Category Archives: Opinion

Chirstinn Whyte and the new era of screendance

The era of screendance commissioning for television is long over, and within a wider contemporary landscape of sweeping funding cuts, specialist niche festivals – Dance on Screen at The Place, South East Dance Agency’s Dance for Camera Festival in Brighton, and Moves in Manchester and Liverpool – read as a roll call of the fallen.

It is arguably now easier than has ever been the case to create screen-based work using materials found close to hand and home and to access screening opportunities across a variety of technological platforms as part of a rapidly evolving global screen culture – a culture which includes six-second uploadable loops, myriad mobile phone apps and increasingly lightweight recording devices.

– Chirstinn Whyte

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French blog Digidanse

Nicolas Villodre (Collections, La Cinémathèque de la Danse, Paris) reviews After Deren, the new issue of the International Journal of Screendance, and comments on a recent discussion and presentation on Screendance at the Figures du geste dansé;  Digidanse



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Curating Constellations

Screendance makers and scholars often lament the lack of exhibition possibilities outside the common dance film festival format, that is annual competitive screenings that rarely diverge from a discipline-based curatorial approach and focus exclusively on new works of screendance. What might an alternative model look like? Papers and events have continued to revisit the question with varying degrees of success, exploring the setting and duration of screenings, as well as thematic programming, among others. On a recent visit to Liverpool’s Tate Modern, I was inspired by the exhibition ‘Constellations’, a show that organizes works of art into nine different ‘star clusters’, distinct sections arranged conceptually around one influential work designated as the ‘trigger’ :

…the displays offer a fresh way of viewing and understanding artworks through correspondences rather than chronological narrative.

 Acting as the originating ‘trigger’ of each constellation is one artwork that has been chosen for its revolutionary effect on modern and contemporary art. Each of these trigger works is displayed among artworks that relate to it, and to each other, across time and location of origin. Chosen for their similarity to, apparent difference from or transformation of the trigger work, each grouping creates an accumulation of relationships and meaning that extends the themes and concerns of the originating work. (

Imagine the exciting possibilities of experiencing screendance ‘constellations’ that engage in dialogue with one another across diverse eras, styles and formats. What would your first cluster of ‘stars’ look like? The ‘Constellations’ exhibition has certainly inspired me to reflect on alternative curatorial approaches that might allow my own work in screendance programming to provide audiences with a deeper and alternative exploration of the medium and its rich ongoing histories. For anyone interested in brainstorming further on the relationship between screendance and curatorial practices, the electronic journal OnCurating is an interesting resource: 

–Marisa C. Hayes

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Report on 24hr Dance Hack


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If one has 24hrs it doesn’t matter if technology fails at some point, as there is plenty of time to fix it. With 24hrs there is  little pressure to ‘perform’, because there enough time for ideas to emerge and things to happen. There is also a chance to get to know the people who have come together, and one can begin a conversation, continue a few hrs later and resumer the next morning over a cup of coffee. There is even enough time to take a nap, and to come back and see where things are at.

It is not surprising that the the digital community has taken a linking to this sort of working; it is communal, fun, enterprising, supportive, and low pressure.

We started at 7pm on Saturday eve and by Sunday morning there were new hacks to explore, responsive systems that could be interacted with and tested through movement, to find the strange edges where it would kick in, or drop out. It was interesting to see that the hacks would initially encourage movement and lots of it, while over time the same hacks could also be explored as to their potential to slow down and to minimise activity. The different possibilities lead to  specific and precise dialogues between technology and body(ies).

This encounter between technologists and movers seems very timely, as otherwise how will we comprehend,  explore and advance was has already become an ubiquitous feature of the everyday, the interactive screens on which we are represented.  Highly recommended.

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one experience

I had a look at the trailer for a new project by Teddy Forance and others called Movement One.

Fifteen seconds into the trailer, the voiceover (Forance?) says:

It’s always been a dream of mine to combine dance and film into one experience

The thing about this statement that frustrates me is that it seems to imply that this film is something extraordinary or unique, but really it’s just someone using words (any words) to convey ambition and marketing. What does one experience mean? One experience for whom? Audience, choreographer, dancer, filmmaker, camera operator?

Over the entire history of screendance perhaps it is the very few films that haven’t simply combined dance and film that are unique (or extraordinary).

This reminds me of Peter Schmidt’s idea (as told by Brian Eno) of ‘not doing the things that nobody had ever thought of not doing’. If the most basic assumption in screendance is to combine dance and film then it is vital that we continue to search for things that nobody has ever thought of not doing.

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Matthew Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy (1869)

In a new series of BBC Radio4 entitled The Value of Culture Melvyn Bragg explores the idea and evolution of culture.

The programmes reflect on Matthew Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy (1869), described as one of the most celebrated works of social criticism ever written. It forms the basis for a new discussion of what we understand as culture, and how we determine its value. It returns to the question wheather the arts ought to be valued for their own sake, for their lack of use or for whatever else they might do in the world.

For a commentary by Claudia Kappenberg read her blog post.

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Rethinking Capitalism, through dance

In this talk for The Bruce Initiative for Rethinking Capitalism Randy Martin reads dance in terms of sovereignty, rule, governance and capacity, and he reads capitalism through dance. He concludes by saying: ” Dance is straddling between two major strategies of art: the utopian which we have now brought from the distant spectacle into a kind of tactile form, and the interventionist, which is about methods, techniques and the means through which we achieve what we would like to become.”

How does this translate to screendance? It could be argued that screendance is utopian, in that it is the sphere of the imaginary, of invented space-time and mobility. But the screen can also scrutinize, mirror and confront. So perhaps it can equally be interventionist in that it looks back at us and at the everyday?

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I did a lot of dancing in front of the camera the past two weeks.

The project is a new screendance work by Katrina McPherson and Simon Fildes ( and the other two dancers were Rosalind Masson (Scottish artist based in Berlin) and Dai Jian (Chinese artist based in New York).

We talked a lot about our experiences improvising dance in front of the camera: the problems, possibilities, tensions and potentials.

Although the screendance-making process (usually) involves dancing, it seems to be fundamentally different from choreographic processes that result in a performance work. The difference might be thought of as one of separation or isolation.

As a dancer rehearsing for a staged performance you are intimately tied to the production and presentation of that work. Your presence in rehearsal, on stage, and in the creative team remains vital (even in hierarchically organised company structures) and that vitality is experienced through responsibility, time, commitment and care.

These last two weeks, I’ve danced and danced. I’ve looked for newness, welcomed my habits, and attempted to somehow tune my attention inwards whilst remaining aware of – and open to – the way the environment influenced my experience and choices. I felt responsible for my actions, and I cared about how these actions might be viewed and experienced by others (including the camera).

But, after we completed the shoot, my involvement in the project effectively stopped. In this respect, the process of dancing  in a screendance project resembles more closely an actor in a film shoot than it does being a dancer in a traditional choreographic process.

We discussed the dancer’s degrees of separation from the outcome: the dancing we are doing is framed by the camera and operator; the footage is re-framed and processed by the editor; the post-produced video is framed by the screening environment, and then an audience is responsible for attending to this work.

The attention of the audience (whenever and wherever that might be) seems extraordinarily remote from the dancing work we were doing up in Scotland.

Super Human

Last weekend I saw The Avengers (Avengers Assemble in the UK, dir. Joss Whedon). The film, based on Marvel Comics superheroes, features typical Hollywood special effects and an equally typical plot about saving the world—and more specifically Manhattan—from the devastation of alien invasion. Truth be told, I have grown bored with Hollywood superheroes and the lingering anxieties of cultural difference that continue to hide beneath the mask of epic battles between good and evil. What purpose do aliens, superheroes, zombies, and the like collectively serve other than to offer socially approved outlets for xenophobia and megalomania?

As I sat in the theater enveloped in the orange-black hues of onscreen explosions, I allowed my mind to wander and I wondered not only about the superheroes of the comic book variety but also those that have been cropping up in dance. There seems to be a rhetoric around virtuosic dancing that aligns dance with the superhuman. To be sure, the comparison of dancers to gods or superhumans (in a Euro-American context) has been standard fare at least since Nijinsky, but the over-use of slow motion in film and television has surely added to the perception that dancers access something that lies beyond the reach of “normal” human beings. How can anyone dispute the divinity of 2011/Season 8 So You Think You Can Dance (U.S.) winner Melanie Moore when her leap into Neil Haskell’s arms is slowed to keep her aloft like an angel? Time slows for French b-boy Lil Crabe (a.k.a. Arthur Cadre), propping up his balances so as to give viewers adequate time to contemplate his hyper-flexible contortions in the 2012 video “Break Ton Neck” (dir. Aleks Yde). But the link between the dancer and the superhuman has reached new heights with Jon Chu’s Web series The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers, or The LXD, which has been playing on Hulu since the summer of 2010. (For those who can’t access Hulu, videos from the series can also be found on YouTube.)

The format of heroes and villains allows The LXD to showcase truly fabulous movers in dance battles, and the formation of coalitions for good and evil—the Legion on the “good” side, the Alliance of the Dark on the “bad”—offers opportunities for complex group choreography. But like the fistfights and explosions that make superhero movies exciting, dance is both the reason for The LXD’s existence and a recurring disruption. Like many Hollywood dance films in recent memory, good storytelling is sacrificed to good dancing. Eye candy though it may be, The LXD does at least attempt to think outside the limiting frameworks of dance companies, exotic tourist destinations, and “the street” as the only legitimate contexts for popular dance onscreen. Though I find the webisodes aesthetically over-done—overexposed and dizzyingly edited—I appreciate the standard of dance ability the show represents. I still question, however, the usefulness of the superhuman as a model for dance. What does dance stand to gain from investing in this image? Why is dance (still) in need of superheroes?


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This is about as much as art can give anyone

Dance film has a power to draw me like no other form. I have a self-assembled archive. I watch dance films the way I read novels; out of pleasure, slowly, revisiting favourite passages, skipping to bits I particularly like.

— Jana Perkovic, writer, Melbourne

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