Dance, Dancers, and Technology

Dancers and Technology. Either they love it or they hate it!

One needs to just bring up the topic and they would tell reasons as to why they love it or hate it. There are dancers who have not “skyped” or tweeted till date. (As a side note, a dancer confessed in the presence of an audience with mixed feelings that for the first time in her life she has used skype to connect with someone. She needed so much hand-holding to do that!)  They have huge apprehensions of how it would probably end up swallowing their life. Well, maybe I am exaggerating it a bit. On the other hand, there are dancers and artists who have embraced technology to their better advantage.

Hmmm…is technology (or technical advances) a good thing for dance or not?

The very thought of someone videotaping a live performance and putting it up in YouTube was a taboo topic for sometime, at least few years back. Now, it has become the norm of posting videos by dancers themselves to remain “marketable” and “creating a presence”. That they edit it and post only the good parts/sections tells a different story! 🙂

Now, Smt. Rama Vaidyanathan is one among the leading dancers who have no qualm in others, especially those who paid for her workshops, to shoot videos during the workshop and some do end up in YouTube. This is a great example of how “open-source” the arts should be. In her own words: [1]

What are my students going to do with the video, after all? If they want to share it on YouTube, that’s great, because more people can enjoy it and disseminate it. We better be open-minded here. Classical dance should be easily accessible if it must compete with Bollywood for attention, and a liberal approach to technology is necessary to widen its scope.

How true! After all, once the information is made public, what is there to steal?

Skype has become the norm these days to conduct classes and even prepare a child from initial classes to arangetram [2]! Some may think that use of technology as a pedagogical tool from beginning to end is stretching the limits? Maybe.

Then, there is the use of technology in the performance space. In this age of Netflix, Hulu and other online streaming modes, it would have been a surprise to some who came across the survey put up by Kalakendra who wanted to gauge the audience’s interest for paid live webcasts of the 2014-2015 Music and Dance season. Of course, many NRIs rejoiced at this news, which is a boon to them as not everyone can afford to travel to Chennai for the season.

With attention spans getting narrower and everyone racing for something in life (which very much true in the west) organizers have to comeup with novel ideas of grabbing the attention of the audiences. In a recent New York Times the article “Movement that Streams” says [3]

In this age of multitasking, a great virtue of live performance is that you can’t fast-forward, open a new tab or check your email as it unfolds. Your mind may wander, but it can’t stray too far. Yet even the most devoted dancegoers can’t see everything live. It’s expensive, time consuming and often geographically impossible: Outside major cities, there’s not much live dance to be seen.

I tend to disagree a bit, since in Indian dance the observation skills have to be honed to such an extent by the student they can’t afford to miss anything. However, I agree that beyond the big cities there is a scarcity of exposure to the arts. The article describes the presence of three websites where dance performance can be streamed at anytime for a fee. Bring it on!, a four-year-old venture of the Seattle organization On the Boards, which presents experimental dance and theater. A team of videographers works with selected artists to produce high-definition, thoughtfully framed films of their work.

Then there are free websites too…, a project of Maison de la Danse in Lyon, France, theaters and cultural centers pool their dance archives — performances, interviews, documentaries — making them fun, free and educational to browse…A smaller, simpler trove resides at UbuWeb, an avant-garde gold mine spanning many disciplines.

C0ming to know about these resources my blogger friend says “Finally some people are getting it.” Any takers in Chennai?

An app for that!!!

What would you do if there was a tool that would help you design your choreography and you could play the video back? Now there is an app for that! Again my source is an article that came in The New York Times [4].

Passe-Partout, the newest dance application by the 2wice Arts Foundation, is its most complex yet. Produced by Patsy Tarr and designed by Abbott Miller, this app presents a new stage for dance that allows a user to overlay a series of one-minute pieces onto one another — there are eight solos or duets in total, though only five can be seen simultaneously — choreographed by Justin Peck for Mr. Ulbricht and himself. These layers allow for more than 13,000 permutations of dances. That’s a lot of bang for 99 cents.

Passe-Partout from 2wice Arts Foundation on Vimeo.

Now, imagine this for BN with the stock adavus and korvais. “Explosive choreography” would be an understatement!

Erasing cyber footprints – ethical issues?

Didn’t I begin with saying that dancers either love technology or hate it? Here is an instance where some dancers have requested the famous portal Kutcheri Buzz to remove their old photographs from its website. It seems some want to remove content and photos that go back a decade.

Some requests indicate that they would not like substandard or average pics to be seen online. Others make their own critiques of the photos and want them deleted for good. Some also take umbrage to photos used from their own social media/web pages. There seems to be, from the first look an effort by artistes to persuade/coax/force publishers to edit/delete content that has its own place in offline and online publications. One assumes that since one can easily delete content on online spaces, artistes are pushing their hands ( aware that it cannot be done in print).

Eh? When the public has seen it for so long why erase the cyber-footprints now? Go Figures! Maybe the dancers are yet to wake-up to “The Wayback machine“, using which one can access defunct webpages too. 🙂

Further Reading:


  1. Viral Fever, Timeout Mumbai, May 21 2014
  2. Skype helps 12-year-old NRI girl learn Bharatanatyam from Mysore, TOI, July 28 2014
  3. Movement the Streams, The New York Times, August 24 2014
  4. You’re the Choreographer, an iPad’s Your Stage, The New York Times, June 25 2014

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