Americans are spending more time on the internet (I mean really, how can you not?), and in the past year, our portion of time devoted to online videos has increased by 12%. Being connected might be a sign of hipness (I have neither an iPhone or an iPad, but I have hips–does this count?), but, as a British study suggests, our access to the internet may be correlated with our happiness.
In keeping with the steady stream of tweets and bytes, local dance artists have begun creating dance specifically made for the web, with the hopes of reaching new audiences and, at the same time, sharing an experience that wouldn’t otherwise transpire in a traditional theater. Three such local artists include Michelle Fletcher, Tyson Miller, and Christine Cali.
Michelle Fletcher, founder of the Here Now Dance Collective, has created a series of video vignettes entitled “The Apology Project“. The first of these vignettes features Michelle Kinny and Fletcher in a long hallway in a BART station. Kinny, with bouncy blond curls, stares at Fletcher,and in turn, passersby stare at both of them. In one giant swoop, Kinny reaches her arms around Fletcher into a grasping hug, yet Fletcher remains ambivalent and at some times, repulsed by Kinny’s closeness and attachment. Kinny continues to reach for Fletcher, seeking a connection, and finally, Finny softly pins Fletcher to the ground.
The movement is pedestrian in a good sense; it’s recognizable, and nothing too wild or crazy. And the locale certainly adds an interesting juxtaposition, as those who ride Muni or BART are constantly pushing into others, fighting for space, and at the same time, blatantly ignoring everyone in sight.
Of why she chose to go digital, Fletcher says, “I have a new mission statement that expresses a desire to make work that is accessible.” In addition to the already-created videos, she says that “the plan is to make a few more short videos and then have online viewers ‘curate’ a full length version of the project, put the videos in an order, and even suggest a location, and then we will publicize the full-length performances.”
Tyson Miller has turned to video for different reasons, including “philosophically, because of all the art forms, I believe film most closely approximates a representation of our experience of consciousness, making it instantly comprehensible. [And] practically, because video technology has recently become broadly affordable and distributable.”
While performing in the Marin Headlands earlier this year, Miller came across the Missile silo and realized that the space yielded amazing “dramatic potential.” His latest video,”Children of the Cold War“, uses the space, albeit featuring more fluid than dramatic improvised choreography
Miller didn’t plan much of the movement ahead of time, explaining this was because, “the setting has too many variables, too many unknowns, to plan anything more specific than a mood, or floor pattern, or a dramatic turn.'” And in all of his videos (only available on Facebook for now), you can see this improv thread that strings along as he plays with the scenery, languishes on a handle bar, and takes in everything around him.
Christine Cali, a long-time member of the San Francisco modern dance scene, has collaborated with Matt Langlois on his band’s (The Welcome Matt) music video “MOVE Thru Me“. The video is a result of a very long and ever-developing friendship. Cali elaborates, saying, “Long story short, I was performing last November in RAW at The Garage, and Matt showed up to see what I was up to. He wanted me to choreograph a music video for him.”
Somewhat ironically, “MOVE Thru Me” isn’t that video. Cali explains, “We have yet to make THAT video, but we’re onto something that would never have existed working as individual artists. Our collaboration has inspired both of us inside of this project and in our own endeavors as creative individuals in the world. This creative partnership is something like a marriage: you get the joint tax benefits, you trade out cooking, cleaning and laundry, you fight sometimes, and the ‘making up’ makes some really poignant and revelatory creative work.”
Cali says that unlike dance created for a stage, using a camera allows her to create simple movements that focus on highlighting tight, sharp shapes. “Unison and precision make material POP on camera.” And while her normal aesthetic lends itself more toward the abstract, she isn’t bothered by the challenge at hand. “This is such a departure from the way I have come to make work for the stage (or for any site-specific location). I’m ALL about process and leaving space for improvisation inside of my work. I guess that holds true in some ways for the ‘MOVE Thru Me’ video: my dancers are set/choreographed, and Matt and I are improvising within that structure. I like this idea of playing with perception with video and the fact that you can make anything happen without needing stage exits/entrances, blackouts etc.”
Creating a dance video may sound like fun, but according to Cali, there’s work involved, too! She says, “It’s hard work. We were exhausted, like, almost vomiting exhausted but we are very proud of the work and hope that it will resonate with viewers.”
But are dance videos just one-offs? Hopefully not. Cali says, “Ultimately… Matt and I are hoping that the videos will spark interest and make people want to come and see live performances. Not just our own shows, but to get out there and support artists.” And Fletcher’s highlight of this process is the ability to collaborate “with dancers, photographer[s], and filmmaker[s]; it is nice to have different members of the art community [involved]. It feels [like] we are making something whole or more collective/community embracing.”