Some reflections on the first week of “November Dances”

I have been live streaming short solo dances every weekday evening since the beginning of November. I will continue to do so until Monday 30th. The first 6 evenings have had between 65 and 80 people attending. We have had audience from all over the world including Ukraine, Russia France, China, Italy, Australia, Germany, Ireland, England, Romania, Italy, Spain… and lots of Derry locals.

For details of the performances, and how to join the live streams, please go to: https://www.echoechodance.com/whatson/november-dances

Here are some reflection after the first week.

  • Too many online events are lesser versions of live events. I wanted to make something that made the best of online possibilities rather than replace the live events we miss.
  • Online live events are usually too long. The attention dynamic of watching online is totally different to really present live.
  • I didn’t want to post recordings online. When there are recordings people think “oh I’ll watch that later” or I’ll watch the rest of it later. This profoundly changes the relationship of performer with audience.
  • I wanted to encourage the audience members to acknowledge each other and find a mutual energy of support for the event. I wondered if that was possible online. I think it has been successful so far. Maybe this is at least partly because of the loyal and personal relationship Echo Echo has built with it’s audience members. People have generally left their video screens on during the performance and many people have stuck around afterwards for a chat. This is like what happens in the live theatre.
  • Keeping it live. I don’t post recordings of the dances online. So people become more like a live audience. Of course they can leave if they aren’t happy watching but the liveness means they have made a commitment of energy to themselves, other audience members.
  • The maximum length of the dances at 10 minutes seems good. It means that a degree of attention and intensity can be maintained. The first dance was only about three minutes. This seemed rather short given the energy and commitment everyone dedicates.
  • I am loving dancing to my favourite music tracks. Without excuse. Because each event is short, just dancing is enough. It doesn’t need a lot of conceptualisation or complex compositional process. In three to ten minutes those are contained internally in the dance. I think this is particularly true because I know each piece of music well.
  • It is great to see people coming back night after night. There are several who have come to watch all five dances. Someone suggested that anyone who can make it to all 21 should get an Echo Echo T shirt as a prize!
  • It has been very important for me to be alone in the studio, operating the technology myself. This means my focus is purely on the dancing and the guests. There isn’t a technician or colleague in the space with me. This makes it somehow very private as well as very public. I think that if there was someone else in the space with me the online audience members would feel that they were somehow secondary. Watching something from outside rather than a necessary element of the event. That is like live theatre performance.
  • My reference for the presentation and texture of this project is not an online business meeting, a pop video, a livestream of a live show with audience, a feature film or documentary. It is a family video call for a birthday or other special event. The question for me was (and is): How can that sort of relationship be heightened and poeticised by attention to the detail of the use of the technology and the way we engage with it? I’m not at all interested in competing with the aesthetics and production values of pop videos or tv productions, or feature films, or even live outside broadcasts. These things are very costly to make and adhere to conventions that are not very helpful to the kind of thing I want to create or that Echo Echo dance Theatre Company has been facilitating and creating over the years.
  • Keeping it simple: One camera. One lighting state. An easy sequence of actions to get the technology started. Live music in the space.
  • The support of Tonya, who has co-hosted has been great. It just means that letting people in to the meeting and checking that the archive recording is on and helping people with questions isn’t on my plate right before I dance.
  • Having a lovely studio space which can be set up to be warmly lit and simply presented is really important… and Barry Davis, Tech manager’s support with this and making all the technology work.

Music so far: Bach, Schubert, June Tabor, Sonny Rollins, Arvo Pärt and Renee Aubry.

More reflections coming after a few more performances.

Steve Batts 10 November 2020

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