The words “dance activism” have been rolling around in my brain a lot lately and I’m toying with ways to take it out in the world to help promote dance as an integral part of our culture. Dance is a tool of expression, celebration and connection in so many other countries… why not ours? With obesity levels in the United States reaching an all-time high, it’s certainly clear that people need to move more often, in general.
Question:Which sounds more fun: an hour of salsa dancing or an hour on the treadmill?
No contest, right? But dance needs to be more accessible in order to reach more people. Take it out of the studio and off the stage… bring it to the streets….
like in Paris:
It’s already starting to happen with events like Beth Fein’s dance anywhere® , Bay Area National Dance Week and let’s not forget flash mob dancing.
In fact, dance anywhere®, the global dance party,is coming up on March 30thnoon Pacific Time, 3pm NYC, 9pm Europe. Visit the website for more information or to register your own event. Beth Fein created the event in 2005, after asking the question:
What if there was a public celebration of dance everywhere, around the world, simultaneously?
What if, in one moment, the whole world started dancing?
Plenty of people want to find out the answer… I happen to be one of them.
The 14th Annual Bay Area National Dance Week, the most extensive and best-attended dance festival in the nation, follows a few weeks later, beginning on April 20th with One Dance, a different take on flash mob dancing (learn the choreography here). Joyce Theater is also producing Le Grand Continental by Montréal-based choreographer Sylvain Émard at the South Street Seaport this summer in New York.
What would the world look like if more people were dancing? Let’s find out.
AXIS Dance Company is known for its powerful visual mixed metaphors: arms, legs, wheels, and laps are each as exploitable as the next to create physically integrated choreography that is an entirely new landscape for contemporary dance. Some recent snapshots: a wheelchair on its side, wheels spinning, with a dancer lying across it, a dancer rising up on his back wheels, spinning furiously, rearing like a bronco, and a duet, one dancer in a chair, the other on her feet. Four of the eight AXIS dancers are disabled, allowing a “potential for movement that is radically different from what another dance company would have,” says artistic director Judith Smith, who became disabled at age 17. Finding dance changed her life and gave her back a relationship with her body, self-esteem and self-confidence. “ I love doing things that are unusual and pushing the boundaries of what most people think is possible,” she says. “Dance is a way to give something back, to challenge people to always question assumptions and to keep their minds open to the endless possibilities and potentials inherent in us all.”
The company’s 2011 home season further upped the ante as they presented Full of Words, by internationally acclaimed choreographer Mark Brew, marking the first time AXIS has worked with a European choreographer. Brew is both a sought-after choreographer and disabled himself, the sole survivor of a car accident caused by a drunk driver. He has worked as a dancer and choreographer in the UK and internationally for more than 17 years with companies such as Australian Ballet Company, South Africa’s PACT Ballet, and Scottish Dance Theater.
Full of Words is a series of 3 duets between 3 couples of dancers in everyday situations, each beginning with a dialogue based on the game ‘you say a word, I say a word and together we make a sentence’. While the opening lines are spoken, the remainder of the dialogues is expressed through movements- lines and extensions, intricate folding, placement and re-placement, to create romantic conversations. Says Brew, “This work can be thought of as a series of physical conversations, encounters and interventions that reflect what it is to be human.”
AXIS Dance Company on “So You Think You Can Dance”:
This past Friday Diablo Ballet presented the opportunity to partake in an experiment that would propel ballet into the Brave New World… by tweeting live during a performance. I’m a big fan of Twitter; composing interesting ideas in 140 characters (or less) is a fun creative challenge. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be a part of combining dance and technology in a new way…. And it gave me a chance to see a wonderful local ballet company for the first time.
The program included excerpts from the following 4 ballets:
1. West Coast Premiere Pas de Deux from Mercurial Manoeuvres, by Christopher Wheeldon, set to Dimitry Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor.
2. World Premiere of Back in the Day, featuring the music of Frank Sinatra by Diablo Ballet’s David Fonnegra.
3. A Path Of Delight Or… by Tina Kay Bohnstedt, set to Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.23 in A major.
4. The Escaping Game, by KT Nelson, set to music by Zap Mama.
The show was given at Shadelands auditorium, an intimate setting that seated about 200 people.
The cast of characters tweeting live from the Tweetdeck (which was the back row of the theater, so as not to disturb the rest of the audience):myself @griercooper, Ethan Teng @dancingfoodie, Saumirah McWoodson from Dance Daze @dance_daze and Stef from @fLO_Content with @LaMorindaWeb adding to the dialogue from afar.
The idea sparked a fair amount of controversy beforehand. Smuin Ballet started a dialogue on February 24th, and Diablo Ballet’s Facebook page was flooded. However, it generated quite a bit of press for Diablo Ballet. The Contra Costa Times ran an article and Dan Meagher, the company’s director of marketing, was featured live on KGO radio.
For those of us who participated, the evening was a blast – an experience to remember, both for its novelty and ingenuity. Here are my thoughts about the evening…
• It was fun to share dialogue live, both with other Tweeters and the larger internet audience.
• It gave us a way to share the experience with others who couldn’t attend the performance.
• We were able to dialogue with the dancers of Diablo Ballet in the aftermath.
• We gained exposure for Diablo Ballet.
• As you can imagine, it’s very difficult to multitask tweeting and watching a show.
• It takes time to type and craft an exact 140-character idea.
• I only caught pieces of the ballet, in between typing.
• Auto correct turned “pas de deux” into “pas de feud”!
Some favorite tweets of the evening:
dialogues: 6:42 pm (moments before the show) @LamorindaWeb: Don’t you wish you could just execute a beautiful jete over that traffic? @ dancingfoodie: I’m on my way, bridge traffic be damned! @griercooper: able to leap tall buildings and nasty traffic jams in a single bound!
@griercooper: Derek Sakakura has his work cut out for him. Mercurial Manoeuvres starts with tons of lifts. @thesakibomb (Derek Sakakura): lol, yes it’s very good! The hardest part is trying to make the transitions seamless.
@griercooper: …Costumes remind me of Star Trek. @thesakibomb (Derek Sakakura): maybe it’s appropriate since we’re now using “futuristic tech” in ballet! Lol!!
Tweets by individuals:
@dancingfoodie: reading the other tweeters’ thoughts added a really interesting dimension to the live experience…. I missed maybe a third of the performance, but I didn’t mind, really…The moments where your entire being vibrates to the music, that’s what I live for…I was first exposed to dance in my late 20s. I always think, what if?… But, I dance everyday, and even though it’s just in class, I derive such joy from it…“Nothing to prove, only to share”. I only wish that was a more universal sentiment among dancers…. I will never take a live orchestra for granted again.
@fLO_Content:the whole experience was a blast. Tweet or no tweet. I’d def recommend @DiabloBallet !…Most dancers seem to have known they wanted to do it since childhood…Wow you can see those girls sweat! This is intimate even from the back…My experience with ballet is limited . But this I want more of in my life… Amazing lifts. Flips. Precision, joy. Girls transfixed
@LaMorindaWeb:Admit it, u were inspired by tweet-night! …Wonder if the @DiabloBallet dancers will read these tweets after the performance? Would love 2 know what they think of the tweets… Ballet in our own backyard. So glad to have the arts so close to home….We salute @DiabloBallet for making the arts accessible to the East Bay community, and doing it in an innovative way tonight
From @dance_daze: “Is there a point at losing yourself in the dance? And, is that important?” – Audience Question…Love this. I want this song for my students’ Brain Dance music!! …So many lifts and spins with Mayo Sugano and Derek Sakakura… almost like figure skating!…How fun! I want to get out of bed each morning dancing the way Edward Stegge just danced! …I love the variety in this music. Makes me want to go do some math homework, or watch a movie that was filmed in Paris.
@griercooper:If you don’t have the technique, you can’t execute the choreography: David Fonnegra… Some of my best performances weren’t technically my best… Must learn about choreographer Tina Kay Bohnstedt. The piece was gorgeous…. But were the most heart-felt. I was committed to the art+ choreography…Rosselyn Ramirez is sultry, smoky and ultra-smooth… Choreography is ballet meets social dancing. Fun… Go girls… I love watching dancers when they’re on… Especially during turns….Piano was also live… Pianist Michael Schmitz knows his stuff… Only realized at bows that the music was live…Problem is there are 2 guys, one girl.. Which will she choose? Smart girl- she chose both!
Personally speaking, it was an honor to be a part of Diablo Ballet’s newest chapter. Does Twitter replace the actual experience of seeing the show? Of course not. But it does offer a new way of sharing thoughts about dance. It’s highly unlikely that Twitter will become a regular part of ballet, but what’s the harm in a little experimentation? While I wouldn’t ordinarily want to tweet during a show (except when invited to as a guest) it did offer Twitter followers the opportunity to follow and get up-to-the-minute insights on the action. After all, honesty and memory often work best in the moment.
Not everyone would agree with my sentiments. What do you think?