Israel will hold a completely virtual reality dance festival

When theaters closed, the performing arts community turned to the Internet. It was as if artists had never seen their computers this way before, as a conduit for their art. Sure, the artists had used video platforms to share trailers of their work, but moving all of their commitments to the screen was a huge abstraction from the practice of most artists. And as some move away from this new terrain, the founders and directors of Machol Shalem Dance House, Ofra Idel and Ruby Edelman, delved into the unknown.

Next week, Machol Shalem (MASH) will host the first dance festival with virtual reality glasses. VR Dance Jerusalem is an international festival that will introduce audiences to virtual reality as a means to experience dance performance.

“We were bored,” Ruby Edelman explains over the phone. He has just finished a so-called Zoom with Singapore, solving the technical difficulties for the screening of PheNoumenon by THE Dance Company, which will open the festival. “Last year we had an event and, once we realized it couldn’t be live, we invited artists to make videos. We understood that for Corona it worked, but to move forward we had to go one step further to use technology to reach new audiences. We wondered and discovered that the next technology is virtual reality, so we started learning it. We thought it would be nice to invite other artists to experiment with this technology so that they could record their works and disseminate them in a way that didn’t feel like a weak substitute for reality. Can I say it replaces the real? No, but it’s an interesting alternative. “

Transferring what would be a live show to 360-degree VR technology is no small leap. In fact, it requires artists to perceive their works in a completely different way, given countless angles and possibilities.

“We’re giving f @ # $ to the mind, the platform, and we let the artists interpret it. There’s a set of cameras and they can decide what’s important to capture. Each angle will have its own entrance. It was fascinating to see how “Every artist took it. People really got into it like pilots on a plane. It really breaks with regular frontal performance,” says Edelman.

To make this platform possible, MASH partnered with a company called VR To Go, which leads the development of VR for a wide range of content and fields. “They are young people who have developed virtual reality technologies for several years. As many of their events were canceled, they entered assisted living facilities to provide content to residents, such as nature walks. They liked the idea of ​​a VR dance festival. They want RV to enter all fields and culture is a very important platform. We started to understand the platform and see how it could contribute to dance. “

The program includes collaboration with the Israel Festival. All dance artists presenting works as part of the inspiring connections of the Israel festival, Ronen Itzhaki, Amir Kolben, Yoram Karmi and Noa Dar will also showcase their works with VR. In addition, Edelman has created a new work for the festival and former MASH producer Lilach Orenstein will present her work She Will Come On Her Own. There will also be several live events, such as Raining Men by Or Marin and Breathing Room by Yoanna Blikman. “We’re treading lightly with live shows because we started last year with everything live and ended everything live. It’s a hybrid way of being,” says Edelman.

Edelman explains that the viewer’s experience with virtual reality is very different from sitting in the theater and watching them dance. “I think experience inspires thought. As a virtual experience, it challenges our orientation. You see something in front of you that is not there. What is real and what is not changes. Above all, the change of location, you teleport through space, we are used to doing it in the movies and on television, now you decide where you want to be on stage. So you’re in the program in a much more involved way. It depends on the content. We try to understand how to give the viewer something different, which adds to the experience of watching a dance film ”.

After the festival, MASH staff plan to take what they have learned and apply it to their next major event, Jerusalem International Dance Week. “We have developed this concept with the support of the Jerusalem Fund and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We didn’t know if we could bring international guests to Israel, so we thought we’d send 150 VR glasses to art directors and festival directors around the world and get there in the best way possible. It won’t replace the live meeting, but it allows us to stay in touch and create new content from new angles. We are taking the whole thing as an experiment to see how it works. We tell people to come, try it and find us on the other side to tell us how it has been ”.

The VR Dance Jerusalem Festival will take place from June 20 to July 1. For more information, visit

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