Virtual Dance for Real People

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Virtual Dance for Real People2022-01-11T18:04:58+01:00


Virtual Dance for Real People is the project of a new form of immersive dance that promotes 3 MicroDanze co-produced by Fondazione Nazionale della Danza / Aterballetto and Fondazione Palazzo Magnani di Reggio Emilia. The project is the result of a reflection that Fondazione Nazionale della Danza / Aterballetto has undertaken with RE:Lab, a research laboratory in Emilia-Romagna that has always been committed to the themes of interaction between human beings and technologies. Professionals from the world of cinema, technologists and user experience experts are involved, including, in particular, Riot studio (Lapej), which edited the production development, and AGO Modena Fabbriche Culturali. The project is supported by Ministry of Culture / Special projects 2021.

Can the emotion of the performance exist without the performance?
Is it possible for a dance performance to involve the spectator while the dancer is not physically present?
Is there a safe-conduct to ensure that art can express its expressive power in the absence of contact and in the presence of “distancing”?
Certainly not in the way we are used to.
However, dance – combined with technology – can imagine something different. Neither less, nor more exciting; neither less, nor more involving: simply different.

Virtual Dance for Real People was born in the most uncertain and obscure months of the recent past, marked by the closure of theatres and the impossibility of building prospects. It was born as a provocation: to address a design challenge to video and technology, calling them together in a dramatic moment, and with the intention of seeking new ways of relaunching with their help.

Virtual Dance for Real People focuses on dance and, at the same time, envelops it with 360° video technology and virtual reality visors. It proposes a short dance performance, performed by one or more dancers, designed by talented young choreographers. The audience can watch it through a visor, inside the same set in which it has been realised and, while the dance unfolds all its visual power, the spectator can observe who is dancing, the space around her7him, while the sounds and music envelop her/him. Just as if s/he were in a theatre, her/his gaze can dance with the dancers, in an interweaving of perceptions.


In investigating the relationship between dance and technology, FND/Aterballetto and RE:Lab have decided to start from one element: to defend and constantly seek a special relationship with the spectator, a relationship that requires an effort on the part of both to confirm the choice of sharing an artistic gesture.

For this reason, it was decided to film the dance and not re-create it virtually; the restitution is entrusted to the engaging formula of Cinematic Virtual Reality (where the dancer is seen because s/he is filmed) capable of building an authentic immersiveness. Thus, dance becomes digital but not abstract. And technology does not become the object of production, but the language that allows dance to release the strongest emotions it contains and that those who choose to see it are looking for.

The spectator, accompanied by a ritual that retraces the approach to an evening’s performance, physically enters the performance space, finds some fundamental elements there – stage, props, lights – but does not find the body of the dancer. In this place devoid of bodies but full of emotions, the spectator chooses her/his device and the performance s/he wants to attend. S/he puts on her/his visor and finds the same space in which s/he her/himself is physically present; then, almost thanks to the echo of the place that surrounds her/him, s/he finds the dance, in which s/he participates from a new but usual perspective, enveloping and immersive. The absence of the body allows, thanks to a fascinating paradox, a more intimate, significant contact, so explosive as to seem – just like the dance – at times perturbing.

The sound, processed in binaural mode, completes the spectator’s experience thanks to a 360° spatialisation that envelops her/him completely, directing her/him towards the peculiar elements of the scene.


The project foresees a double way of presentation to the public:

  • EXPO: FND/Aterballetto is available to build a tailor made project for the partner and the location interested in hosting Virtual Dance for Real People: a real path on several environments within which the public can be accompanied to discover, one after the other, the different immersive experiences;
  • RESIDENCE: FND/Aterballetto can occupy, for a medium-long time (even some months), a defined space identified by the partner, within which to set up an experiential area that proposes the different experiences according to a precise programme. The area can also be designed and defined in accordance with the partner’s needs.

3 MicroDanze in Cinematic VR Experience

choreography by Diego Tortelli

choreography by Diego Tortelli

choreography by Saul Daniele Ardillo

Technological development and user experience design by RE:LAB
Video production & editing by RIOT STUDIO (LAPEJ)

First presentation:

5-6 June 2021 Modena, AGO Modena Fabbriche Culturali