Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Dance and social media

Dance and social media are a funny fit, in that dance is something so primal and physical and social media is entirely heady and virtual. Yet they also make a lot of sense together in that both in some sense are about connecting with other people, sharing personal stories and perspectives. The big question for those of us who communicate about dance (not those who create dance, mind you, technology and dance in that sense is a totally different beast), is: will social media and all the things available to online audiences  occupy people's time instead of dancing or watching dance, or will it actually increase their participation in the art?

The NEA study Audience 2.0: How Technology Influences Arts Participation in 2010 points to the latter, which is encouraging. But despite the positive view that resources online actually increase people's exposure and access to the live arts, I still find it a paradoxical fit. Seeing video of a dance piece (unless maybe it's the 3D of PINA on the full screen--those of you who saw it, feel free to debate) lacks the immediacy and energy of live performance.  When we're in the proximity of actual dancing, breathing bodies, it has a different impact than watching fuzzy images on a tiny screen. Which might be why people would see something online and still want to experience it live. But those are the people who seek out dance videos online. Does social media actually reach a larger audience for dance? Because social media is self-selecting, and to a large degree you only find the information you look for (or happen across because you have some connection through a person you know, etc.) do the larger majority of people who almost never think about dance ever become interested in going to a live dance performance because of something they saw online? Does that matter if they do, or are we just trying to make sure we reach our target dance-interested audience (something like 60% dancers themselves at least on some level, see the study, How Dance Audiences Engage.)

Using social media as a tool for connecting about dance is both strange and natural. I think of the dichotomy of Pico Iyer's speech. He was last year's Dance/USA keynote who discussed how dance can be a sanctuary from overstimulation and speed of modern technologically "connected" life. He discussed how audiences might find stillness through participating in dance--a very strange paradox that still makes sense to me. I think the problem that has to be overcome is that we have these social media tools available to us, and are therefore using the avenues of the overstimulating world, to then share something so completely different from it. So what do people value that would bridge the gap between the virtual and physical world? I would argue again that the avenues are almost opposites, but (at least part of) the "why" is the same: connection.

And now that we've found a why for it all (haha) here are some looks at the more nuts and bolts of the thing:

And I'm sure there are more, but I'm not finding them when I search right now, so I'll make another post if I come up with a bigger list of useful links! I'm thinking more of a bunch of great blogs and companies that do a good job in the social media space, which I think is a whole other post.

And for those of you who would be interested in continuing this conversation "on land," I hope you'll come to our meeting this Thursday, March 22 at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center from noon to 1p.m.
We have Brian Wallenberg, Social Media Coordinator at the Atlanta Ballet, and Ashlee Gardner, who does social media for the High Museum, joining us, so it should be a great discussion!

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