Assessment of American concert dance world: Needs Improvement

I have seen the dance world from multiple perspectives. I have studied dance most of my life and performed, choreographed, and taught dance. I have learned about dance (with a degree to show for it) and read, thought, and written about dance. I have worked in administrative roles for dance education, presenting, and service organizations. I have engaged with Dance/NYC, Dance/USA, the Congress on Research in Dance, the Arts and Business Council, and the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries. I live in New York City where I see dance performances and hobnob with a variety of dance professionals on a regular basis.

And my consensus from observing the dance world from these diverse vantage points is: 1) I love it; I believe in it; I’m not done with it, and 2) It needs a lot of work if it wants to grow and sustain.

I have compiled here a list of problems or areas that I think need improvement in the large context of concert dance in the U.S. I have been thinking about these things for a while, but when I went to actually write down a list, I was surprised that I came up with so many – 20 in total. Because of this, I decided to divide them into categories, so that the full list wouldn’t be as overwhelming. Thus, here is my current list of areas of need for American concert dance

Coming together

  • There is not enough connection and caring among the different sectors of the dance world. I often refer to the 4 A’s and an E: Artists, Administrators, Advocates, Academics, and Educators. I feel that there need to be communication bridges between each of these groups as well as mutual respect and concern for the health of each sector.
  • Specifically, academic researchers and writers tend to be very exclusive. I spoke about this in my review of the Congress on Research in Dance conference last November. I particularly wish that academics were more inclusive of the rest of the field in their studies and also shared their findings with a broader audience, sparking positive change by sharing the knowledge with those it actually affects.
  • Once connecting bridges are established between the different sectors, there needs to be more discourse among people in dance. We need to come together to talk about issues and discuss solutions.
  • I feel dance writers could play a critical role in helping this discourse to happen – using media platforms to bring up topics and engage conversation (not just providing dance criticism). In order to do this, though, we need more opportunities, support, and compensation for dance writers.
  • To fully bring everyone to the table and working together to promote change, we may need to improve our current service organizations and possibly create new ones. For example, I think the Dance Critics Association and Dance/USA could benefit from clarified missions and rejuvenated energy. And with so many separate organizations for each professional group (though each useful), is there need for a national umbrella organization for all things dance, to at least bring representatives from each community together for cross-conversation?

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Dance on YouTube: Final round-up of OK Go

I know I haven’t written a regular post in a while, but I felt the need to wrap up my little series on Ok Go dance videos before moving on.

After I covered two of the band’s infamous dance-infused music videos, A Million Ways and Here It Goes Again, OK Go released the most creative and dance-embracing video of them all – a collaboration with Pilobolus Dance Theatre. If you didn’t hear about this or see the video, now’s your chance. You can read more about it from the New York Times and Ok Go’s blog and check out the official Times debut and slide show. But basically the two performing groups came together with blue unitards and a camera situated beneath a glass floor to create a visually stimulating music video for the song All Is Not Lost. Here is the basic version of it on YouTube:

But it gets way cooler. By teaming up with the crazy folks from Google, they created an interactive version of the video only available on Google Chrome. It does require that you download (the free) Google Chrome, but I’m telling you it’s totally worth it. Not only is the video itself much cooler, but you can actually customize the video by typing in your own word or phrase, which then gets spelled out in the last part of the music video. You can even download a special screenshot of your phrase to keep for posterity, like this:

So before I say any more, go, download Chrome, go to www.allisnotlo.st, and enjoy the magic.

dum-dee-dum-dum …………..

Are you back now? Pretty cool, right? Now, if you still don’t love this band as much as I do, I have one last video to show (well, at least until their next dancing extravaganza). This one is not really a dance video, but still totally fun. Apparently OK Go was summoned recently to do a version of The Muppet Show theme song, complete, of course, with a music video with the Muppets. With references to a bunch of the band’s well-known videos and your favorite Muppets characters, the end result is pretty great. Check out the video below and also a fun behind-the-scenes video .

Dance on YouTube: 5-year anniversary of the treadmill dance

Happy anniversary!! That’s right: 5 years ago this month the band OK Go released their huge hit music video for the song Here It Goes Again. And if you were somehow hibernating at that time and missed out on the hullaballoo, it is literally a choreographed routine with treadmills performed by the band members. And it is brilliant.

My first post highlighting online dance videos featured OK Go’s first ever zany dance music video, A Million Ways – the silly backyard dance that started it all. One year later, OK Go majorly upped the ante with Here It Goes Again. In just 6 days, over one million people had watched the video. One million! Which is even more impressive when you consider this was back in 2006, when YouTube was still young and before we even knew what Twitter was. To date, the video has accrued over 50 million views. It also received the 2007 Grammy award for Best Short Form Music Video as well as the 2006 YouTube award for Most Creative Video.

Personally, I loved the video from the first time I saw it, blown away by the musicality, precision, and creative use of treadmills. But I also remember it fondly because it was used by a college professor of mine for our Dance History final exam. She played the video for us then gave us a prompt to write about, which I believe  had something to do with discussing dance in pop culture. I also believe I was quite impressed that my professor was so in-tune to current technological trends. In any case, I want to send a special shout out to my professor as well as, of course, the members of OK Go and the choreographer for both routines, Trish Sie (the lead singer’s sister). And I would be remiss to not also alert your attention to the stellar song that the treadmill dance is done to, advising you to check out the band’s website for even more stellar songs.

Lastly, although it’s not a dance video really, you should also check out OK Go’s video for This Too Shall Pass, the Rube Goldberg Machine version (as shown below). It’s impressive in a completely different, high-level engineering sort of way. Just insane:

Update: check out my third and follow-up post on OK Go dance videos here

Dance on YouTube: OK Go

Dance can be fun. Not that anyone was unaware of this fact. Because of course, along with being poignant and powerful and expressive, dance can also be downright fun. And in that spirit, I’ve decided to do posts every now and then that highlight a YouTube video that features dance in some way. From funny, to weird, to “how in the world are they doing that,” there are oh so many wonderful videos to share and enjoy.

For the first video, I start off with a classic, of sorts. I’m sure many know of OK Go’s more infamous music video with the treadmills (perhaps a follow-up post). Or maybe you’ve seen one of their more recent videos like “This Too Shall Pass” or “End Love.” But I would like to start with the dance that came before them all. The music video for “A Million Ways” was OK Go’s first venture into zany dance routines. It debuted in 2005 and became an internet sensation, becoming the most downloaded music video ever by the following year. It’s so simple – just a silly dance in someone’s backyard. And yet that’s why it’s so brilliant. Who wouldn’t want to watch a group of goofy guys do a choreographed dance routine, complete with jazz hands and slow motion fighting? Without further ado, here’s the OK Go music video/dance that started it all:

They also make pretty great music, which you can check out on their website.

Update: Check out my follow-up posts on OK Go dance videos 2 and 3

So You Think You Can Dance: Getting to the heart of the matter

Now that Season 7 of So You Think You Can Dance has come to a close and the confetti has settled since Lauren Froderman’s crowning in the season finale, I’d like to wrap up my reflection with one final post on the show for this summer. Previously I discussed the good, the bad, and the utterly frustrating with 15 reasons why dancers do not like the show and conversely a list of 10 positive aspects of the show. While I’ve enjoyed focusing on the quality of the show in these posts, what I’d really like to do is get to the heart of the matter and think critically about what it all means. Like, is it ok to hate the show? Is it really a big deal? And most importantly, what are we (particularly those in concert dance) supposed to do about it? By exploring the issues of perception, impact, and response, I hope to move from “utterly frustrating” to understanding and acting. Or at the very least, I hope to come to terms with how I regard this crazy phenomenon that is So You Think You Can Dance.

Perception: Is it ok to hate SYTYCD?

In short, yes, it’s ok, but ill feelings toward the show are really just wasted feelings. At least that’s what I’ve come to discover. See, I used to hate So You Think You Can Dance. Just hated it. To me the cons outweighed the pros, and the annoying aspects far overshadowed the few possible redeeming qualities. I hated the judges’ comments, the popularity voting, the dance choices, the belittling of my beloved art form to a shallow cheese-fest. I would get riled-up just at the mention of the show in conversation. And the few times I was forced to watch (while visiting the residence of a regular viewer), I would cope with many an eye roll and inner monologue of snide comments.

Since then, I have come to better appreciate the decent aspects of the show. But mostly I came to the realization that being mad at the show was pointless and possibly unacceptable. Why? 2 reasons. (more…)