- Discuss current trends in dance
- Analyze cultural elements in current dance trends
- Identify influential multimedia artists
—Carl D. Sanders, Jr.
Dance and Technology
Many changes have come about in the dance world since the COVID pandemic. Dancers have learned to work remotely, taking classes online and even staging Zoom performances. Social media platforms were already popular, but there was a surge in dance videos during the pandemic as well.
What exactly is social media? Social media can be defined as the creation or sharing of content—such as photos, videos, or written information—through the use of websites or similar platforms that users post and share this content to for social networking, business, or just to be seen. This platform has increased visibility for everything, but dance in particular. Because of the use of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, and TikTok, dance has received so much more press and viewership. If you want to get noticed or seen as a dancer by others, if you have a dance studio and want others to see what you have to offer, or if you just want to showcase your work for classes that you teach, social media, with the use of the platforms mentioned above is a great way to do it. The majority of people use at least one or more of these social media platforms to gather information on the latest dance craze (TikTok), to watch a dance class or participate in one (YouTube), or just simply to be entertained without having to attend a dance concert or performance in person. Social media has clearly changed the way in which we have structured our lives, but more importantly, it has created a generation of quicker accessibility to advertise, promote, and create dance on a much larger scale than ever before.
One way that dance teachers, studios, choreographers, and dance companies are surviving the changing times is by making the crossover to a hybrid model. They might teach in person or on the internet. Instead of a studio, they use a phone or tablet in their living room. They might create asynchronous material and sell the same class on-demand over and over. Or a dance company might offer a workshop or performance for online viewing for a small fee. This is called omnichannel, or integrated marketing, “a marketing approach that provides your customers with integrated shopping experiences, such as by providing a seamless experience between desktop, mobile, and brick-and-mortar.” In order to survive, dance entrepreneurs have to be flexible and create hybrid forms to deliver their dance content to the public.
Helanius J. Wilkins, a native of Lafayette, Louisiana, is an award-winning choreographer, performance artist, innovator, and educator. Rooted in the interconnections of American contemporary performance, cultural history, and identities of Black men, Wilkins’s creative research investigates the raced dancing body and the ways that ritual can access forms of knowledge. Intrigued by ideas about indeterminacy, he approaches performance-making and pedagogy as a means of re-framing perspectives, creative practices, linking the arts and social justice, and blurring the lines between performer and audience. As a choreographer for stage and as a filmmaker, he draws inspiration from his upbringing in Lafayette, LA, one shaped by resilience, and his identity as a Black American to create original works that allow for moments of recognition and transformation. In his intermedia collaborations he works with artists from a wide range of disciplines, including film, video, and design.
Grounded in a belief that embodied practices give us ways of knowing ourselves and our communities, dance, for Wilkins, becomes a vehicle for understanding complex issues around race, culture, and inclusivity. He embraces the fullness of his identity, including his Creole heritage and being a Lafayette, LA, native, as rich resources for defining an “American identity” shaped by hybridity, resilience and coexistence.
At the start of the pandemic in 2020, dance classes went online. Students used Zoom or other virtual mediums to continue their training. Teachers equipped themselves with microphones and learned how to present class online. Students found a space at home where they could dance. Thus, a new way to learn dance has opened up, making it possible to study all forms of dance with teachers around the world. A lot of dance class videos can be found on YouTube, Vimeo and Twitch. In addition, dance teachers, companies, and organizations offer live fee-based virtual classes for anyone to take.
The use of technology in the 21st century has been difficult to remove dance from. It is so prevalent that almost all forms of auditions for scholarships, dance companies, dance lines, and even dance studios will require an uploaded video of your dance presentation. It has been made possible through technology for the dancer to develop their artistry with various technological outlets to express themselves on a larger and definitely a much more creative scale. The effects are limitless. Lighting, costuming, and special effects, along with great editing techniques, can make a dance performance or show very impressive and truly grab hold of a viewing audience.
Screendance combines dance and filmmaking to create a cinematic experience. Screendance focuses on the “dancing body as the primary subject of creative expression” (ACDA). The movements created are explicitly devised with the camera in mind, and the camera captures the performance and directs the viewers’ eyes. Through various editing techniques, the dance is further manipulated to bring an element of storytelling. Close-ups of the dancers can provide a sense of intimacy, while speeding the time of a frame can give a sense of urgency. Today, several dance film festivals occur worldwide, offering a platform for artists to share their works.
The San Francisco Dance Film Festival trailer.
The TikTok Era
TikTok has become a viral social media platform in the 21st century, providing a way for people to create and share dances. The app launched in 2016 but became popular during the quarantine period of the COVID-19 pandemic. People began participating in dance-challenge videos, learning short routines set to popular songs, and reposting. The dances used on the app have become dance crazes featuring hip-hop-inspired movements, like the Dougie and the Dice Roll and Throw. TikTok dances are based on the premise that “everyone can do it,” with movements being repetitive, “recognizable and easily reproducible” (Burke). This has allowed people to come together to learn the dances, providing a social aspect. It has also offered a space to connect with people worldwide by enabling users to follow each other, share and download content, and make comments. Popular TikTok users who have gone viral may have financial opportunities, with companies endorsing them to promote their products. Although TikTok has become an accessible way for people to engage with dance, issues concerning choreography and intellectual copyrights have become increasingly important in protecting artists’ work.
The Trend of Dance as Competition
Prior to the twentieth century, most dance was a social activity or was performance based. Dance as a competitive sport is fairly new. Competition dance today is a lucrative business for traveling dance competition companies. It is a widespread sport in which competitive teams from different dance studios or schools perform in styles such as tap, jazz, ballet, modern, lyrical, contemporary, hip-hop, acro, and musical theater before a common group of judges. Dance competition events bring dancers together to showcase their talents, receive feedback from judges, and compete to earn recognition, typically through awards. The number of national competitions has ballooned into the hundreds since the 1980s. For individual competitors, the costs can easily top $1,000 per month.
In 2005, a dance competition reality show called So You Think You Can Dance premiered and spurred a number of dance-themed competition reality shows such as Dance Moms, Dancing with the Stars, and World of Dance. Shows like this were highly influential in both the dance industry and with aspiring dancers as well.
Dance as competition has changed the way many young dancers see dance. Dance as an art form or for personal expression is not as valued in the competition world, which stresses dazzling technical feats, group precision, high energy, and over-the-top facial expressions to catch the eye of the judges. It is not until these dancers enter a college dance program or begin to audition for professional concert dance companies that they begin to understand the complexities of dance aesthetics. Fortunately, there seems to be a trend merging the two seemingly opposite camps. Dancers who understand the commercial world as well as the concert world and who are trained in a wide variety of styles are increasingly sought after by film directors, music artists, TV productions, and Broadway shows, as well as by professional dance companies.
Dance Health and Wellness
Dance is beneficial to our health and fitness. The exercise it provides leads to a strong and toned body, the endorphins it releases contribute to an improved mental outlook, and the socialization of shared dancing offers us support and community. Public dance classes are available in traditional genres. In addition, new hybrid dance classes aimed specifically at fitness have developed. Zumba uses salsa steps and rhythms in a dance class of non-stop movement. Jazzercise is a dance franchise that uses jazz dance in its fitness program. Other dance fitness trends emerge continually.
Around the globe there are organizations aimed at developing community dance programs. People Dancing, a UK group, supports dance programs for all across the country, including therapeutic dance, like dance for People with Parkinson’s. Similar programs exist worldwide, including in the US.
Dance and Movement Therapy
There are a variety of ways that dance and movement therapy can be used to enhance the quality of life among people. The American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) describes these techniques as “psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote emotional, social, cognitive, and physical integration to improve a person’s overall well-being” (ADTA). Dance therapists work in a wide variety of settings, from hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, and drug treatment facilities to schools, nursing homes, community centers, and prisons. They can also work as freelancers or by founding private practices.
An article in Headway, a journal for brain injury, quoted research fellow Dr. Gemma-Collard Stokes, who said, “What we have in dance is a uniquely rich sensorial experience that combines physical, cognitive and socially stimulating activities…Stimulating our sensory systems through dance can assist in the process of rebuilding the pathways between cognition and our motor skills.”
Dance/Movement Therapy Video:
Dance for Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects a person’s ability to move, causing freezing, unintended, or uncontrollable movement of the muscles. Several programs offer specialized classes to aid people with Parkinson’s, helping to improve aspects such as balance, flexibility, coordination, and forming a mind-body connection.
Dance for Parkinson’s classes empower participants to explore movement and music in ways that are stimulating, refreshing and creative. The classes are designed for people with PD and their companions, offering a fun and creative outlet to them in the form of dance.
The Dance for PD® program was developed and implemented by the Mark Morris Dance Group of Brooklyn, NY. Dance for PD is internationally active and acknowledged as an effective way to manage symptoms of Parkinson’s through movement, music, imagery, and socialization. Extensive information on the program and its effectiveness, along with scientific research to support the work, can be found on the Dance for PD website. People suffering from other complaints like neuropathy, dementia, and traumatic brain injury also find benefit in attending these dance classes.
Meet members of Brooklyn’s flagship Dance for PD® class and learn why the program has become such an important part of their lives—and why you belong here too.
People Dancing is “the UK development organization and membership body for community and participatory dance.” They promote dance as a fun and healthy activity for all people by engaging “the general public in creating and performing dance with friends and families.”
National and Global Dance Initiatives
Through various initiatives, national and global dance events have allowed people to connect to the broader dance community. These events include celebrating dance as an art form, honoring dance artists, fundraising, and spreading awareness on important issues.
- International Dance Day was established in 1982 by The Dance Committee of the International Theatre Institute (ITI). This event occurs annually on April 29, the birth date of Jean-Georges Noverre, in honor of his early contributions to ballet. International Dance Day aims to promote dance worldwide to heighten awareness of its value in society.
- In the United States, National Dance Day celebrates all dance forms and is held on the third Saturday in September. It was established in 2010 by Nigel Lythgoe and Adam Shankman of the dance competition show So You Think You Can Dance with support from American congresswoman Eleanor Holmes. Every year, the Dizzy Feet Foundation creates a dance tutorial and uploads it online, encouraging people to learn the movement to support dance’s artistic expression and health benefits.
- Global Water Dances emerged from a 2008 Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies (LIMS) conference, addressing the theme “Dance and the Environment.” In 2011, Global Water Dances held its first event with 57 locations over 24 hours. Participants join a Movement Choir, “events that use community dance to create social cohesion through non-verbal communication,” dancing near a body of water to address local water issues for environmental and social change (Global Water Dances).
- The National Water Dance is held annually, using dance as a platform for social change, advocating for awareness of water-related environmental issues in participants’ respective geographic areas, like cleanliness, accessibility, and sustainability. Through the medium of dance and site-specific performance, participants begin their dance with the same opening and beginning movements, to acknowledge that “shared movements link all of us together, which is the spirit and power of a movement choir,” from the National Water Dance Project (NWDP). Performances are held virtually, and all are invited to participate.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
The concepts of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion emerged in response to the 1960s civil rights movement as people of color protested for fair treatment as citizens. Social changes began in education and workplaces to increase awareness and respect for racial differences. In a society encompassing people of varying backgrounds, consideration of diversity to include representation of people came underway to embrace individual differences. This led to the implementation of equity , equal opportunities and resources for all persons, and inclusion to ensure people feel valued. In recent years, issues surrounding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) have surfaced in the dance field. Historically, dance has drawn from Eurocentric values and traditions that have caused barriers in the profession in areas like hiring and casting. Discriminatory factors of ethnicity, race, gender, age, body weight, sexuality, or disability have left dancers marginalized in the dance profession. Today, dance artists and educators strive to increase awareness of these issues to improve all realms of DEI.
There is no doubt that the world of dance has been changing rapidly and will continue to adapt in response to new circumstances in our social, political, economic situations as well as with advancements in technology. Dance and technology have partnered to create new ways of choreographing, performing, teaching, and dancing. Dancers around the world are more connected than ever before, and this sharing means that the dance community is more diverse and inclusive than ever. Whether it’s through Zoom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Twitch, Vimeo, TikTok, Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr, or a new app that’s yet to be invented, dancers will continue to share their passion for the art form and to explore new ideas inspired by what they see.
National and global dance events have also allowed people to connect to the broader dance community. The world is learning that dance is not just fun, but beneficial to our health and fitness. The exercise it provides leads to a strong and toned body, the endorphins it releases contribute to an improved mental outlook, and the socialization of shared dancing offers us support and community.
Roque, Noel. “5 Trends That Will Change the Future of Dance.” worlddancegroup.com. Accessed July 28, 2022. https://worlddancegroup.com/blog/f/5-trends-the-will-change-the-dance-industry.
National Water Dance Project. Dancing Out of Time. Facebook, 25, January 2022, Accessed 7, June 2022.
Sanders, Carl D., Jr. “An Exploration into Digital Technology and Applications for the Advancement of Dance Education.” University of California, Irvine ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2021. 28541396. https://www.proquest.com/openview/34554a3e2e38a343aad969f155e90851/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y
“Parkinson’s Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments.” National Institute on Aging. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed June 2, 2022. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/parkinsons-disease .
“Jazzercise.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, May 21, 2022. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jazzercise.
“Zumba.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, May 30, 2022. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zumba.
Johnson, Ali. “Copyrighting TikTok Dances: Choreography in the Internet Age.” UW Law Digital Commons. Accessed June 4, 2022. https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/wlr/vol96/iss3/12/.
Burke, Siobhan. “What Makes a TikTok Dance Go Viral?” Dance Magazine, December 22, 2021. https://www.dancemagazine.com/popular-tiktok-dances/.
“International Dance Day – April 29.” National Today, August 5, 2021. https://nationaltoday.com/international-dance-day/.
“National Dance Day.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, October 5, 2021. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Dance_Day.
Admin. “National Dance Day.” American Dance Movement, January 6, 2022. http://americandancemovement.org/national-dance-day/.
“Home.” Global Water Dances. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://globalwaterdances.org/about/.
“About.” NDEO. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://www.ndeo.org/About/Thank-A-Dance-Teacher-Day.
Love, Alexandria. “When Did We Add the ‘Equity’ to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?” Berrett-Koehler Publishers Blog. Accessed June 15, 2022. https://ideas.bkconnection.com/when-did-we-add-the-equity-to-diversity-equity-and-inclusion.
“Project PLIE – ABT: Membership & Support.” ABT. Accessed June 14, 2022. https://support.abt.org/projectplie.
Schupp, K. (2016). Dance Competition Culture and Capitalism. Congress on Research in Dance Conference Proceedings, 2016, 361-368. doi:10.1017/cor.2016.48
Friscia, Suzannah. “Is the Line between Concert and Commercial Dance Finally Fading?” Dance Magazine, December 9, 2021. https://www.dancemagazine.com/concert-dance-vs-commercial-dance/.
A fitness program that involves cardio and Latin-inspired dance.