Dance Revolution:VR Ballet Teaches Plié and Empathy

 

Learning ballet, for the most part, has been the same for generations. Observe the instructor’s choreography, then perform each movement until perfected. With a high-tech twist, Jill B. Ware introduced a technique at her VCUarts class that may prove to be one of ballet’s biggest leaps yet: Ware’s students put on VR headset and become her.

Ware and her colleague John Henry Blatter, an immersive installation artist, recently recorded a 220-degree video of her performing a standard plié combination for her Ballet Technique Level 1 course. Simple hand gestures helped students adjust to the first-person perspective before attempting more complicated moves. To grade performances, she slipped into their virtual shoes and embodied them.

“Students who lacked confidence suddenly commanded the space. I saw traditionally rigid dancers, embrace ideas of breath and flow that would take years to teach,” Ware said.

While effective, this unique narrative dance experience wasn’t designed entirely as a practice tool for the performance arts. The team sees boundless implications in sports or music instruction, such as students attempting to mirror a golf or baseball swing, or their chord progression on a piano.

 

“Innovation Gateway helped us realize the commercial potential in our project, Embodied Empathy, and provided valuable connections to innovators across campus and beyond. ”Jill Brammer Ware Assistant Professor School of the Arts