Through casual conversations with my peers and colleagues, I have often heard two comments that go a little something like this:
“The Classical arts are aging out” or “Technology is toxic for the arts.”
In some ways, I can see where they are coming from. One example is the New York City Opera, who had abruptly ended its 2013-2014 season in October 2013 and filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy due in part to dwindling ticket sales and diminishing sources of funding available, particularly after the Great Recession of 2008. To a certain degree, one can assume this decrease of interest in opera is partly attributed to the fact the art form tended to attract a “gray” audience with not many people from the next generation to “continue” and “sustain” general interest in it. Although, efforts are currently in the works to revive the City Opera.
Another example is the music industry and piracy. In an article by Ryan Faughnder in the LA Times earlier this year, he wrote that there are 20 million people in the U.S alone who still get music from peer-to-peer file sharing methods. Although many services such as LimeWire and Megaupload have been shut down, the music industry is still not where it was as Faughnder mentions that in 2014 the music revenue was $15 billion, compared to $38 billion in 1999.
Today in 2015, technology is very much a part of our everyday lives from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep (and sometimes even during that)! In a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2014 on mobile technology, 67% find themselves checking their phone for messages, alerts, or calls even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating; 44% have slept with their phone next to their bed because they wanted to make sure they didn’t miss any calls, text messages, or other updates during the night; and 29% describe their cell phone as “something they can’t imagine living without.”
With technology so deeply engraved in our society, there must be a way as artists we can effectively use technology to enhance the appreciation, awareness, and history of the arts without compromising its integrity. I thought about this more this week as I came across two really interesting uses of engaging communities through dance and technology.
NBC’s Musical LIVE! Series:
With its inaugural year in 2013, produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, this program comes together to bring award-winning Broadway musicals performed live right to the television in your living room! Typically to see a musical performed live, one would need to attend a theater to see such a production. Thanks to technology, we now have access to live performances in our home. Although the previous two productions, The Sound of Music LIVE and Peter Pan LIVE, were met with much criticism, this past Thursday’s showing of The Wiz LIVE was the best NBC musical thus far, hands down!
For those who are unfamiliar, The Wiz, is an African-American take on the classic, The Wizard of Oz. The Wiz debuted on Broadway in 1975 with an all Black cast followed by the acclaimed 1978 film starring Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, and Ted Ross. This 2015 version of the musical had some new upgrades with Ipads, Voguing, and Stepping in addition to a stunning cast featuring Queen Latifa, Mary J. Blige, David Alan Grier, Uzo Aduba, Amber Riley, Elijah Kelley, Common, Ne-Yo, Stephanie Mills (who might I add was the original Dorothy on Broadway), and introducing Shanice Williams (who just proved she has what it takes to be a star). All this along with a nostalgic feel in the set and costumes, shows why this art speaks to all generations. And did I mention the performance by Cirque du Soleli was OUTSTANDING!
This showing had approximately 11.5 million viewers! If you haven’t seen it I highly encourage you to do so. The full version is available on NBC’s website here!
Here is a preview to the show:
The soundtrack is pretty amazing as well! Be sure to check it out here! It will officially be released on December 11th.
This is a perfect example of a way to engage dance communities through technology. Seeing the talent is this show was so inspiring to me as a dancer because it showed how attainable and awesome it can be for me to have a career as a performer. I definitely support this movement and I hope it sparks an interest in the arts (dance, music, and theater) with the next generation. There is talk of this production being revived on Broadway in 2016 which is very exciting! If and when it does, I will absolutely be in there and hope you will be too!
Google Cultural Institute:
This is a new initiative by Google launched in 2011, as a partnership to bring the world’s cultural treasures to anyone with an internet connection. This week Google Cultural institute broke ground by introducing 60 of the world’s premiere performing arts organizations such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, The Kennedy Center, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the National Theater of Korea, the Royal Shakespeare Company among others for a total of over 900 cultural institutions! Here, right from your internet device, you can experience 360 degree views of performance recordings, virtual backstage tours, and digital exhibitions. Arts organizations in music, dance, theater, and visual art have released and made their digital archive available to almost everyone in the world!
In the dance field, notable companies such as American Ballet Theatre, Martha Graham Center for Contemporary Dance, Lavitan National Opera and Ballet, The Bolshoi Theatre, and The National Ballet of Canada are now live on the Google Cultural Institute. I have personally gone through some of these companies and I must say it is very cool! It is my hope that through this new accessible information and resources, it will spark a new interest among the upcoming generation. If you are into dance history, this is the place for you! The app is currently available on GooglePlay and will be coming out soon for Apple.
Check out a preview here:
I think this is an amazing opportunity for dance companies to connect and engage communities through dance and technology and hope you all take advantage! Traditionally you would have to attend a show at these venues or by these companies for this kind of access. Not saying this replacing the experience of live performing arts, but more breaks down the barriers and increases its accessibility.
Be sure to check out this great new resource here!