VR is unmatched in its ability to show you the world from someone else’s perspective. This power is put to exciting use in Together as One, a new dance film shot in 360° video as part of the Oculus VR for Good Creators Lab. And today, we’re excited to share that it is available for free via the Oculus Video app on Rift, Oculus Go, and Gear VR.
The project highlights the work of Infinite Flow, an inclusive dance company that showcases the artistry of dancers with varied physical abilities. In the film, we see a young boy’s and girl’s imaginations come to life as they watch a pair of dancers meet, struggle, and push past their limits—forming community along the way.
The project was led by filmmaker Jessica Kantor, who applied to Creators Lab after having previously served as a mentor for other participants. “It was so fun getting back in the driver’s seat and getting to bring a vision to life with the incredible support from the Lab,” she says.
When Creators Lab teamed her up with Infinite Flow Founder Marisa Hamamoto, Kantor knew she had an opportunity to create something special. “I was beyond excited when I learned I was being paired with Infinite Flow,” she says. “My previous works had been exploring dance and movement in virtual reality, and I love utilizing the language of dance to tell stories. And even further, I was a dancer growing up and have a great passion for movement.”
Kantor’s enthusiasm matched perfectly with Infinite Flow’s mission, and Hamamoto's vision of helping to create a more inclusive world. “The Together As One VR piece was one more creative, innovative way to use dance as a vehicle for change,” she says.
Hamamoto’s early passion for ballet didn’t fit the traditional path of most aspiring dancers. She found herself enduring rejection, as well as extraordinarily difficult personal traumas and a serious stroke in the spinal cord. But her commitment to dance and inclusion didn’t waiver. “I made it my purpose to help each person discover the dancer inside themselves and create a community where each person is welcomed,” she explains.
Infinite Flow sees dance as an essential way to break down barriers and create community. Its dancers include people of all abilities, including wheelchair users, the deaf, the blind, and those with intellectual disabilities, as well as those who don’t identify with a disability. The Los Angeles-based organization has staged more than 70 events since its founding in 2015, and thousands of people have attended their inclusive dance classes.
Kantor saw first-hand how physical differences seemed to fall away as they shot the film. “Each person in the cast is an incredible mover, and it became about capturing their execution of the choreography,” she notes.
While Kantor is well-versed in the world of VR, having created many 360° films including Ashes, which premiered at Tribeca Film Festival, Hamamoto dove into the medium for the first time with Together as One.“ It took me a while to be able to tap into the craft of creating a 360° piece—it was truly a unique experience,” she says. “Working with Jess was great because not only was she experienced in VR, as a dancer herself she got where I was coming from as a choreographer and company director.”
By immersing the viewer in the performance, Kantor and Hamamoto hope that Together as One will break down barriers and show that inclusive dance is not just a “niche art.”
“Dance is dance,” says Hamamoto, “and each person has a dancer inside of them.”
Kantor agrees. “Dance is telling stories in space, and so it is a perfect parallel medium for the immersive/spatial storytelling that AR, VR, and 360° provide us,” she says. “It is one of the few instances where technology amplifies the humanity of the dancers.”
— The Oculus Team