Are We Dancing for the "Likes"?

*Disclaimer: this is from my personal experience and humble opinion from my dance career. I would be honored to hear your honest opinion on this topic as well as your experiences. Please be respectful, my Mom is reading this!*

Dance has become so popular through the media. Various dance genres are shown on television with World of Dance, SYTYCD, Dance Moms, and other shows. Dance is very prevalent on social media as well. Often, dance studios post videos from their classes online. The growth of the dance world has increased in awareness through the media, especially with its overwhelming presence of dance online. Every day on social media, I come across videos of my friends, and dancers that I don’t know, showing their improvisations, choreography, and dancing in class. There are pages on social media specified for dance videos, which post nearly every day. Dance videos from individuals, studios, and companies worldwide can be found right at your fingertips. What are the long term effects of these videos online? Are dancers posting videos for “likes” and popularity? What makes me question the use of cameras in the dance world the most is when I see it in the dance classroom.

Growing up, I saw the studio as a home. A place that is always familiar and always safe. Dance studio walls and mirrors saw me mess up, fall, cry, triumph, laugh, cheer, and feel at home. The studio is a sacred place for students to grow and just be. Dancers make friends at the barre, warm up sore muscles during roll downs, sweat it out across the floor, and dance their hearts out through it all. Dancers do all this as a unit, with the security and familiarity of dancing in front of mirrors, walls, fellow classmates, and teachers. And then, a camera is pulled out. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have danced and had been recorded doing a combination from classes a few times in the past, but when I did it, I did it to promote what organization I was part of or event I was participating in. The secure home feeling is so important to some dancers that there are studios I have took classes at in New York that don’t allow the use of recording within their studios. While in those classes, I would see signs stating the “no recording” rule on the wall of each studio I visited, and I appreciated the message that came across to me: we are here to dance for ourselves, this special moment is not for all to see.

Seeing dance videos on my timeline every single day is wonderful, yet also questionable to me. Many things come to my mind, such as

  • Why do I mostly see Hip Hop and Ballet in class and performance videos (not just only; exclusively)?

  • What lengths do these dance studios go through to make these videos?

  • Do these teachers feel pressure to make their combinations “camera worthy”, or pressure to film their classes often from their studio owners?

  • How do the dancers feel about this? Do they think that this is normal classroom etiquette now?

*My biggest question remains as is this what the dance world is expected to be like now?

As a dance teacher, I record my students for my own records, to remember what we did in class in case I want to revisit a combination for the students’ benefit. I have allowed students to record combinations that they have created themselves in my classes, as well as some of my own, but it is not something I do often. Seeing that I have mixed feelings on recording and posting videos in the classroom, I don’t see myself allowing my students to post videos taken in my classes, unless it is posted in the beginning of a dance season, with the dance studio page tagged in the video, as promotion for the studio enrollment. I see the value of the use of dance videos for promotion, but not for “likes”.  

In the age that we are in of documentation, I can’t say that what dancers are doing aren’t benefitting them. Dancers are getting hired and recognized by different artists by simply posting a video of themselves dancing online. Studios are being recognized worldwide as well as dance companies. It’s a great business venture, putting yourself on camera and hoping that the right person will notice to make your business (i.e. yourself) take off. But, are some dancers taking videos of themselves for the attention?

Dance is a field of validation in ways. When you grow up in dance class, you want approval from your teacher to know that you are improving and that you are a good dancer. In college, you want approval from your professors to know that you can become a professional. As a professional, you want to be hired by a company or a show to get the approval that you are, indeed, a professional dancer. So, are dancers adding in the approval of the public eye to validate their hustle while they are still in school for dance, better yet, in between dance jobs? I know the feeling, as a freelance dancer, of wondering whether all the years of working on technique was actually worth it. “Am I good dancer? Am I still a good dancer if I don’t have a dance job?” My advice is to look within and see whether you dance for yourself or for something else. You can validate your own self in the dance studio without millions of eyes having access to your work.

My hope is that dancers who post videos of themselves aren’t doing so for the “likes”. If we allow ourselves to take a step back and re-evaluate the action of posting videos of ourselves and how it affects us and those around us, posting these videos is potentially harmful. By seeking approval through “likes”, you are allowing other people into your journey. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but in a field that thrives on critique, opinions, and comparing one dancer to another, you put yourself in a position to get more opinions than necessary. By letting more people see your progress online, this can harm your self- esteem and confidence if you don’t get as many “likes” as you would desire, or if someone posts a negative comment about your video. On the other hand, you could very well get all the “likes” you desire and feel very happy with your work that you posted online.

Yet, with regard to the dancers watching these videos, their self-esteem can be harmed by comparing themselves to the dancers they are seeing online. Maybe they don’t feel confident that their own dancing is worthy enough to be recorded and posted because they don’t dance with the same quality as other dancers online. Maybe they don’t have many followers on social media, so they fear they’ll receive a low number of “likes”. These dancers could also feel very happy and supportive towards the dancers they are viewing and give them that blue thumbs up we all enjoy. But, what does it mean to get more “likes”? If you get numerous “likes”, does it mean you’re more talented than someone that doesn’t get many “likes”? Absolutely not, we are all valuable dancers, but some people might view our talent that way.  In the end, we’re all just trying to make it and enjoy our craft. Dance is already so competitive: with auditions filled with one hundred girls to fill one role, being typed out by casting, and judged on whether we look like a princess while performing a twenty-four count combination during a Disney audition; and now we’re just creating more competition by comparing ourselves to each other 24/7 through the work of social media.

Our sacred place does not need to be exposed, our progress does not need to be shared, but I acknowledge why some dancers are doing so. Personally, I feel that our work should be left on the floor, along with our sweat, as a reminder of the hard work that we put in each class. How we feel after we perform in class and on stage is the validation that we need, and earned. I urge you, my fellow dancers, to lift each other up in person, as well as yourself. Thinking of posting your amazing improvisation? Go for it! Just remember that every dancer is not the same, how other dancers can be affected, and every dance journey is different.

What are your thoughts? How are dance videos affecting your work? Why do you record and post your dancing?

 

By Shianne Antoine

Second Annual Choreographer's Showcase: Submissions Open!

We are excited to open submissions for the Second Annual Choreographer's Showcase!

This year's showcase will take place at Baltimore Theater Project. We have two show dates: Saturday, March 24, 2017 and Sunday, March 25, 2017

Submission fee is $15 and will be requested via Venmo within a few days of receiving your application. Submissions are open until January 20, 2017.

Submissions can be finished works or works still in development.

Gather your materials now and submit!

Submit Here

Blogpost: The Choreographers Showcase (Lynne Price)

The End of the Season!

Last night, BIDA closed out our inaugural season with a wonderful showcase of local choreographers. The BIDA Choreographers Showcase took place at the currently developing Mondo building, one of Le Mondo’s ambitious projects. Though the space is still in progress, it was warm and inviting and you walked in and immediately felt the potential of the space. It worked perfectly for our somewhat informal showcase. We were able to host 5 local choreographers/groups, each one with their own unique and distinct artistic vision.

Christine Hands presented “A Duet with Melissa,” a multi-media piece where Hands dances with a projection of her sister, Melissa, whose mobility is dependent on a motorized wheel chair. The work explored Melissa’s physicality, first by showing us a video of Melissa dancing and then Hands inviting us to perform some of her movements, and then later with Hands expanding on and translating the gestures into full-bodied movements. As the piece evolved, we began to hear and see Melissa giving Christine instructions such as “move to the left,” “spin around,” “tap dance,” and “clap your hands three times,”—first as a video and then as a voice for Hands to respond to live while we watched a beautiful video of the two of them dueting in a park in Hands’ hometown in Illinois. The deeper we got into the duet, the more I sank into the beauty of their relationship.

Polly Mizani presented “She Named Her Opaline,” a creepy work set to “Breezeblocks” by Alt-J that felt like it could have been, or perhaps should have been, the music video for that song. Mizani’s interpretation takes the line “Please don’t go, I’ll eat you whole, I love you so, I love you, so I love you so” and creates a narrative based on an evil little girl archetype, terrorizing and consuming her mother. Mizani’s physicality is that of someone possessed, greedy, and monstrous (literally, she looks like a giant mouth monster sometimes) and Kelly Alt, the mother, is passive and exhausted (though, not inactive by any means), reminding me of someone at the end of a long, difficult struggle. This work was previously performed for the Baltimore Dance Invitational but the intimate setting of the Choreographers Showcase, similar to the Collective’s SHORTS show where the work originally premiered, allowed the audience to see each detail and feel the creepiness deeper.

Matthew Williams presented an untitled work of his movement research practice. Williams’ piece was not performed on the stage space but instead took place in the round in an intimate space underneath a loft. Clad in only a jockstrap, Williams moved in silence, lying on the floor, in what I saw as an exercise in tension and release while shifting his focus back and forth from internal to external. It created some beautiful moments of floating and allowed us to see every muscle engaging and disengaging to create this floating image, subtly exposing the fallacy of this notion of floating when in relation to gravity. Slow and consistent we were brought into a very intimate, private practice and it was lovely to see such vulnerability.

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LucidBeings Dance, which is made up of Franki Graham and Jeanna Riscigno, presented “Symbiotic,” a duet exploring the beauty of dependent relationships. The work began with the two bodies as separate entities but they soon merged to be a single unit, engaging in lifts and intimate partnering work with the pair rarely leaving contact. They supported each other, strangled each other (gently), wound themselves around each other, climbed each other, and intertwined. One moment consisted of Graham holding Riscigno parallel to the ground while spinning around and around while Riscigno unfolded her arm, searching for the sky or the next place to grasp on. While not a unique lift, seeing it with this subtle addition of a searching arm points to the full-bodied awareness and attention LucidBeings paid to each moment.

The evening concluded with Sarah Schmitz’s “The H Dilemma,” a quartet exploring relationships and connections. Set to an Erik Satie piece and a Library Tapes song, the dancers rotated through numerous combinations—solos, duets, trios and quartets—exploring such themes as trust through weight sharing. The structure was complex and ever-changing, constantly challenging our expectations. As the work progressed, the relationships became more strained, the energy becoming more desperate, and the vulnerability and connections established at the beginning began to feel threatening. The work concluded with the dancers fleeing the stage, resolving the dance with a sense of unrest.

Despite Peter and my fumbling with the lights and audio, it was a wonderful event celebrating local choreographers. Some are new to the area, some have been around for a while, some are just beginning to present work, and some have been doing it for years. It was a joy to be able to present, witness, and share in the evening. We, BIDA, are very excited to be able to say we have finished an entire season and are excited to jump into round two (with all the lessons we learned from the first one moving us forward)!

Written by Lynne Price

Photos by Christine Hands

Review: Together We Stand (Madeline Maxine Gorman)

Photo credit: Ken Harriford

Photo credit: Ken Harriford

After receiving an Emmy award in 2015, Viola Davis famously said in her acceptance speech that “the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.” Davis is not the only artist to address the lived experiences of women of color. Her speech is part of the history of strong female artists using their art to further their political beliefs.

 Recently, UMBC senior Domineka Reeves continued that tradition with Together We Stand, presented at Baltimore Theater Project. She explained that the work is about “identifying how the past and current situations have effected women of color and our generation.” The piece was just under an hour in length and featured four performers, including Reeves herself. It was divided into three sections titled “Lost in a World,” “Fear,” and “Support.”

Overall, there were several compelling moments and recurring themes. The dancers were expressive not only in their movement, but also through their breath and facial expressions. They wore matching simple, black dresses. Reeves stood out as the lead with her fiery crimson hair, dynamic energy, and because of the rope handcuffs tied to her wrist. The choreography itself was an amalgamation of modern and ballet vocabulary. The dancers would frantically scrub the floor with their hands, suspend through a plank, and send slow, piercing looks towards the audience. In addition, video was projected onto the cyclorama behind the dancers. The video included interspersed clips of the dancers’ bodies from close up, hands pressing against fabric or a shower door, and the dancers moving in a studio.

The earlier sections lacked unpredictability. While they were beautiful, at a certain point I was able to sit back and know what was going to happen next. While there were hints of the drama that was to come, including a gesture in which the dancers appeared to be choking, I found myself feeling antsy for development. However, “Support” was absolutely striking. The whole stage was flooded with red light and, rather than melancholy or defeated, the dancers seemed proudly defiant. With the words of Maya Angelou reminding them that “everyone else and everything else are also God's creation,” the dancers’ virtuosity increased drastically. In the “Support,” section, I was truly able to see each of the dancers’ artistic voices. Near the end, Reeves performed a solo which included sensual movements, mimicking the act of being shot multiple times, and a bitter scream. It was heart-stopping.

Reeves stated that “Together We Stand shows audience members how throughout history women were constantly dealing with the same struggles. Women still have a long way to go for our rights and respect in society, but we need more female artists voicing their strong opinions and creating long lasting work.” The performance did artfully evoke the history of women of color—from physically being prisoners as slaves to feeling like prisoners within their own skin. Together We Stand not only conveyed Reeves’ message, but also was an artistic success for each performer. Reeves should be extremely proud of her work, her dancers, and her performance. As she said herself, there is a real need for female artists to create strong work and Together We Stand accomplished this goal.

Article written by Madeline Maxine Gorman

Preview: Together We Stand (Lynne Price and Andrew Sargus Klein)

Last night, Andrew and I, along with the other BIDA members, had the pleasure of witnessing the first half hour of Domineka Reeves’ full-length work Together We Stand, premiering this Saturday, April 22, at Baltimore Theater Project. The work is sophisticated and rich choreographically, personally, and politically. The quartet of young women tackles the experience of being women of color—the struggle, the fear, the support, and empowerment, with choreography that ranged from patient and minimal to complex and multilayered.

The first section, titled “In a world,” mixes brief solos with group work. The dancers exit and enter the space multiple times, as if searching out and testing boundaries. We are reminded of tenderness, femininity, and community. They gather in a group several times and rub their hands against the floor and themselves evoking an almost frantic sense of cleaning/tidying, the washing of skin, the smearing of blackness.

The second section, titled “Fear,” opens with beautiful visuals of the soloist and her body projected onto a backdrop—the politicized body of a  black woman in flesh and digital form. The work transitions to more intimate duets shared between the dancers.

The overall pacing is slow and deliberate, with several repeated choreographic motifs to tie the sections together. There is a building sense of tension, energy and possibly anger. We were left waiting for the cathartic exigence which we anticipate will explode in the third section, titled “Support.”

Neka Reeves is a senior dance major at UMBC but her work is as strong as any evening-length dance you might find in the area. She’s a powerful woman with a compelling point of view, full of conviction, and a true artist. I’m so excited by her and I hope you come out and support this emerging voice in the field of dance. With the integration of stunning photography and videography and a gorgeously abstracted score, you will leave the work with an intimate understanding of the world through this young woman’s eyes—a world that is dark, confusing, frustrating, cold, lonely, painful as well as full of light, beauty, support, camaraderie, community, and tenderness.

Co-written by Lynne Price and Andrew Sargus Klein

BIDA Does The Downtown Happy Hour

We host gatherings from time to time to bring together Baltimore dancers in social capacities because a more connected dance community builds a stronger dance community. Interested in coming to the next one? Make sure to like us on Facebook and sign up for our newsletter!

Pints in the Park, Downtown Baltimore

October 14, 2016

FKA Twigs Baltimore Workshop various press coverage 2016

FKA Twigs' dance workshop in Baltimore: 'We're looking after each other's spirits', The Guardian, 2016

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/jul/20/fka-twigs-free-dance-workshop-baltimore-show



What I learned from FKA Twigs' dance masterclass, Dazed Digital, 2016

http://www.dazeddigital.com/music/article/32155/1/what-i-learned-from-fka-twigs-dance-masterclass