SHARING A STAGED PERFORMANCE ACROSS THE WORLD - PT 1
It is December 14, 2008. There are 72 people in downtown New York City watching the premiere of Misnomer Dance Theater’s latest work. The theater is filled to capacity – but wait – there are also many people, miles apart on four continents, watching this new dance simultaneously. In fact, 2,000 people from 19 countries are viewing a real-time broadcast of the performance on a live feed directly from the theater.
Some people see it projected onto a wall in a coffee shop, others watch as a family in their living room, and a platoon in Iraq is grabs the chance to see live performance from back home. Some viewers choose to watch in full-screen video mode, while others choose to watch it half-screen on a laptop so that they can participate in a live text chat with other viewers as they watch. An average of 150 people ask and answer each other’s questions at all times during the hour-long performance. A moderator from Misnomer, Jaki Levy, prompts discussion, offers links to additional information about the dancers, and provides an experience that is distinct from what is possible in the theater. (See more about this streamed event here: http://www.misnomer.org/live/archive)
One of the essential aspects of dance has always been, and continues to be, that there is no substitute for the live, fleeting experience of watching bodies – a few feet from you – move and respond in a delightful and charged energetic exchange. For this there is and will be no substitute. However, it is not always possible to make it to the theater to have that experience, especially given the decreased touring opportunities in these economic times. Just as radio broadcasts aided the growth of the music touring industry, we based our decision to live-cast on the premise that giving people ways to experience dance when not at the theater will build familiarity and engagement, ultimately bringing new fans into the theater to see dance.
As we broadcast from the Joyce Theater in SoHo, we are well aware that a single camera shot from the back of the theater is far from ideal, but we are learning valuable information about what works for creating a web-event. With the rapid development of new and increasingly accessible technology, one’s ability to stream multi-camera, high-quality video is improving monthly. Our December live-stream cost about $1,500, mostly in staff time. On April 29th we used a similar approach to turn a traditional rehearsal studio showing (from inside a unique setting in a bank vault provided by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council) into a web-event to engage followers from across the country and abroad. For this webcast, we made a compelling promotional video, which drew attention in advance of the web event. (You can see this “Bank Vault Preview” here: http://www.misnomer.org/live/archive)
Live streaming is one of a range of methods for cultivating and engaging audiences for the arts. Misnomer is currently in the process of developing a series of digital tools for artists and arts companies to use to increase their effectiveness in involving audiences in their activities. You can learn more about this project, the Audience Engagement Platform or AEP, through our website, www.misnomer.org/aep.