Classical Dance. An art on the short list for extinction if it cannot be made relevant to the next generation. So much a reality that the industry formed Center for Ballet and the Arts just for the sake of finding new ways to connect with new audiences.
Like most of the performing arts, patronage has traditionally happened via stage performance and while that may remain the primary means for now, other mediums are necessary and essential for survival. Want proof?…look at the music industry – dessimated by their suspicion of new technology and a fear to adapt. Television and Film seem to be learning from the music industries mistakes as they adopt and merge strategies, distribution and delivery utilizing the benefits of digital video.
Dance, driven by their traditional choreographer’s beliefs that their art is best experienced in person, along with concern that access to performances outside of the theater places primary revenue at risk; has made storytelling innovation amongst most companies dangerously slow.
…but there is some exciting progress.
2wice Arts Foundation experimented by releasing a series of dance apps built for tablets. Simple movement of the screen enables you to choreograph your own dance. It can be mesmerizing as you appreciate the movement of the figure. Altogether different, but no less valuable, than if you were watching a performance live onstage.
The Joffrey Ballet School signed a deal with DanceOn as their official channel partner. Together they have created a YouTube influencer campaign and contest promoting the first annual Elite Dance Tournament. The series features dancers from Complexions Contemporary Ballet and the Joffrey. Exposure to performers as individuals is the first step in humanizing the art. Even the New York City Ballet saw the opportunity to get in front of millenials when PlayStation4 wanted to create some whimsical victory dances for their gaming platform. Featuring a social element, dancers urge gamers to share their own victory dance on Instagram with the hashtag #PS4dancecontest.
Sarah Jessica Parker debuted the second season of City Ballet inside the world of American Ballet theater on AOL. A fantastic start to a world mostly unknown outside of films like All That Jazz & The Black Swan. Traditional entertainment enjoyed living in a world of mystery with its stars on golden pedestals never to be touched or spoken to by their own fans. The digital era is different. New stars engage and touch their audiences personally through real interactions. The answer to connecting to a new generation will be for future celebrities to share the joy & pain of their journey. We will connect as we do to friends who are just like us. They will inspire by showing how hard work, dedication and talent pay off. A star is born the old fashioned way…they will earn it, live and in front of us. You need no larger proof than the new celebrities emerging via YouTube & new industry events like Vidcon.
And what about Augmented & Virtual Reality? Magic Leap & Oculus Rift will bring us the first viable iterations through cumbersome headgear, but it will be the first step in allowing anyone to affordably bring great theater and dance into the privacy of their own homes…in 3-D, in the round, full circle – Shakespeare style! Imagine being able to be on stage or walk around the movement as it happens in your own living room?!
And then there is the accesibility or lack thereof. The stage is expensive to attend and the arts are often limited to the literary elite. Embrace future democratization of technology & media and you open up the floodgates of access to all types of audiences regardless of location and at a price-point they can afford.
And so kudos to those performing arts foundations who have put their toe in the water. What may start as a few published videos to those that morph into a fully managed YouTube channel and beyond – this is the future of performance and the sooner it is embraced, the better.