree video technology. From English National Ballet's Giselle VR, a two-minute adaptation of Akram Khan's new production, to The Royal Ballet's snow scene from The Nutcracker, classical ballet is forging new partnerships with technology and entertainment companies to cross over into this new platform.
360-degree video technology offers unprecedented access and astounding visuals. Using an omnidirectional camera or several cameras, every angle is captured and the resulting footage stitched together. During playback online, the viewer has the option of exploring the entire panorama.
But for choreographers used to the distance of proscenium stages and a clear sense of front and back, working with this new medium poses creative challenges. When Leung began creating Night Fall for DNB, he placed himself in the middle of the studio and choreographed out from the center. "The only way to learn was to do it," he says. "I told the dancers 'Your audience is now the camera.' " Even more challenging than working in the round was figuring out where to be during filming, so that he could see the take but also be out of sight: "There were two cameras, one on a fly bar coming down from out of the sky and another on a tripod at eye level. I hid behind scaffolding and boxes in this large warehouse so I could see parts of the dance."
In a time when entertainment options seem endless and dance companies are eager to court younger audiences, VR 360 offers a fully immersive experience. ENB artistic director Tamara Rojo views this as a necessary part of ballet's evolution. "Ballet, more than any other art form, has the ability to be reinterpreted and transformed, and this is vital to drive our art form forward," said Rojo in a press release. Yet the question remains, Can this technology capture new audiences for concert dance or will it become an art form all its own? For now, the possibilities of both are intriguing. "There is something so sacred about the theater, nothing can replace it, so my hope is that VR can become an access point, a reason for people to go to see a show," says Leung. "But if some people just appreciate it for VR, that is cool, too."
Capezio, Bloch, So Dança, Gaynor Minden.
At the top of the line, dancers have plenty of quality footwear options to choose from, and in most metropolitan areas, stores to go try them on. But for many of North America's most economically disadvantaged dance students, there has often been just one option for purchasing footwear in person: Payless ShoeSource.
When Sonya Tayeh saw Moulin Rouge! for the first time, on opening night at a movie theater in Detroit, she remembers not only being inspired by the story, but noticing the way it was filmed.
"What struck me the most was the pace, and the erratic feeling it had," she says. The camera's quick shifts and angles reminded her of bodies in motion. "I was like, 'What is this movie? This is so insane and marvelous and excessive,' " she says. "And excessive is I think how I approach dance. I enjoy the challenge of swiftness, and the pushing of the body. I love piling on a lot of vocabulary and seeing what comes out."
Back when Robbie Fairchild graced the cover of the May 2018 issue of Dance Magazine, he mentioned an idea for a short dance film he was toying around with. That idea has now come to fruition: In This Life, starring Fairchild and directed by dance filmmaker Bat-Sheva Guez, is being screened at this year's Dance on Camera Festival.
While the film itself covers heavy material—specifically, how we deal with grief and loss—the making of it was anything but: "It was really weird to have so much fun filming a piece about grief!" Fairchild laughs. We caught up with him, Guez and Christopher Wheeldon (one of In This Life's five choreographers) to find out what went into creating the 11-minute short film.
When Hollywood needs to build a fantasy world populated with extraordinary creatures, they call Terry Notary.
The former gymnast and circus performer got his start in film in 2000 when Ron Howard asked him to teach the actors how to move like Whos for How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Notary has since served as a movement choreographer, stunt coordinator and performer via motion capture technology for everything from the Planet of the Apes series to The Hobbit trilogy, Avatar, Avengers: Endgame and this summer's The Lion King.
Since opening the Industry Dance Academy with his wife, Rhonda, and partners Maia and Richard Suckle, Notary also offers movement workshops for actors in Los Angeles.