- Connecting on the virtual dance floor
- The power of a game element
It all started with an online Disco…
Distance Disco is an online matchmaking dance party and tons of fun. Launched in March 2020, it took place every Friday during the first lockdown in The Netherlands and was open to anyone with a computer, a webcam and some serious dance moves. To be clear, Distance Disco is not just a group of people dancing in front of their webcams. The site, its architecture, and its dedicated group of followers represent 1) a collective expression of frustration against pandemic restrictions, and 2) the joy of connecting with others and dancing right through it. The small group of dancing regulars always show up whenever there’s a party, often with a fantastic collection of props and outfits. The online dance floor is hosted on the open-source video conferencing tool Jitsi, and the entire site pulsates with energy and colour!
One thing sets Distance Disco apart from other online dance parties – the game element built into the site. There is always one other person in this dance party who dances to the same song as you. Find that person, enter their code, score points and connect with your dance partner! A digital scoreboard lets everyone know who is in the lead – then the competition becomes intense. Besides the dancing and gameplay, a chat function on the site buzzes with messages throughout the party.
Designing a hybrid disco
Distance Disco was designed and developed with the aim to create a space for expression and movement in very restrictive times. It was an ideal tool for a hybrid experiment. We redesigned the experience in collaboration with the creators to make DuoDisco (Hybrid) – which incorporated both a physical dance floor and the online dance floor, now with an additional mobile application for the game component. Much like The Gossip, there is a lot of awkwardness on the dance floor. People are not always brave enough to show off their dance moves to a group. Just like any nightclub experience, there were also people who joined the experience online just to watch others. One lady showed up only to smoke a cigarette and bob her head to the music. It’s all part of the experience.
We invited participants to join in DuoDisco (Hybrid) via social media. We chose Museum Night, a popular Dutch social event, to host the party, meaning there was already a lively energy in the air. Of course, the success of this experiment really hinged on people dancing.
We decked out the physical dance floor at Tetem with disco lights and the proverbial disco ball. We also erected a giant screen broadcasting online dancers to the physical audience at Tetem. The dancers who were physically present at Tetem used a mobile site to participate in the game element via their mobile phones and score points by guessing who their dance partner was.
Read more in the article Creating deep connection and intimate moments through hybrid dancing.
- Creators DuoDisco (Hybrid) – Arjan Scherpenisse, Mark Meeuwenoord, Frank Bosma, Klasien van de Zandschulp.
- Research – affect lab: Natalie Dixon, Anneli Huang Vanenburg, Klasien van de Zandschulp.
- Production – affect lab: Anneli Huang Vanenburg.
- Photo’s – Ans Schuitema.
- Location partner – Tetem, Enschede.