In times of isolation, Estraad created a hybrid event bringing street dancers and their virtual audience closer together than ever before.
Entertainment - Dance
In early summer 2020, we were approached by the team of Soul Sessions to support them organising their annual dance battles. Being usually a highly physical event where the crowd gathers around the dancers, cheering and cherishing their skills, the possibilities looked rather bleak in 2020. However, this year was not only characterised by the pandemic, but also by the BLM movement, a subject close to the heart of the community. Skipping or postponing wasn’t an option - the community needed a space to get together and be together.
At this point, the local regulations would allow a maximum of twenty people to be in one room and international travel had come to a standstill. While we knew the dance battles had to happen physically, we also knew the community could only gather virtually. But how to connect them?
Experiencing a dance battle is an engaged experience. You are not just a spectator; you are a part of the battle.The energy from the community is a crucial part of the dances and the culture expressed in those gatherings. We had to connect the physical with the virtual world.
Together with Soul Sessions we structured the program to allow for people to meet, interact, and connect within the virtual, as well as between the virtual and the physical participants.
Adding cultural elements like a live street art event where people from all over the world could pick the brain of renowned artist Pay 2 while creating a physical piece in the streets of Oslo. Pieces of the artwork were later auctioned off to benefit dance schools for underprivileged kids. Live panel talks allowed the virtual audience to ask questions to the speakers and discuss amongst themselves, enabling deep and long discussions between parts of the community that would otherwise never have met (with or without travel restrictions).
For the heart and centre of the entire event, the dance battles, we created virtual spaces that transported the feeling of street-dance. For this event we created virtual spaces that evoked the feel and identity of Soul Sessions. Taking a starting point in the group’s visual identity, we created the setting of a classic street dance situation:the judges and the audience building a circle to create an arena amongst them.
Having its representation in the virtual space, it was also of utmost importance to transport this circle of energy to the dancers in the physical space. Therefore, we created a reaction system where virtual visitors sent love and applause to the dancers that were projected in real time onto screens around the dance arena to shower them in colour and hearts and create a visible presence of the virtual community.Whilst the virtual audience visibly enjoyed seeing their actions projected into the physical space they were watching over a livestream, the dancers reported that the waves of colours and light created a warmth and presence inside another wise rather empty space.
A dance event is a bodily experience that is certainly best enjoyed through physical presence. However, the hybrid solution enabled to connect people that would otherwise not have met and opened to a range of audience by lowering the threshold of participation. Many people who might have felt out of place attending the event physically were thoroughly enjoying attending it virtually. The combination of physical and virtual event scan make certain subjects more accessible to a new audience and hence broaden the reach of different subcultures, their visions and values. Our team, for one, thoroughly enjoyed being part of our very first street dance battles.