dance film online: a starter survey
Dance has an advantage over other art forms when it comes to digital interactive media: it is already in the habit of being created and fully realised on the screen. Orchestras are struggling to figure out how the underlying values of their music can migrate, rather than just putting making-of's and back stories of their artists online. Opera is trying to simply re-produce itself intact, in some cases in 3D, which has some oddly un-operatic results. And theatre, in the least enviable of positions, actually becomes cinema when it tries to migrate effectively. (Though for the intersection of contemporary performance with documentary film and inter-active documentary this has some very exciting creative implications.) But dance film was born simultaneously with cinema, has a history of great practitioners in the form, and dozens of festivals celebrating its achievements around the world, all of which makes it comfortable migrating to new media, making itself visible online and even available for web 2.0 mash-ups, remixes and other co-creative actions. It also has more intriguing and energizing sites worth visiting online than can be covered in this article. There are sites for viewing dance, social network sites, sites for comments, news, insights, and provocations and even sites for learning how to create dance online. Just some of the most useful, active or artistic would have to include:
Move the frame. Prime mover of Move the Frame, Anna Brady Nuse, continues to come up with innovative ways to provoke and promote new screendance work. Active on the scene for over a decade now, Nuse started a cable TV show for screendance in the 90s in Manhattan, and continues to bring dance and new media together with insightful blog posts that she not only writes but commissions and curates. These posts highlight issues and ideas that connect to screendance activity such as curated events in New York or online, issues for curators, scholars and practitioners which impact on what gets made and seen. October 2009 saw the first annual UMove Online Videodance Festival go live, and many other collections and reflections on contemporary practice will continue to flow from the site.
Dance-Tech.net is a hugely important social network site for anyone involved in the practice of creating, curating or studying dance and technology. Anyone can join this site which has been set up by Marlon Barrios Solano for the purpose of providing “movement and new media artists, theorists, thinkers and technologists the possibility of sharing work, ideas and research, generating opportunities for interdisciplinary collaborative projects.” Here you can post your own work, watch dance-tech TV, browse through dozens of interviews, blog posts and vlogs by creative practitioners, and, most importantly, make friends in the field and keep in touch with their latest actions wherever in the world they may be.
One of the oldest and most useful sites around continues to be videodance.org.uk. Largely an aggregating site, it has a huge advantage in that its progenitors, Simon Fildes and Katrina McPherson, keep on top of technology, adding widgets and feeds regularly, staying up to date on the creative front, linking to sites and embedding videodance works. They are also some of the most useful ‘theorists’ around, keeping ideas flowing in plain-speak, their own definitions of video dance and links to others, resources lists and attention to both the big picture and the niches of the field. Videodance.org.uk is a participating member of MAD (Media & Dance), where you can find links to the websites of the major international dance film festivals, most of which have interesting statements about the evolving nature of the artform, archives of the works they have previously shown and opportunities for future screenings. Videodance.org.uk is also the source and home of one of the most active and vocal email groups on the subject of dance on screen, which you can join by clicking here. If you want to be where manifestos are made, this is the list to be on.
In quite a different vein, dancemedia.com, a site which I had not been to before, seems to be a boon for the dance schools of the world, a place where you can upload your school videos and see some of the acknowledged ‘greats’ of ballet and contemporary dance on your screens, along with finding ads for dancewear, dance magazines etc, and regular ‘contests’ for things like best dance teacher, cover girl for the site and best dance video of the month.
Dance Films Association Inc is loosely associated with dancemedia.com, but you can also find the links and collections from this invaluable organisation on most of the sites listed above. Based in New York and run by the tireless Deirdre Towers, Dance Films Association is home to the oldest and still one of the most vibrant dance film festivals in the world, the Dance on Camera Festival, and also publishes the online journal Dance on Camera, a useful resource, by subscription, for news, ideas and information. Like many dance film festivals, Dance on Camera keeps a list of its recent past festival offerings online and links back to the artists sites so that you can see or buy the work. It also promotes the art form by touring its programs, reviewing publications, and providing grants, artists’ services, and mentoring among other valuable services to the field.
Just a few others I can’t go by without a quick mention. I urge everyone to visit Synchronous Objects where the indomitable William Forsythe pushes hard at the edges of dance and digital media by translating his work One Flat Thing Reproduced into a data set, and collaborating with a host of creative people from other fields to use that data set to make ideas, images, even furniture design. This site is an inspiration for anyone who is interested in what it takes to migrate the underlying values of dance to new media.
The Australian screendance community has also generated an impressive number of sites that hold their own in the world wide media at the same time offering insight into our particular screendance culture. Reeldance.org.au has a slightly awkward design but some useful resources for activity and funding on the local front. Criticalpath.org.au is a great supporter of screendance activity, research and development, and also archives some of its forums and symposia online. Physicaltv.com.au makes a point of gathering and linking to writings on dance and cinema on its ideas/creative culture pages and also has a YouTube channel for that company’s work (including the video above). Suehealey.com.au designed by dancer and media artist Jason Lam is a lovely, elegant archive of Healey’s screendance innovations and make her images and ideas accessible online. Intriguingly the Australian Ballet has made a bold declaration about wanting to make its site not just advertising for its company, but a resource for ballet, and is putting up interviews with choreographers and dancers, getting company members and associates to post to its blog, and providing a history of ballet in Australia: australianballet.com.au. And, of course, don’t miss the new RealTime Portal for dance on screen, which need not be mentioned since you’re already here.
Finally, if you have an interest in dance online, possibly the best resource for getting your own work out there and noticed is greatdance.com. The key feature of this site, run by dance and new media consultant Doug Fox, is Fox’s blog which is incredibly generous with its tips for “internet marketing and social media strategies for dancers and dance companies”. You can learn how to blog, twitter, promote your Facebook fan page, upload video to iphones, manage metrics, visit virtual worlds and even explore machinima as a new dancefilm form, among many other things. Like most of the sites listed here, greatdance.com has a live feed widget which you can click on and register to get regular updates from the site to your email or homepage. Click, collect and create the online screendance revolution!
Written by Dr Karen Pearlman
Research by Dr Richard James Allen
Dr Karen Pearlman is Head of Screen Studies at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School and Co-Artistic Director of The Physical TV Company. She has recently published the landmark study Cutting Rhythms: Shaping the Film Edit (Focal Press). Links to her many articles on dance film are available here.
Dr Richard James Allen is Co-Artistic Director of The Physical TV Company. His latest work, in collaboration with Karen Pearlman and Gary Hayes, is the ‘mixed reality’ dance film Entanglement Theory. An earlier collaboration, the machinima The Sun’s Search for the Moon, Episode 1, is embedded in this portal. His surreal dance fantasy feature film Thursday’s Fictions is screening on ABC1 Sunday November 8 at 23:15.
Image: still from Body of Water (Milky Re-mix), official selection of Move the Frame's UMove online festival; creator and choreographer Susan Marshall, performers Luke Miller, Darrin Wright, re-mix edit Chris Fiore, music Peter Whitehead, installation design Roderick Murray, video design Shige Moriya, costumes Mary Kokie McNaugher