Review: Le Bal de Paris – A Virtual Dance Experience (VR) [London]

Review: Le Bal de Paris – A Virtual Dance Experience (VR) [London]

The Barbican Theatre in London currently hosts Le Bal de Paris from Blanca Li Dance Company. It’s a VR experience in which you dress up as a character and take part in a virtual ball. There are only a few tickets left so I recommend you book it now! It’s worth it.

We went there last week and had a great time. You start the experience by putting on a full VR suite that includes a headset but also tracking devices for your hands and legs. Together with about 10 other people you are then led into a virtual world. Here you can choose your evening outfit and attend a virtual ball. While your role is mainly to passively observe there are a few moments in which you are encouraged to join the dancing. Afterwards, there is a short (20 min) session with a dance instructor who shows you a few moves for your next dance party.

It was a very unique experience for me. I had never done something like this in a group. Seeing other people in VR, being able to interact with them and having all of their movements tracked was one thing but the software was also able to simulate the behaviour of the cloth I wore to such an extent that I often found myself moving from one place to another just so I could see my virtual outfit flutter. In fact, the visuals were the most outstanding part for me. I didn’t get bored watching the scenes around me change and was a bit disappointed when everything ended after such a short time.  It is impressive what the show has achieved and also how far VR has come.

Two areas where the show was lacking were the story and the interactions. The story was uninspiring, the voice acting did not convince me and overall I started to ignore most of it and focused on other things. That leads me to my second point the interactions. While there were a few moments where you were encouraged to interact with the other participants, most of the time everybody was just standing around looking at virtual objects. I would have loved more ways to interact with the virtual world. Picking up objects or just being able to explore other parts of the virtual world would have added a lot more depth and realism for me. Even better if we would have had the chance to actually influence the story in some way. Maybe I would have cared more about it then. The way it was laid out everything felt a bit 1 dimensional.

However, even with a lack of interactions and story I still recommend the experience. Especially if you haven’t done a lot of VR experiences recently. It is fascinating to see how far we have come and the performance shows how much potential there is. Go check it out!

P.S. I often get nausea from VR but this show was totally fine. It makes me hopeful that nausea from VR is a thing of the past.

 

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