“The show must go on-line” – Spring Forward reflections

Words by Ines Carvalho.

Between the 24th and the 26th of April, Aerowaves – a hub for dance-discovering in Europe – brought their annual festival to our homes. The show must go on-line was not only a chance to discover new works, but to highlight the digital possibilities of connecting with wider audiences, and democratise the access to dance beyond the stage. 

The international festival was supposed to take place in Rijeka, Croatia, before being postponed due to the current Covid-19 pandemic. However, the show kept going, enabling us to ‘travel’ to Croatia for three full-days of performances, discussions, networking opportunities and celebration. Working alongside Croatian Cultural Centre, the online festival invited us to sit in the frontline on Zoom, and to embrace a virtual journey straight to Rijeka and Opatija. In between shows, Edvin Liverić guided us through the streets and history of these coastal cities on the Adriatic Sea. And, somehow, it was like we were there, waiting for the next show to start and meeting new people in the virtual foyer, an initiative for promoting networking opportunities and informal conversations between the participants. 

The programming has kept the values of the festival alive whilst considering the challenges of online engagement. Over the weekend, we were able to watch over 20 performances, previously recorded of course. But the highlight of this online edition of Spring Forward was the chance to take part in the Q&A sessions after each performance. 

Streaming a dance piece will never give the audience the same feeling as experiencing it physically, and that is why promoting conversations between artists and audience are key in digital arts events. Even though Spring Forward gives voice to emerging artists, this year its mission gained a more pressing role during the online festival. The chance to see the faces of the choreographers and performers, and listening to their first-person creative process narratives, was a powerful way to open the universe of contemporary dance and the ethos of Aerowaves as a European platform for new choreography. The conversations were moderated by Springback Academy members, a group of emerging dance writers carefully selected to join the festival, and the participants got the opportunity to ask their questions face-to-face with the artists. Seeing the dance professionals and the audience on the same screen, sharing the same online stage, was the lesson we should keep from the online Springback Festival – to work on developing more opportunities for interaction, dialogue and close relationships. This is how dance can become more accessible. 

This autumn, the festival will possibly take part in Rijeka. But we will never forget how we engaged with choreographers and the Aerowaves team; how we interacted with each other on screen and how we enjoyed the music of Dubioza Kolektiv. Spring Forward 2020 was the bliss we needed in the middle of this worldwide chaos: we are connected by the passion of dance. And it’s always possible to share this passion online.