New 📖 Shows How To Move Dance From the Stage to the Page

Keone and Mari E-book

Choreographers Keone & Mari (aka one of the cutest dance couples ever) are known for pushing the envelopes of creativity. Now, they've truly outdone themselves. Their new project is an "enhanced eBook" that combines text, dance, original music, film, photography, design, and technology for a truly unique "reading" experience. 

The project began with a Kickstarter campaign back in 2016. The couple writes: "We’re best known for our work as dancers and choreographers, yet we’ve always had a dream to use dance as a medium between different/collaborative art forms.  With Mari’s creative writing degree and our love for various art forms we never saw dance being completely independent of the different crafts."

Their goal was to create a movement driven story that encourages you to interact, either by looking at photos, learning choreography, or even directing where the story goes. In the end, they had 904 backers, and raised a total of $57,144 to make the project a reality. 

Now, they've given us a peek at what this project will look like. The book will center around an elderly woman named Ruth who leaves a retirement home to move back in with her family. We follow her as she is transported to a universe populated with movers and dancers. It looks fantastical and completely fascinating. This writer, for one, can't wait to read (er, dance?) it!

Should We Treat Dance Like A Sport?

San Jose New Ballet's Sleeping Beauty - photo by Bari Lee Photography

You know the age old debate: is dance a sport? Well, we’re not here to debate that today (although, if we’re on the topic, this writer believes that matter could be put to bed with the following: dance is not a sport, but dancers are most certainly athletes). But we if we take some of the good parts of watching sports and apply them to dance performances? For example, commentary. 

Whether you’re a die-hard sports fan or not, you have to admit that commentary is often helpful when watching a game. It provides context that allows the viewer to process what is transpiring on the field with greater depth and understanding. Well educated commentators give information on the players, history of the game, and make it an altogether more engaging experience for audience members. Well, can’t the same be true for ballet? 

That’s precisely what San Jose’s New Ballet thought last month, when they offered “live casting” seats at one of their Sunday performances of Sleeping Beauty. Director Dalia Rawson said she was inspired by watching electronic coverage of sports broadcasts. Patrons who purchased these special seats were seated together in the balcony (so the phone lights would not disturb others), and could use their own phones and headphones to dial in to listen to pre-recorded commentary that included anecdotes, historical context and facts about the show, and interviews with the dancers.

In an interview with her local paper The Mercury News, Rawson said that she knew this was a bit unorthodox, but she thinks “context and additional information with enhance the experience, just as it does when watching football or the Olympics.” What do you think - would you like to watch a performance with someone in your ear, or is dance best left alone? 

photo: Bari Lee Photography

A Dance Scandal About Not Dancing 📣

cheerleaders

Cheerleaders and dancers alike can all agree that performing for the NFL is a very prestigious and exciting career. Most are in their 20s to early 30s and are quite talented. It’s also no secret that these hard-working football beauties tend to be easy on the eyes. But there’s another unfortunate reality we think is important to talk about: there are some “cheerleaders” whose only job is to look good.

From a business standpoint, it (unfortunately) can be argued that it makes some sense. The NFL has a busy season, and while their dance teams are out, well, cheering, having another group of beautiful and charismatic women out and about as a marketing tool. Some teams, such as the Baltimore Ravens, are very open about the existence of their so called “Playmakers,” or “marketing team.” Others teams - such as The Texans, the New England Patriots, the New Orleans Saints and the Washington Redskins- are less transparent. According to a recent article in the New York Times, these teams group the “marketing teams” with the cheer team in their promotional materials. However, this can be deceptive, because there are important differences between these groups. The model group does not dance, and they are allegedly charged with tasks such as talking to the well-to-do team sponsors who sit in the fancy membership boxes. They are usually low-paid, and some have recently put forth claims of sexual harassment and mistreatment.

So they don’t get to join the other girls on the field, and while they have the title of cheerleader, most of these girls are not dancers by any means. It must be difficult to feel that you have been hired into an important organization solely because of your looks - one former employee of the Redskins, compared it to feeling like cattle. Lawsuits and legal complaints have been filed, and we’ll be waiting to see how these claims go down, and hopefully make an impact on the practice in the future. What are your thoughts on this complicated and controversial topic?

Graham Dancers Push Boundaries of Technology

Google Arts and Martha Graham Company - photo: Ramsay de Give for The New York Times

It's pretty safe to say that Google is one of the leaders in technology today. Their name is a verb, for gosh's sake! (How many times a day do you tell someone to "Google it"? Probably more than you say "Bing it" or "Yahoo it," that's for sure). They're extending their desire to be at the forefront of technology to the arts, and we're super here for it. 

Google Arts and Culture recently created The Google Cultural Institute in Paris, France. Their website says their goal is to create "new technology to help partners publish their collections online and reach new audiences, as seen in the Google Art Project, Historic Moments and World Wonders initiatives..[it's] a place where tech and creative communities come together to share ideas and discover new ways to experience art and culture." Their online collections - which are sort of like online museums - include collections from establishments from MoMA, the Getty Museum, Van Gogh Museum, and the British Museum. See some of the art here.

The cultural institute has also partnered with 89plus , a research project founded by Simon Castets and Hans Ulrich Obrist, to create a series of ten week residencies for young artists - which means anyone born after 1989. The artists work alongside engineers to develop ideas using technologies in the Lab. And now, for the first time, they've selected dancers to join in!

Google chose the Martha Graham Company to be not only the first experiment to take place in New York, but the first dance collaboration for the project. The company spent two weeks this month in Google's New York offices playing with a number of technologies. Some dancers were motion-captured in 3D, another performed the iconic "Lamentation" solo with archived footage projected onto her movie body. The dancers even got to dance in a virtual-reality environment - how freaking cool is that? 

The New York Times was able to go behind the scenes and watch some of the experiments in action. Check out what it was like in the room.

photo credit: Ramsay de Give for The New York Times