Boston Ballet gave birth to its latest creative venture recently with the launch of ÜNI, an online performance content hub, free to all. Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen wants to bring ballet to a wider audience and chose a digital path to get there.
“We wanted to have a platform that would provide free dance to a broader audience,” Nissinen shares with Dance Informa. “We’re not trying to commercialize it, just hopefully put dance before people who otherwise wouldn’t stumble on it. What if there was a place where you could have a bite-sized piece of art that helps you reflect?”
The website features seven digital pieces of art: six dance and one photo essay. This group of creators fuels the community development goals of the project, giving a stage to less represented artists because of their gender and race. Nissinen is adamant that ÜNI involves all the art in his community since his view is that different forms affect one another, “It’s about being part of a community,” he says. “Engaging community partners who are like-minded and giving them a platform.”
Performances occur in studios, on stages, in a hotel and in subway stations — bringing ballet to the world around it, as well as to the places we typically consume dance. Regardless of location, the idea was to create worlds of magic available to anyone with a computer or device. While some pieces were filmed traditionally, some are shot using a virtual reality camera, allowing for a multi-sensory experience when viewing with VR headset. Nissinen says, “Today’s ballet company is not the church and not the museum, but living theater for today’s people. This is digital theater.”
The company plans to refresh the content on the site regularly, both to deepen the connection with the community through collaborations with other types of artists and to keep engagement with audiences flowing. The dancers are thrilled to be part of this digital development and feel excited to push the world in the direction of more creativity and unity.
Like so much over the last year-and-a-half, the dance world is reconsidering itself and adapting to move forward in new ways. For Boston Ballet, inclusivity is paramount. Beyond simply providing opportunity and platforms to previously underrepresented artists, it also seeks to challenge the notion that audiences must “know something” about dance to enjoy it.
As Nissinen contends, “Everybody is a dancer. Your heartbeat is the music. You take three steps, and that’s a dance! I believe everybody can relate to dance. You don’t have to know anything; you have to be open and alive.”
Check out Boston Ballet’s ÜNI by heading to uni.bostonballet.org.
By Emily Sarkissian of Dance Informa.