Is it live or is it videodance?

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.comDoug McLennan of, 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 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 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.

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5 Responses to Is it live or is it videodance?

  1. sbug232 says:

    That is so cool! I absolutely love dance. I dance at a studio 13 hours per week plus I assistant teach 8 classes!

  2. Anna,

    This might be a stupid question, and I know that I can probably go research and dig to find the answer, but just incase you might know, I’ll ask you first…

    As you’ve probably seen in the news, San Diego (where I live) has been under seige by a fire storm. Those of us who have not had to evacuate, are stuck at home with the windows closed because of the terrible air quality. Every school in SD County has been closed all week, including all the community colleges and universities.

    So I am sitting here at home all week, reading your blog, thinking upon the future of dance and technology etc., and all the while feeling so badly the need for dance class, but school is closed. And I thought to myself that I WISH I could turn on my computer and play a video of my dance class warm up and stretch so at least I will still get my exercise during these awful fires! But alas, there is no such thing!

    Then I began to think, why can’t dance classes be aired live via webcams? Is there anyone who does this? If so, where can I subscribe? I’d do it in a heartbeat! Staying in shape between semesters can be challenging–going from daily dance classes, to zero, for weeks on end while waiting for school to be back in session, is always a time of feeling my body lose it’s perfect tone; it doesn’t have to be that way.

    My vote for dance, as a student and one who enjoys dancing as my primary form of exercise, is to be able to utilize the internet to not only view inspiring videodances, but too, take online dance classes.

    If you know of anyone doing this already, please let me know. I did see a few years back that NYCBallet had a cable TV broadcast of their workout, but I do not watch TV/do not have one; only internet.

    Thank you as always for your tireless devotion to dance.


  3. tonya says:

    Thanks for the shout-out Anna! It was great meeting you and everyone else Wednesday night. We’ll have to get together and discuss ideas more often! I liked the discussion but felt it was more for dancer and dance company bloggers who want to put videos, promotional aids, and enable their audiences to better understand dance that way — which is great and I definitely want to attend events like that in the future; I just people to brainstorm how to better promote our dance-goer / dance writer blogs too. Of course that’s probably something more for the Dance Critics Association or a writers group or something. It just seems like literary blogs have more than taken off (way more than taken off), same with theater blogs, same with visual art blogs; for some reason I can still count all the amateur concert dance writer blogs on one hand… Why are people more comfortable or interested in talking about theater, art and books than dance? I don’t know… but it was great meeting you all and hearing your ideas and we definitely have to do it more often!

  4. Phil Auslander says:

    Hi Anna,

    Thanks very much for mentioning my book Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture. You may be interested to know that Routledge will be publishing the second edition of it early next year. (It was originally published in 1999 and needed some updating.) The basic arguments remain, but the new edition takes them more clearly into the digital age.

    Thanks again.

    Phil Auslander

  5. Anna Brady Nuse says:


    Thanks for commenting! I’m very excited to hear about the new edition of “Liveness” and your further analysis into the digital age. I’m kind of evangelical about this topic, so I will definitely keep plugging this book every chance I get!


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