The intentional obscurity of the social media campaign for dareyouwatch could be read as an unflinching self-awareness on the part of nocturn dance, a realisation of how the medium of dance is perceived, and indeed how at odds such an immersive and physical art form is with digital world. As an audience member, seeing dance performed is akin to the attending a live gig; it’s all about being there, being actively part of something even though you’re a spectator, and being so intensely aware of the physical achievements of the performers that it mesmerises you.  dareyouwatch is all about changing this, using social media to replace this sense of participation and, in fact, developing  it through direct interaction and involvement with the performance through Facebook and Twitter. Nor is this replacement a blind journeying towards inevitable progress, but an active attempt to shatter the perceived elitism that accompanies dance, or indeed any other form of high culture. 

This bold attempt to reach new audiences through the creation of online “buzz”, however, was hampered by the timing. Live streaming all day Friday and Saturday, in bright and sunny June? I would argue that shorter bursts of live performance would engender a more instant appeal, and the noise on social media would lead to more click-throughs to the website. After all, how often do people trawl through the backlog of their Twitter feed to see what they’ve missed? It’s all about catching people at the right moment.  In online marketing you have to grab your audience quickly and are likely only to hang onto them for a few seconds at best – you are competing against the entire world of information for the attention of your audience. I think that having shorter periods of live performance appearing frequently would also help to dispel the rather esoteric sense of the piece – an audience member sees something on Twitter or Facebook and follows it only to be met with a nine-hour performance that is half-way through, what can they be expected to think but “What am I in the middle of here?” and click away to something else.

Another option which would have added to online engagement would have been the development of an app, which could have sustained online interaction more throughout the day – something that during the time I spent watching the broadcast was markedly low.

The performance itself was based around characters formed through highly ritualised movements. The characters had online profiles and distinct interests and personas. It certainly made for a surreal experience reading everyday banal Tweets from a character you know is fictional – it seems in a way to mock the medium it is utilising, which possibly contributed to the lack of participation with the individual characters on their Twitter pages. The characters themselves interacted occasionally in the performance, though for large swathes they withdrew into their individual actions. The performance had a resonant eerie quality to it due to this lack of connection – the performers appeared like echoes of their personas inhabiting a bizarre twilight world. The appearance of two ghostly twins hopscotching across the performance space increased this sensation through their directly mirrored actions. The power of the piece was in its atmosphere, in the sense that these characters are being manipulated by the mysterious “Trust”, and their actions reduced to mere signifiers of their true selves.

Eleanor Jones

10th June 2013