Using technology to bring MODERN DANCE to more people!

Sarah Morrison (
Sun, 07 Sep 1997 23:54:43 -0500

WARNING - this is a very long message!
Any replies will not be received until September 17.

Dear list members,

First, I would like to say that the conversations and heated
that have been influenced by "Leaping Into the NET!" are almost enough
to make me feel as if one of my intentions has been a success. I am
excited to see that the concert has brought about discussions about
"what is serious art," the positives and negatives of "hype," - or as I
prefer to see it - exposure for modern dance, and other topics that have
been passionately debated over the past few days.

I would also like to take this opportunity to offer an
explanation of
the intentions behind this project, so that people may judge it with
knowledge. If you are interested, please read on. If you have no idea
what "Leaping Into the NET!" is, and don't really have time to get into
this discussion, now is a good time to get out of this message and move
on with your own agenda.

A description of Leaping Into the NET!:

Leaping Into the NET is a MODERN DANCE CONCERT which uses a
approach to presenting six VERY different dance pieces (that are not
necessarily related in any way to technology). During the Thursday
evening performance, the entire concert was broadcast LIVE on the
Internet, creating an alternate venue for modern dance, which was
available for viewing by anyone and everyone who has access to the
Internet and meets the system requirements for using RealPlayer. Within
the next month, the entire concert will be archived for unlimited
viewing at

What we wanted to achieve:
1. Greater exposure for the performing arts, creating new audiences.
(whew - isn't that what everyone is trying to do! Talk about cliche!)

But seriously, Please consider:

Joe Schmo spends much of his time surfing on the Internet. He has never
heard of modern dance, and he could care less about the performing
arts. During one of his Netsurfing sessions, he happens upon a video of
people dancing. It's strange. Six people are moving around in a
strobe-like presentation (at seven frames per second), yet it is
intriguing. He remembers that it is modern dance. The next day, during
his lunch break, he is out with his co-workers. He sees a poster for a
modern dance concert in his city. While he usually just disregards
these things, he is reminded of the small taste that he received the
night before on his own computer. He starts to talk with his co-workers
about the video that he found the night before, and they all decide that
they will go and see what a live DANCE performance is all about.

Obviously this is an ideal scenario. But we must shoot for the
in order to obtain the reasonable.

2. Getting dance involved in birth process, instead of when internet
video technology is mature enough to become disinterested due to poor
money-making possibilities!

Video technology on the Internet is still fairly crude because
it is so
new. It reminds me of the first photographs which were brown and
grainy. People's expectations of an EXACT REPRESENTATION were probably
denied. Yet, I find it interesting how we look back at those photos
today, and find them more aesthetically pleasing than the pristine
photos which can be taken now, after years of developing (no pun
intended) the technology of photography!
To make another point: In my experience, the performing arts
(particularly dance) tends to wait until a certain technology is closer
to perfection, and by that time, it is much harder to get involved (due
to low funding, lack of interest, etc, etc.) - As a side note, I
commend all of the people on this listserv for not practicing this
One of the reasons that "Leaping Into the NET" was able to
happen was
because the "technological experts" were excited to have a reason to try
some new software! The amount of corporate support for this project was
astounding. And when I say corporate support (which I hope no one here
thinks is "bad word"), I am referring to time and services - not to
money. "Leaping Into the NET" involved five professionals from Adcom
Communications (designing the website, promoting the event, and
providing creative and technical support), some folks from the
Collective (which is in Michigan - not Cleveland), who served the site,
and provided the video card, ATV Varserv, who donated a dual pentium
(what a machine!) for the encoding process, and many more!
Looking back on the entire process, I find it extremely exciting
that I
would have a meeting in a corporate environment in the morning,
rehearsals with dancers in the evening, and then I would find myself in
the apartment of a graffiti artist - posing for costume painting - at
night. What an incredible mix of people coming together!!!!!
Yet I digress...

3. Finding a new way to archive dance

I believe that this explains itself.

The choreography:
The choreography and dance included in this concert was meant to
an entire spectrum of "serious art" to "accessible art" (and THAT can
mean something different for everyone!) If you will permit me to talk
about my personal goals as a choreographer, aside from "technology," I
can say quite a few things.

When I put together a concert, my goal is to provide an audience
with a
large enough range of work that everyone that night can leave having
felt that there was at least one piece that they connected with.
Although each piece that I choreograph comes from a different place, and
has it's own intention, I like to create a whole that is larger than the
sum of its parts. Some choreography may be crafted as I learned in
composition class, some choreography may come straight from inspiration,
some may be a bit more "trite," so that I can let people know that I
understand their sense of humor, as well. Cannot everyone be included
in understanding dance? Sometimes I feel that artists feel successful
when everyone leaves their work scratching their heads. To me, this is
foolery. What is the point of taking it out of your own bedroom if it
is only for yourself? (an extreme point that always has exceptions).
As I enter into the professional world of the performing arts, it has
stricken me that there are some people who mostly just feel comfort in
the ability to complain. I listen to many artists blaming the "fall of
arts" in America on ignorance and laziness. I would like to give people
more credit than that - for I believe if we give people a chance, they
might just enjoy themselves. (Who can enjoy a piece of art when the
artists is telling them that they are too thick to possibly understand
it? - is this "serious art?") Fortunately, I feel the attitude is more
optimistic in this listserv (for the most part), and that most of you
would agree when I say, Let's not COMPLAIN, let's DO!!
Excuse me - Let me remove myself from this soapbox!

After the performances of "Leaping Into the NET," I was
approached by
people from all walks of life telling me which was their favorite piece,
and which one they didn't get at all. I felt that I had accomplished
what I had set out to do when Jack said that his favorite piece was
"Union", but he didn't get "Sketches of Rodin," and Jill said that
"Sketches of Rodin" was the most choreographically sound, but "Within
the Order of Chaos" could have been developed more. While the person
sitting front row, stage left connceted with one piece, the woman
sitting next to her might have hated it. And THAT is what I love about

If any of you have made it this far without dozing off, or
this file, I would like to ask that before you all consider to condemn
or support this project, that you check it out for yourselves. I am a
great fan of criticism, as long as it is well informed, and
CONSTRUCTIVE. If any of you see anything wrong with the event, I would
like to hear your response, and I would like to know WHY. This is how
we can all improve as artists, and as people.

FYI, the archived event will not be available for a few weeks,
please hold your "mice." In fact, if you go to the site now, you will
find a comment that the video is not found. It will remain this way
until the final edited version is ready for online presentation. I will
post a message to the group when it is ready for viewing, and once
again, if anyone feels strongly about it either way, I would love some
constructive feedback.

For those who have read this, I thank you for your time, and for
chance to look back on the whole event. I will be leaving town tomorrow
(Monday), and will not be close to a computer for one week, but I will
look forward to coming back to more discussions. Perhaps now that the
live concert has ended, I will be able to participate more. I have been
reading much of what has been posted within the past six months, and I
think it is very exciting that a group such as this one exists.

Thank you for listening.

Very Sincerely,
Sarah Morrison