Last night I attended DanceNYC‘s Townhall event “Does Dance have a future? Implications of a Technological World”. The panel, consisting of Doug Fox (my patron saint) of Greatdance.com, Doug McLennan of ArtsJournal.com, and Jonah Bokaer of Chez Bushwick communicating via webcam from Australia, helped stir up the ideas, but what was really great about it for me was that there were all these amazing people there that I got to meet in the flesh after much online dialogue. Everyone who came is doing such great things in the dance world, and the progressive thoughts that got passed around before, during, and after the meeting were really inspiring and up-lifting.
I finally got to meet bloggers Tonya Plank of Swan Lake Samba Girl, Kristin Sloan of The Winger and The (Inter)mission, and Jeff Weinstein a dance and theatre critic whose blog Out There is on ArtsJournal.com. Clare Byrne was there, a choreographer I’ve heard so much about and whose work I’ve only seen online despite the fact we both live and work in NYC! Linda Lewett is a video producer that I met last January at EMPAC in Troy, NY who’s done tons of dance video work for years. Marketing people from several dance companies were there including Susan Marshall & Co., Alvin Ailey, New York City Ballet and Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre. Plus I met some wicked cool independent choreographers who are foraying into the digital world, Kimberly Young of dance-elephant.org and Malinda Allen of Allen Body Group. This is just a partial sampling of the people I got to talk to.
I had no idea that there were so many people right here in NYC sharing
the same thoughts as me that dance needs to have a compelling,
fabulous, and engaging mediatized form! This primarily means making
great dance videos and encouraging and fostering audience engagement
One topic that was raised, and that I have very strong
views about, was live vs. video. Are the two incompatible or
compatible, and do we need to fear video overcoming live? In my mind I
was screaming video has already overcome live!!!
In terms of cultural capital this was happened back in the 1920’s with
the rise of the film industry. The dance world has been deluded for
almost 100 years that live performance reigns supreme. The answer is so
clear that economically and culturally speaking new forms of media
technology have crowded out live performance to an alarming degree.
However, this doesn’t mean live performance is going to die, obviously
we’re still around despite several media dynasty shifts (film to tv to
internet/video with mobile phones on the horizon). The question isn’t
if we need to embrace media to improve our existence, it’s a matter of
For any disbelievers still out there, I highly recommend a book by Performance Studies professor Philip Auslander entitled Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture (Routledge; 1999). If you can’t read it all, just read the introduction, he spells everything out right there.
From the Amazon book description:
Is it live or is it Memorex?
In his provocative new book,
performance critic Philip Auslander explores live performance and asks
what relevance it has in contemporary culture dominated by mass media. Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Society
begins with an overview of live performance and reveals that media
technology has encroached on live events to the point where many, like
concerts and sporting events that feature jumbo video screens, are
hardly live at all. Auslander offers a way of understanding the history
of this development based on an analysis of the relationship between
early television and theatre.
This book has pretty much shaped my entire vision behind promoting videodance.
For some good news about how to harness media to better the existence of live performance read my post “Madonna Shows Us a New Move.” For more discussion of the Town Hall meeting read Doug Fox’s Dancing in to the Future posts here, here, and here.