As someone who has the coordination of a drunken squid on roller skates, I have never known that much about professional dancing. The concept of story through movement was always fascinating, but remained largely impenetrable to my rhythm-challenged mind and body. The explosion of dance-themed movies and television over the past few years has proven that much of the public feels similarly — captivated yet too clumsy to dance anywhere but at wedding receptions. YouTube premium dance channel DS2DIO is investing in the public’s interest with its lineup of dance culture, history and exhibition shows.
Founded by director Jon M. Chu and producing partner Hieu Ho, DS2DIO has reached just under 4 million video views since their launch in June. With a growing roster of fans, DS2DIO is looking to enhance their programming and launch a brand new series of original shows. This fall, DS2DIO will launch new shows ranging from the action-choreography themed “FIGHT!” to “Dance Fantasy,” in which “celebrities are granted their dance fantasies in this fun and irreverent series on wish fulfillment.”
Chu told NMR that “With DS2DIO, I’m so excited to continue building the premier destination for dance lifestyle entertainment — a place for people all around the world to experience our shared passion for dance, storytelling and technology. We have an incredibly fun lineup of new shows that I can’t wait for everyone to see.”
I caught up with DS2DIO Cofounder Hieu Ho to talk about the channel’s fall lineup and what Hollywood-style content means for the future of YouTube.
How did you and Jon first develop DS2DIO?
Hieu Ho: A few years ago, Jon and I launched “The LXD,” which was an online series we did for Paramount. In doing so, it was such a great opportunity for us to really see how we can mix storytelling with dance and movement. We could sort of test it out with the online community and test that reaction — it was an exciting place for us to be. When YouTube came up with this initiative, we jumped at the idea of presenting them with a dance lifestyle channel. For us, that really meant that dance and movement were part of everybody’s lives. That’s why it resonates across culture, across boundaries. You see the popularity of dance in these past few years; it has just been really exciting for us to see…particularly online, especially on YouTube where we took a look at the numbers, as it was pretty staggering. In the top 25 most-viewed videos of all time, 16 of them feature dance. We saw an opportunity to create a place, a center of dance, a hub, a place where people can see the coolest, most amazing story told through dance and movement. Typically, a dance studio is where people come to perfect their act, learn new things and discover new dance routines. For us, DS2DIO is like dance studio 2.0.
DS2DIO claims to bring “Hollywood quality production” to YouTube — that is such a subjective term. What does that mean to you and DS2DIO?
Both Jon and I have a background in filmmaking…when we approach material, we come from a cinematic place. Everything we look at, we look at the story. What’s the story? What’s the center of that? How do we ground everything in universal emotions? When we talk about bringing Hollywood production values to YouTube — when we first started getting into this online phase — we wanted to take a cinematic approach to our storytelling. With our background and our relationship with different filmmakers, we knew we could create something that looked really good even with the limited budget that we had. So, if you look at our production, we strive to create really high-end high-production value programing that is centered on story.
Do you feel like YouTube is lacking high-quality production right now?
What we want to focus on is creating the best stories we can through dance and movement. For us, dance lifestyle entertainment is about coming up with those types of stories that can push the envelope in terms of engagement and narrative experience. For us, it’s about creating something that we know is beautiful.
Dance and dance culture is constantly evolving — how does DS2DIO keep its finger on the pulse of what is fresh?
What we love about the online space is that it’s an interactive space. What is really important to us is having that dialogue and that engagement with our audience. Whether it’s on YouTube comments or Facebook or Twitter, we read everything. We are facilitating that dialogue with our audience so that we know what is going on with news stuff and with what’s fresh. People tell us too — that’s the cool thing about being online is that we can be agile and try new things and do different genres because of our relationships, because of being in this space and particularly from being in Los Angeles — the best dancers are in LA, the best choreographers are in LA. This is where the jobs are in that space. We are constantly seeing what are the newest trends and what are the new things that are happening so we can pick the best of the best and create new stories around them.
What can you tell us about the new DS2DIO fall lineup?
We are looking to build a foundation, and what we’ve done our first couple of shows — we are looking to grow that. We are looking to introduce some fun new shows and bring back some shows we started with a few months ago. First off, we have “The Arena,” which I am really excited for. It is a fun, cool show that really takes breaking competition events to the next level. You aren’t going to watch just two breakers competing against each other; you are really going to get to know them through interviews. It’s all part of our strategy to give these dancers a voice and to give our community, particularly those who don’t know a lot about breakdancing, a way to know that this is fun and accessible. That is what our channel is all about. Our channel isn’t just for dancers; it’s for people who also love dance and have a passion for dance. So, Arena, for us, is going to be a great new show.
We are bringing out new episodes of “S2DIO City,” which is our fun new show with a bunch of dance videos all around a sort of mythological place. We have our second season of LXD that we are going to be premiering on YouTube. We have a show called “DS2DIO 360” hosted by Twitch and Cameron Goodman, and it is a fun blog show where we talk about what’s happening in the dance zeitgeist.