Dance Revolution:VR Ballet Teaches Plié and Empathy


Learning ballet, for the most part, has been the same for generations. Observe the instructor’s choreography, then perform each movement until perfected. With a high-tech twist, Jill B. Ware introduced a technique at her VCUarts class that may prove to be one of ballet’s biggest leaps yet: Ware’s students put on VR headset and become her.

Ware and her colleague John Henry Blatter, an immersive installation artist, recently recorded a 220-degree video of her performing a standard plié combination for her Ballet Technique Level 1 course. Simple hand gestures helped students adjust to the first-person perspective before attempting more complicated moves. To grade performances, she slipped into their virtual shoes and embodied them.

“Students who lacked confidence suddenly commanded the space. I saw traditionally rigid dancers, embrace ideas of breath and flow that would take years to teach,” Ware said.

While effective, this unique narrative dance experience wasn’t designed entirely as a practice tool for the performance arts. The team sees boundless implications in sports or music instruction, such as students attempting to mirror a golf or baseball swing, or their chord progression on a piano.


“Innovation Gateway helped us realize the commercial potential in our project, Embodied Empathy, and provided valuable connections to innovators across campus and beyond. ”

Jill Brammer Ware Assistant Professor School of the Arts