It’s 3 months into our Arts Council England-funded dance and VR project, Remodelling Soma, and 3 months since we began a unique online journey called In-Body. It is our online, year-long exploration into creating an interactive dance community at home. Since June 2021, dancers including Laila Diallo, Ben McEwen, and Anne-Gaelle Thiriot have created and shared monthly ‘invitations’ – movement sequences to explore participants’ sensory perceptions via text, audio and film. We have been sharing these online via an on-demand subscription platform with different pay-what-you-decide options.
We had a few different goals for In-Body: to make dance accessible at home, including for people who are shielding, as well as those who are visually impaired. Our other main goal was research-focused: to understand how well dance can connect with people remotely via technology, and how well technology can produce imaginative, meaningful new connections between participants and their immediate environments through movement. The purpose of In-Body was not to teach experienced dancers how to dance at home, but rather to encourage non-dancers to make dance part of their everyday lives, and to feel something new as a result.
In particular, we have focused on ensuring that In-Body is not only accessible to visually impaired people, but explicitly geared towards them. Our next invitation, released at the end of September, is created by Holly Thomas, a dancer who is also visually impaired. This makes In-Body part of key research investigating the accessibility and inclusivity of VR and other technology through dance and movement. As a point of connection with the visually-impaired community, it’s also provided invaluable learning opportunities that we’ve carried through to the rest of the Remodelling Soma project.
It’s significant that of the participants already signed up to In-Body, almost half reported that they have previously experienced barriers to working with technology and/or the creative arts. We hope that in the next nine months, In-Body will be able to reach many more participants and successfully demonstrate that dance is a powerful tool for connecting with other people online. Remodelling Soma will soon be exploring the use of technology and virtual reality in other contexts, working with young people to produce new work, and preparing a final showcase in May 2022.
To take part, go to https://www.in-body.co.uk and click Sign Up!