Technology is in the process of revolutionizing the arts as we know them, and dance is no exception. There are several ways in which technology has, or has begun to, impact the dance community. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many industries to reckon with technology as their means of survival and continuing to do business, the dance industry among them. From Zoom dance classes, to mixed in-person/online performances, to the explosion of dance influencing, incorporating tech into the industry is here whether we like it or not.
Technology has also made it possible for dance companies to reach wider audiences through live streaming and professionally shot and edited video. This has allowed dance performances to be viewed by people who may not have had the opportunity to attend live performances, including those in remote locations or with limited mobility. COVID put this evolution of online performance to the test.
During the early days of the pandemic, esteemed Canadian studio Goh Ballet had to make a choice. Goh Ballet’s The Nutcracker had been selling out the enormous Queen Elizabeth Theatre in previous years, how could they pivot and thrive in this climate of no-gathering?
They turned to narrative filmmaking and ended up producing a beautiful, award-winning short film following a disillusioned young dancer reigniting his love for the art in a modern retelling of the classic Nutcracker story. Accepted into the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, their reach and impact extended internationally in a way their live performance could not.
“Real Dancer” or “TikTok Dancer”
Formal dance training is not available to everyone, whether that be because of financial, social, geographical, or other barriers. However, most people still have access to the internet. Aspiring dancers can access a vast amount of information, from straight-up online classes to educational dance history to influencers sharing their personal stretching routines. This accessibility is helping to democratize dance training, with dancers from all over the world granted potential access to experts, each other, and the larger dance community.
Speaking of the online dance community, it’s skyrocket in size and popularity has made monetization a real possibility for professional and amateur dancers alike. Don’t get me wrong, there is money out there for dancers, but for most working performers it’s a gig economy and there is plenty of instability. The prospect of earning through dance influencing or online dance/fitness classes is a welcome addition to a tough industry, and one that thrived during early COVID.
In many cases, most famously Charli D’Amelio, it’s amateur dancers with the largest followings and racking in the most brand deals. Although there is a purist attitude often detected among the dance community who may not consider these dance influencers “real dancers,” it’s a promising sign for aspiring artists who may have never otherwise gotten the chance to go professional.
Technique and Technology
Dance is inherently collaborative and inclusive of mixed-media. Any given performance may feature the work of musicians, poets, singers, costume designers, hair and make-up artists, lighting technicians, and many more. So it comes as no surprise that digital media, such as projection mapping and interactive installations, were quickly and eagerly incorporated into dance performances.
Choreographers and artistic directors saw new avenues for creativity, playing the performance spaces and the bodies of the dancers. Check out these incredible examples of projection-mapped dance performances to get a taste of what is likely to continue evolving and booming in the performance arena.
The landscape of dance is vast and varied. Some worry technology interrupts the essence of dance as an organic form of human expression, where many see possibility for new creation and unique multidisciplinary performances. The good thing is, there is room for everyone. It is important to consider both the benefits and challenges that technology brings to the dance community, and to continue to search for new ways to expand on and enhance the art form, without compromising what makes dance deeply human