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Dance lovers across the world just participated in a “first.” That is, the first live webcast of an internationally-recognized dance company’s live premiere of a new, evening-length work, aptly titled “Being Together”.

Misnomer Dance Company used ustream.tv to broadcast last night’s show, which closed the premiere run of Being Together, a trio of new works by Chris Elam. Ustream has a live chat feature side by side with the video, and the excitement in the internet audience was palpable. According to the Misnomer blog, there were 1800 computers connected to the webcast, to the 74 members of the live audience in the Joyce SoHo in New York City.

In this age of multitasking we were somehow all able to watch the show while typing away and discussing things as they happened. Fellow bloggers Selly, Nichelle and Rob were there as well. It was truly a new experience for me and many others. I hope this medium will be employed more and more for those that may not have the time, the money, or the right location to see groups like Misnomer.

I loved the first two pieces. Too Late Tulip was my favorite in terms of aesthetics. It had a wonderful flow and a quality of movement that was at times floaty and eathereal. Rock. Paper. Flock. was a whimsical piece that wove commentary and improv into a larger, structured format. Wearing his “choreographer’s hat” (an old hat/goggle aviator combo), Elam gave assignments, and sometimes bossy commands and complaints to his dancers. Much of the movement in this one had an animallike quality that really showed Misnomer’s capacity for partnering.

Things went really well until after intermission. The final piece in the trilogy, Zipper was unfortunately blocked by a big youtube inset which covered about 1/3 of the screen. I have to say that I wasn’t able to pay too much attention to the piece with that in the way.

Still, it was agreed that we were happy to have been present at this first of what I hope is many webcasts of this kind, and that the technology of it will no doubt quickly evolve and improve. If you missed the webcast, check back at misnomer.org as they will shortly be sharing an archived video of the webcast for a limited time.

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This whimsical ad from LG (being shown in Korea, I believe), depicts figures from Matisse paintings coming alive, interacting, and dancing.

iGoogle, the personalized homepage version of Google, has rolled out a dizzying array of artist themes with which to customize your web searching experience. There is everything from Jeff Koons, to Diane von Furstenberg, to the Wiggles. Imagine my delight when I found Mark Morris — the only dance company for the time being– among the options. Now every time I go to Google, I am greeted with a different image of my favorite dance company.

Here’s a screenshot of how it looks. Click for a larger version. There’s no mention on the Mark Morris dance company’s website about how this came to be, but what great exposure! I wonder if google plans to include more dancers in its artist lineup.

I was finally able to catch Bravo’s new dance show, Step It Up and Dance, tonight during its first showing. The nice thing about Bravo is that they rerun shows a lot, so I’ve been able to watch the first two episodes as well.

This show is definitely starting to grow on me and I really enjoyed this third episode.

SIUAD (as I shall hereafter call it…pretty ugly acronym if you ask me but the whole title is too long to type) follows the tried and true Bravo reality competition show formula that started with Project Runway. The host is a model/actress type, there is a middle-aged male mentor, and several judges– 2 fixed the others rotating. There is generally some sort of fast challenge in the first part of the show which will determine things such as teams and immunity for the second, longer elimination challenge. Someone is eliminated each week, but not before the show’s proprietary goodbye catchphrase and final instructions by the hostess. Project Runway and Top Chef have pretty utilitarian final instructions to the effect of “now go pack up your shit (i.e., knives/sewing supplies) and leave.” SIUAD’s is the painfully contrived, “It’s time for your last dance.”

SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN EPISODE THREE AND DO NOT WISH TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED OR WHO WAS ELIMINATED

Read the rest of this entry »

Peeps are no good for eating (unless they are toasted over a campfire and sandwiched between graham crackers and chocolate), but they are ideal for a plethora of silly activities.

Namely, the Washington Post’s Peeps Show contest, wherein enterprising entrants put together and photographed dioramas featuring peeps. The results are absolutely delightful. Take for example this recreation of the mass Thriller dance put on by the prisoners in the Phillipines.

 peep thriller from the washington post’s peep show II contest

The only thing that sucks about this is that I didn’t know about it.  I have grand plans for next year– Peep Lake, anyone? Or how about Peeptrouchka, The Peepcracker, or Peep Side Story? The pink bunny ears would make excellent pointe shoes.

In more DC Peeper Madness, the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority put out the most hilarious (and low-budget) PSA you will ever see. They are building a new stadium for our baseball team, the Nationals, and Metro is trying to get people to take public transit rather than drive for opening day.  If this video won’t convince you to metro it, I don’t know what will…

I think I would be a brilliant choreographer if I could just somehow record all the people dancing around in my head. Somehow I still haven’t managed to take the highly innovative and artistic ideas I have over the threshold of my mind into reality. One time when ideas are clearer is when you have just awoken after a dream, but by the time you’ve woken up enough (if you don’t fall back asleep) those thoughts have become fuzzy and incoherent.

Enter the Dream Recorder. While it’s not a TiVo for my head, it does seem to visually detect certain dream patterns from visual cues as you sleep, gently awakens you with a sound, and records your voice as you groggily recount your dream. It can also be used to wake you up at the most optimal moment in your sleep cycle, which, given the insomnia and subsequent daytime exhaustion I’ve felt lately, might not be a bad idea.

Via tango blogger Danzarin.

I’m very happy to follow up on a previous post in which I complained about quodlibet’s lack of commenting system. As I mentioned before, quodlibet is a blog about dance and technology from an academic viewpoint. Matt raises so many interesting points and takes sometimes controversial opinions on different issues at times and it was frustrating not to have a way to keep the dialogue going. He has now instituted commenting for “some” posts.

Also, he plans to work on the “plain English” issue I [perhaps overly harshly] mentioned. In retrospect, some things seem snarkier than I intend them to be.

My hip hop Christmas post was so popular, I took it upon myself to intensely scour the internet for more dancing holiday cheer. The results are mixed, but all brought a smile to my face. (Oh, and I promise, there is no Nutracker to be found in this collection).

First up, we have more machines getting into the act (please refer to my backhoe post), and this time the only human involved is, in the words of the youtube summary “A geek with way too much time sets up a Christmas light show with musical accompaniment.”

I love the “homemade” quality of this video, but for something truly spectacular, check out the videos on this page. It must be a year-round obsession for this homeowner!

Secondly, we have this dancing cop in Rhode Island. “Every year Tony Lepore comes out of retirement at Christmas time to hit the streets and bust a move.” The man certainly has enthusiasm. I just hope he doesn’t cause any traffic accidents! You have to click on this link to see the video.

Thirdly, we have this down and dirty Christmas street dance-off. Do I need to say anything more than that it is set to the sweet sounds of the New Kids On the Block Christmas album?! It gets a little sketchy when Santa Claus arrives, but up until that point, it’s a lot of fun.

Finally, you’ve probably all been bombarded by people “Elfing themselves.” I think it’s a cute idea and some of the dance moves are actually pretty good. I have made a very very special one for all of you that is quite appropriate to the season (and also to our Christmas destination, Iowa). Click here to see it.

UPDATE: I just came across a cute dance around the National Christmas Tree at Dance-A-Day. Very nice effects! Watch it here.

I’m being freakishly prolific tonight. Insomnia will do that to you. The theme today seems to be pop culture. I apologize for the lame post title– I just couldn’t resist.

According to tech blog GigaOM, Stanley Burrell, aka MC Hammer, is launching tech startup DanceJam.com, a dance-centered social networking site.

DanceJam aims to bring together various dancing communities. The site will include videos from aspiring dancers everywhere as well as Hammer and his celebrity pals. It will be driven by contests that include offline regional meetups, and be monetized through ads and contest sponsorship. The company — which is based out of a few offices in the Bay Area — hasn’t given us a firm launch date. The latest word is “mid-January” — but last week it opened up part of its site to the public so as to solicit videos to have ready for the launch.

GigaOM interviewed Mr. Burrell/Hammer for its video podcast. One term that he constantly threw around was “dance culture,” as in “Dance Jam is a place where the dance culture can hang out.” From what I can tell by exploring the pilot of the site and watching the interview is that dance culture for the purposes of Dance Jam is dancers who want to win money and fame in show business through competition and casting deals. This does not appear to be a venue for exalting the art of dance, but rather to advance the business of dance as entertainment– sort of a lovechild of HotOrNot and So You Think You Can Dance– and to monetize the technology in the process through related advertisements for instructors, competitions, and the like.

While its implications for the world of dance as art are limited, I think we need to view things like this for what they are and use that as a starting point for our appreciation (something I have said many times about SYTYCD). As with any social networking site, its success and quality will depend on a critical number and activity level of the users. One valuable role that I think that Dance Jam does have the potential to play is to sift out the videos that are worth watching [from an entertainment perspective]. There is lots of dance video footage on YouTube, but you certainly have to sift through a lot of crap to find the good stuff.

The treadmill: not just for exercise anymore.

This music video for Here It Goes by the band OK Go has been very popular on the internet. I love that it is done all in one shot, and the choreography and use of exercise equipment as dance partner is pretty innovative.

OK Go were not the first to conceptualize a treadmill dance, however. Take the opening song to The Taming of the Shrew in the play-within-the-movie Kiss Me Kate. The gondola-rowing action is particularly masterful.

(I apologize for the craptastic quality on this video. I couldn’t find any existing clips and have no idea how to properly transfer video from DVD so I videotaped the DVD playing on my laptop. Someone please let me know if I’m violating all sorts of copyright laws.)

As with so many of these dance crazes that rise to popularity via youtube, an astonishing number of people have tried to recreate the OK Go treadmill dance and posted to youtube. Of course, it’s kind of lame when you only have one treadmill. However, some even managed to secure the appropriate number of machines at a healthclub for their own youtube shoot. None of them are worth showing (though you can view two examples via the links in the previous sentences).

The most successful recreation did not employ actual treadmills. Here is a swing dance piece which incorporates the Ok Go choreography quite effectively.

This, on the other hand, was too wierd not to share. Yes. It’s a shrimp. Running. On a treadmill. To the music of OK Go.

For an amusing take on dances with another type of inanimate object, check out Move the Frame’s blog post on Chair Dances.

Here’s a happy ending.

When I reported back on the DC Improv Festival, I noted that the Dance Antonini piece listed on the schedule was nowhere to be found. Lou Antonini, the director of the group, posted a very nice apology to that post and just followed up with video of the piece (whose venue had been changed unbeknown to me and a number of other attendees).

Here’s the link, so everyone can see what they did (it will take a while to load). Thanks, Lou!
It’s wonderful that thanks to the internet we can capture these spontaneous performances and view them again and even people who were not at the festival can get a sense of what went on. Doug reflected about this on his blog and compiled a list of videos and posts about the festival.

On Wednesday we took the train up to Baltimore to see So You Think You Can Dance Live. All in all, it was worth the trip and the price of the ticket.

The details of the show have been pretty well covered by now (Ted linked to a blow-by-blow LJ account of the show if you want to know what all the routines were), but for all the anxious fans I do want to let you know that there are two routines that had been taken out and are now back in. Due to various injuries, I’d read that the breaking piece with Sara, Dominic and Hok, as well as the Neil/Danny Two Princes routine had been taken out for a couple of the tour stops. Not so for Baltimore. They were back in the show, and definitely two of the most memorable pieces at that!

I’ll start with the low points before I get to my “in-depth analysis.” I really could have done without all the rehashing of the show on the video screens. They showed the “loser” reel with our friends Sex and the guy that had to get first aid assistance, as well as all the people that fell on their heads. Each dancer was introduced with the same reel that was shown when they were eliminated from the show. There was some new video material, but not much. Would it have killed them to come up with some new footage or at least a different way of presenting it? There was also some badly scripted banter that the dancers had to say between acts. They are dancers, and not (with a few exceptions, namely Dominic and Neil) adept at speaking to large crowds. I do understand the function that played in presenting the dancers as real people to the fans, but some of it was pretty lame.

My final disappointment was that they didn’t perform one of my absolute favorites from the season, Apologize with Anya and Danny. I understand why they didn’t do it because Anya was not in the top 10 and so her role in the show was limited, but still I was very disappointed. A moment of silence please, while I sniffle and watch it [again, and again] on youtube…

Alrighty then… moving on…

The most interesting thing about seeing the routines from a TV show translated to the stage (pretty literally, it seemed) was seeing what worked better on stage than on TV, and also what was really better suited to TV. The individual solos were better on TV. Routines whose strength lay in a great deal of facial expression, such as the Midnight Cabaret were better on TV.

Hands down, the group performances were all better live. There was so much cutting between shots and angles on the show that I was never able to get a good idea for each piece as a coherent work. The Shane Sparks Matrix routine was fantastic live. The choreography is really designed for the piece to be seen as a whole. I liked it on TV but appreciated it even more in the round.

Speaking of Shane Sparks, the Lauren/Pasha Transformers piece was so cool. The stage had a lowering platform (which was used to great effect throughout the show, including a very nice entrance at the beginning) which added to the fun, as if the transformer was coming out of some cavernous depths. That was a piece that I had not gotten as much on TV, but live I really appreciated Sparks’ choreography in all its humor and smarts. Perhaps Lauren and Pasha also gave a better performance of the piece on Wednesday.

Other pieces that worked particularly well in the flesh: Sara/Dominic/Hok’s breaking routine (lots of fun– a choreography with a sense of humor); Sabra/Dominic’s Make It Work (*wistful sigh*…oh, and another Sparks routine at that!); and, Oh. My. God….Hok/Jaimie’s Hummingbird & Flower piece killed me. It’s just so incredible that Hok can move in such quick, sharp movements. I swear that part of me had thought they’d sped up the tape on the TV show, but no, he really does move like that. I felt so sad when it was over.

And now, here’s a shocker for my regular readers about what worked better live. It’s a well documented fact that I Did Not Like Lacey At All during the show and had No Clue why she got so far in the competition. Well… I am here today to admit to you that Lacey works so much better live for me. Dare I say it, she really is a wonderful dancer.

Dear Lacey, I have an apology to make to you. My hostility should have been targeted at the dirty old cameramen, producers, and wardrobe people who kept doing everything possible to keep the emphasis on your butt and your campy facial expressions. Viewed from afar, as a faceless dancer, you are beautiful. All the pieces you danced in were a revelation to me, as I had never appreciated them since well, you, were in them on the show. I have to admit, the Viennese Waltz with Danny (Keep Holding On) gave me chills, you were beautifully expressive and graceful in the Mia Michaels piece about her father that you danced with Neil, and your samba with Danny? Wow!

[moving back into the 1st person now…]

I still love Sabra though. The Mandy Moore “power lunch” routine brought the house down (another one that made me sad when it ended– I have two exclamation marks and a heart next to that one in my notes), the pinstripe quickstep with Pasha and the paso doble with Neil were both incredible and fresh, and as I said before, Make it work with Dominic made me sigh wistfully.

I did not stay with my crazy friends by the stage door until 1:30 am to meet the dancers. They did and got a lot of great pictures with them, but I was content to escape the hard pouring rain and get into bed with the experience of seeing the dancers from my favorite show of the moment live.

I just got back from a lovely trip to Arkansas to celebrate my grandma’s 90th birthday (the other one turned 90 in June– I am a lucky granddaughter!). Needless to say, it was an incredible occasion and blogging was pretty far from my thoughts.

I don’t want you to feel neglected, so I thought I’d go back in the time machine and present a selection of some of my favorite posts. If you are new to this blog, you probably haven’t read them yet anyway. The time machine doesn’t have to go back too far– June 16 was my first post– but it’s amazing how many posts one can put up in the space of 5 months.

  1. This blog has really helped me to focus my discovery of all things dance. When I started writing, I knew that I would have to constantly learn new things and find new sources to keep my blog interesting and informative, and to enhance my own background knowledge.  Discovering dance criticism chronicles my first serious foray into reading written impressions of dance. I knew I needed to find a writer that I liked and was inspired by.
  2. Dance dialing documents another step in my journey of discover– this time into innovative elements of the choreographic process.
  3. What do you want to read about? was a rather navel-gazing post about balancing your interests with the interests of your readers. Looking back, I realize that the most important thing has been staying true to my own voice. There are so many blogs out there that you don’t need to cater to anyone– if readers are interested in what you have to say they’ll come to you. Statistics are tempting– I know that if a post is heavy on certain key words (i.e., most references to TV shows, popular musicians and dancers) it is going to get more hits. It would be sorely tempting to post only about those things, even beyond what interests me about them for the satisfaction of getting higher readership. However, then I would lose all the people who are interested in my own voice and who regularly post their thoughtful and intelligent comments which is really what gives me the most satisfaction.
  4. You decide… is a fun little ditty of a post containing the viral Fosse set to UNK video that was so popular earlier this summer.

 In recent years, it seems that dance has become a lot more prevalent in TV advertising. In a world of obnoxious ads that make me turn the channel, it’s a pretty savvy move from corporate America (at least for holding this consumer’s attention). The best of them are quite entertaining.

This GAP commercial may have been one of the first to embrace this trend with their famous khaki swing dance ad:

My favorite of the moment is from supermarket chain Bloom. They have several versions of a commercial in which happy employees dance around a customer with cart amongst the produce and cash registers:

I have to credit Selly from Dance Outlook for this find— Jaime from SYTYCD appears in a McDonald’s salad commercial in which the dancers represent different ingredients. I really don’t like McD’s (I’m vegetarian and after seeing Super Size Me I won’t eat anything from there), but I have to admit it is a really cool commercial with some beautiful dancing in it:

In general, Target has some really engaging, stylish ads. This one doesn’t have dance in the traditional sense, but a lot of interesting choreography:

Then there is the Hanes commercial featuring Momix, which I think did a really smart job of getting the message across about comfort and flexibility through the dancers’ movements:

I leave you with one of my favorites of all time, a DSW ad with some major shoe porn for my salseras and tangueras. A friend told me that it really got her believing that if she bought her shoes from DSW that she could dance like that:

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