« My First » series (2): Online Dance Festival

March 19. Spring Forward postponed.
April 2. THE SHOW MUST GO ON – LINE. Online edition announced.
April 13. Open for registration.
April 21. 650 registrations already!
April 24. Day 1.

If someone asks me to define « Agility » in the future, I will take this example. The ideation took less than two weeks and full preparation lasted around 5 weeks. My first Spring Forward also becomes my first online dance festival.

Program

3 days, 22 performances. Every day, the program starts at 12pm and finishes before 10pm. In addition to the twenty most promising emerging choreographers in Europe, they invited a non-European choreographer to have an international touch as well as an established European choreographer for closure. Impeccable.

The key reason people may reject online festival is human contact. Aerowaves did think about that: Q&A for each performance, Foyer for casual exchange, dancing party for fun. The most surprising part is Edvin Liveric’s intermission videos. With him, we virtually visited Rijeka and enjoyed some short performances.

Ideas for improvement? 1) Diversify the structured format. Why not a round table with some choreographers and professionals? For example, the majority of 20 artists are female so a discussion on female choreographers could be relevant. One Q&A for two pieces is another way to break the chain. 2) Allow longer breaks. The intention of allowing participants to watch all performances is well received but it is much easier to follow such an intensive program continuously in theaters than in front of screen. A scenario of two-hour session with at least 45-min break will be my recommendation and we can start earlier in the morning and finish later in the evening. 3) Allow simultaneous program. Having two performances at the same time will provide flexibility for program, offer possibility of itinerary and raise interest for magazine subscription. It is feasible to have several meeting rooms with Zoom though it means as well more complexity for technical organization.

Participation

Engaging participants online is not evident without mentioning that this festival lasts three days online. The number of registration was already a success. At the beginning, around 260 participants were connected and the number came down to 150 towards the end of Day 1. As the number of online connection was no more visible to public after Day 1, at the end of Day 3, I asked Anna Arthur, Administrative Director of Aerowaves, about the number of participants at that time, and the number stays quite stable compared to the end of Day 1. Personally I was connected for the most of time. There must be people connecting and disconnecting too and the proof is that they welcomed in total 1400 people from 74 different countries. Regarding the participative parts, I tested Q&A by text but did not test the Foyer or the party. My favorite interaction was poll dance.

Ideas for improvement? 1) create a private online community staying open before, during and even after the festival. This is a way to invent an ambiance of being virtually together especially for people who are not used to camera. Zoom conversation is not continuous and participants cannot initiate any small discussion. In an online community, we can comment on a performance the day after; Springback writers can publish reviews under each performance; Q&A can continue online after Zoom; Professionals can contact artists thru private message function. Many possibilities. 2) allow audio participation for Q&A. I understand the nice side of seeing people’s real face behind question(s) but this is really not adapted for everyone. That is why Springback writers had to show up to fill the gap. We can ask people to add a profile picture (creative, even with a festival frame) for Zoom and encourage them to « raise your hand » without camera. Probably more people will voice their questions.

Marketing

The festival successfully incorporates its ecosystems: Aerowaves, Springback writers and Springback magazine.

Ideas for improvement? 1) Zoom marketing. It is great to see each other’s home but the background is also a great place to communicate: poster of festival for transition, photo of performance for Q&A use, Springback information during relevant exchange. This can also be easily adapted by participants. Of course Zoom’s current marketing function is quite poor and I hope that they will consider some improvements in the near future: customized window, more pin video options, font options for moderators in conversation, emoji/gif options for conversation, etc. 2) Social media. If there is only one thing to improve, social media will be my recommendation. I am surprised that all official accounts were quite silent during the period. This could partially replaces online community with a wider audience. They could have selected a few Springback writers to temporarily manage these accounts. 3) Spring Forward background. This targets the first-time participants like me. A promotional video about the festival history and mission will be useful, even an exchange with choreographers from previous editions will be helpful.

I recognized Claire from Théâtre de la Ville among participants and hope that we will see some artists’ name in the next seasons. I am also interested in participating physically the next edition of Spring Forward.

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