The statement that, in our postmodern societies, almost all aspects of visual culture are now synonymous with the cultural phenomenon of digitization, may or may not be an exaggeration. It is obvious that most live events and works, including live performances and visual events such as plays, concerts, dances, exhibitions, films, and even television programmes, have all been subjected to the process of digitization and as such can be experienced via websites (such as www.youtube.com). Due to digitization, we experience most events in an audiovisual form. As a result, most live events and visual works are deeply related to screen. Therefore, we live in a predominantly ‘visual’ culture, a culture in which visual media has produced new ways of signifying. In this sense, I consider that this visual culture is related to cinematic innovations. Artist, programmer and media theorist Lev Manovich (2001) states:
D.N. Rodowick (2010) also makes a diagnosis of twentieth century culture in relation to cinema:
Manovich theorises about what represents a significant change in our culture, although his statement has been criticized as retrospective by media theorists such as Mark Hansen (2006) because Manovich tries to connect the digital to cinema, the analogue media of the past. However, whether it is digital or analogue, no one can deny the fact that our current culture is dominated by audiovisual forms.
Among live events, dance performance has been produced or reproduced in audiovisual formats such as video, DVD and CD-ROM for circulation or archiving. In recent days, moreover, choreographers and dancers have produced dance work as an audiovisual form only for the purpose of screening. Now we go to cinemas or galleries to watch dance, and can easily access dance performances at home or on the move. For example, there are many dance festivals held in cinemas around the world under the title of ‘cine dance’ or ‘film dance’ or ‘dance film’ or ‘screen dance’. Apparently dance faces a new phase.
Throughout the history of dance, it has been influenced by the development of technology, in particular media such as film, video, and television, etc. Dancers and choreographers have adopted these media into their choreography and dance style. Throughout media history, film-makers, producers, and media artists also have adopted dance and choreography into their work. This paper focuses on how the relation between dance and media has evolved until an audiovisual form of dance emerged.
In film history, dance has been adopted by both commercial andavant-garde film-makers from its inception. In the early days, there were generally two types of films which show dancers directly, or adopt a feature of dance, such as rhythm. One of these first films,
One of the early experimental film-makers, Hans Richter, carried out experiments mainly with the rhythm of film itself. His black and white film
The Hollywood film industry has adopted dance as an entertainment form. In 1928, the specific genre of ‘dance film’2) emerged as a type of musical comedy. From the 1930s to the 1950s, musical films proliferated in America. During the 1970s and 1980s, films depicting dance were increasingly incorporated into mainstream movie-making. Hollywood film studios produced a lot of films featuring dance during this period including
Avant-garde film-makers also adopted dance and performance to experiment with aspects of affective arousal. Maya Deren, one of the most influential avant-garde film-makers, filmed dance and choreographed for film during the 1940s in parallel with her involvement in the Katherine Dunham Dance Company. Five films out of her eleven works involve dance. In particular, a black and white silent film
Deren’s examination of the relations between film and dance in terms of shared concepts of the temporal provides an important critical clue in explaining the reason why contemporary dancers and choreographers have striven to utilise screen dance beyond the mere recording of dance as documentary.
As film dedicated itself to visualizing the trajectory of movements, British Animator Norman McLaren produced an experimental animation dance in order to examine these trajectories.
Television too has depicted dance from the earliest days of broadcast media. In 1936 when the BBC was launched in London, ballet was broadcast regularly for the next three years. Since 1954 when Margaret Dale became a BBC producer, she, as an ex-dancer, started to produce large-scale dances for television. In 1971 and 1974, she produced
3) Media and Visual Art
On the basis of the interaction between dance and film, media and visual artists have also adopted dance with regard to the same elements of rhythm, time, emotional expression, and becomingness into their media works. English film-maker, artist, and photographer Sam Taylor-Wood has mainly filmed and photographed performative gestures and movements. She would depict people in emotive states such as anger, sadness, and boredom. One of her films,
Austrian media artist Klaus Obermaier is one of the representative artists creating dance work with new media.4) As media artist, director and composer he has introduced experimental environments onto the stage for dancers. For example,
Avant-garde artists have adopted video, television, and digital devices into their performance pieces, but more recently, it has become common to show an event through media such as big screens in both live concerts and theatre. Goodwin (cited in Auslander 2008, p. 26) depicts this situation succinctly: “attending a live performance… these days is often roughly the experience of watching a small, noisy TV set in a large, crowded field.” And Albright (2010, p. 21) states “where even at live games, most of the viewers are watching the enormous screens to see what” really happened “in those split seconds before the foul.” In fact, these statements are hardly an exaggeration. The adaptation of media has become common in live genre of arts. Artists have created artistic events which can be seen through television or via the screen/computer monitor beyond adopting media onto the stage as a set device. Filmmakers and producers also have collaborated with performers to create a ‘screen work’ beyond featuring performance as a part of their work.
While the visual media have incorporated dance, dancers and choreographers have shown their passions for screening dance, that is ‘screen dance’. There are other various reasons why choreographers and dancers have screened dance. Through media, performance could be demonstrated differently from the presentation on stage, depending on the camerawork and editing techniques. For instance, by manipulating the inherent ‘speed limit’ of the motion of human beings, it is possible to produce more dynamically arresting effects on stage. Also, through close ups, the screen can present movements in minute detail, and even deliver a sense of the dancer’s facially inscribed emotions. Furthermore, camera moves us to experience a new way of watching beyond our perception. In relation to the camerawork, Erin Manning (2009) examines the special effects and meanings which the film potentially suggests:
As Manning suggests, screen dance provides us with new and unconventional mechanisms for experiencing movement. Also, the backdrops of dancing could be diversified to vistas that go beyond the normal stage space. As a result, screen dance could affect the audience in different ways from normative concerns of the traditional stage, as well as creating new audiences for dance. For these reasons, dancers and choreographers such as Pina Bausch, Merce Cunningham, Rosemary Butcher, William Forsythe, and so on have all tried to produce dance for screen.
In the case of Cunningham, he was attracted specifically to the visual effects of media, and used them in diverse ways in his works. Cunningham has applied film and television structures and idiomatic editing techniques to his choreography (Dodds, 2001, p. 32). When he choreographed for television, he considered carefully how content would be presented on a small screen. For example, in
In particular, Cunningham had a long standing creative relationship with video and film-maker Charles Atlas. In 1973, he choreographed
Bausch is one of the representative dancers and choreographers who adopted media and approached dance in an unconventional way. Bausch tried to make connections between dance and theatre as a way of expressing inner emotions and creating new artistic forms. She specifically changed the original dance company’s name Wuppertal Ballet to Tanztheater (‘Dance Theatre’) when she became director of the Tanztheater Wuppertal in Germany in 1973 (the term was originally Rudolf Laban’s). For Bausch, the integration of other media such as film, theatre, video, television and so on into dance was a way of expanding the boundaries of the dance arena as well as embracing what were considered to be ‘ordinary’ or ‘pedestrian’ gestures. She also used video as a tool to remind the dancers of their movements in order to develop their ideas (Climenhaga, 2009, pp. 10, 14-5, 17, 55).
Bausch also remade her original performance work into a film version.
Most of all, however, her direct connection to film is evidenced in the structure of her dance vocabulary and choreography, that is, in terms of the process of choreographing itself. Bausch (as cited in Climenhaga, 2009, p. 47) used to complete her works with an open-ended structure, that is, in processing and collecting small pieces and fragments and editing them at the end as if she was a film-maker or producer: “I don’t think from the beginning to the end, but with small parts that slowly become larger, and so the piece slowly comes together and expands.” In this sense, it can be understood that these dances have a similar form to film on the basis of their shared sense of time and utilisation of editing techniques. Bausch’s process of choreography pioneered the new relations between dance and media. As a result, she has produced a lot of followers, such as Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker and Wim Vandekeybus (Climenhaga, 2009, p. 36).8)
Following Bausch’s experiments, Belgian choreographer and dancer Keersmaeker remade
Frankfurt ballet director William Forsythe has adopted electronic devices and media onto the stage in an attempt to challenge ‘traditional’ conceptions of dance from the 1970’s onwards. His works have been controversially criticized by critics as being difficult works to comprehend because of the complex style of stage settings, including aspects such as puzzling lighting, and the adaptation of electric devices including headphones and microphones: these are sometimes used to amplify dancers’ breathing and sobbing/crying sounds and are accompanied with loud music, as well as Forsythe’s technique of ‘distorting’ the vocabulary of traditional ballet movements. In 1995, he created a black and white video dance
In the majority of cases mentioned above, the adaptation of media reflects not just an interest in media for its own sake but a passion for expanding the boundaries of dance form. To do so, artists have worked with collaborators in other areas, such as sound and visual art, architecture, and technology. Due to this, it is arguable that this reflects an expansion of the traditional role of ‘choreographer’ to that of ‘visual artist’. Butcher is perhaps a case in point. Typically, Butcher has performed in non-theatrical spaces including gallery spaces or the street; for example, in the Whitechapel Art Gallery and Tate Modern in London for
According to a review from
Yvonne Rainer has also been strongly influenced by visual art, working with American avant-garde artists such as Robert Morris and Robert Rauschenberg. Since the 1960s, Rainer started to integrate short films into her choreography. And film had been a constant preoccupation since disbanding her company
Rainer has mainly focused on sexuality, power, and emotion in her films by using narrative and text, which are usually excluded from dance, under the influence of the French film-maker Jean-Luc Godard and American pop artist Andy Warhol. Today, Rainer has firmly established her position as one of the major avant-garde film-makers, producing extended films including
As well as these narrative films, she also reproduced her original dance performances in film, such as
DV8 Physical Theatre based in London, UK is one of the representative dance groups which deal with emotional issues in the area of dance by adopting theatrical elements and film as Bausch did. It has produced screen dance for television (mainly commissioned by the BBC and Channel 4) including
Screen dance is important in both the history of film and dance. The monumental figure Fuller tried to film dance in 1919, as well as being a heroin in one of the first films
Some studies have catered for the interests of screening or filming dance. In 2001, Sherill Dodds wrote on media including film, television, and video featured dance in
What is screen dance? This thesis defines the term screen dance as a genre of dance which is unfolded through screen of media such as television, video, film, and electronic devices. It has been created in collaboration with choreographers, dancers, and film-makers with cinematic techniques. Some works may be produced only for screening, and some works could be reproduced from originally staged works or vice versa. The definition of screen dance was already established in the dance field. ‘
Also, Douglas Rosenberg and Claudia Kappenberg, the editors (2010, pp. 1, 2) of
However, one question should be answered; How could the different areas of screen and dance be merged? Before answering this question, the question of what dance is should be answered. As a person who was never trained as a dancer, I define dance as an art form expressing ideas or emotions through movements of the body. The Oxford English dictionary defines dance: as verb, “1) move rhythmically to music, typically following a set sequence of steps, 2) move in a quick and lively way,” and as a noun, “a series of steps and movements that match the speed and rhythm of a piece of music.” However, while the dictionary and my definitions emphasise ‘movement’, a dancer, choreographer or dance theorist emphasises the time quality in dance. Based on her career as a dancer for 21 years, Schiller (2003,p.49) defines ““dancing” as a process of transforming one’s quotidian bodily inner state.” Claire Colebrook (2005,p.7) defines dance as “at each moment of its actualization a dance.” or an “image of human creative becoming.” Schiller and Colebrook consider dance as a process or transforming or becoming. According to their definitions, dance is more dynamic and abstract beyond a moving action in a space. Based on these definitions, screen dance is a creative process unfolding through screen.
How could the different areas of film or video and dance be merged? Deren and Nam June Paik provide inspiration for an answer. Deren and Paik dealt with media and dance performance as avant-garde artists collaborating with dancers and choreographers. Deren pointed out the significant common features between film and dance such as ‘time’ and ‘movement’, and explored dance with camera. She considered filmic techniques such as editing or camera work as a tool which can expand the restricted stage to the world or infinite space for dancers.
Paik also created the concept of video dance or a video dance with editing or collage technique in
Although one cannot deny the dominant effects of media, it also cannot be said that media changes the ontology of performance fundamentally. Rather, it seems that the involvement of media in performance enforces or even creates new ontological features, such as the ‘liveness’, ‘presence’, ‘catharsis’, ‘disappearance’, and ‘creative transforming’ in its own unique manner. It leads audiences to experience dance alongside new images and with new senses through the ‘mechanical eyes’. Therefore, it can be said that screen performance or dance ‘is’ a performative work on the basis of the reproduced features by media. Deren (McPherson ed., 2005, p. 252) said: “In this sense, this film is a dance.”
1)American dancer and choreographer Loїe Fuller (1862-1928) experimented with different lighting effects and invented a “Garment for Dancers” in 1894 which was soon adapted by other dancers and filmed for one of early silent movies (Salter, 2010, pp. 225-27). Also Fuller introduced a new way of using media in theatre by projecting film on huge gauze robes which operated as a screen in 1911 (Dixon, 2007, p. 73). Futhermore, she produced Le Lys de la Vie, 35mm colour film, to experiment with light and movement in 1919 (Dodds, 2001, p. 5). Erin Brannigan (2011, pp. 34-7) argues that Fuller is an innovative figure in early cinema history and led avant-garde film-makers. 2)Brannigan (2011, p. vii) defines the term ‘dance film’ is “a modality that appears across various types of films including the musical and experimental shorts and is characterized by a filmic performance dominated by choreographic strategies or effects.” 3)The Centre for Research into Creation in the Performance Arts, Middlesex University http://www.robat.scl.net/content/ResCenSite/Rosemary_Lee/rose01.html http://www.artsadmin.co.uk/projects.boy 4)Gretchen Schiller (2003, p. 12) calls these types of dance “mediadance”. According to her definition, “Mediadance is one of many art forms that integrates computer-based technologies,” such as “interactive-art, CD-ROM based interactive art, virtual reality, netart, telematics, and technologically-mediated performance and video gaming.” 5)From an interview by Siouxwire in June 2007. http://siouxwire-annex.blogspot.kr/2007/06/interview-klaus-obermaier.html 6)Torso was first released on 28 August 2010 in the Tate Modern Turbine Hall, UK during the series of Tate Film: Charles Atlas / Michael Clark, 28-29 August 2010. 7)This film Pina was premiered in the Berlin film festival on 13 February 2011. It started to shoot two days later Bausch died (Higgins, 2011). 8)Also Johannes Birringer (1998, pp. 76-7) mentions Keersmaeker, Alison Murray, Lisa Cochrane, Edouard Lock, Lloyd Newson, Jean Claude Gallotta, and Vandekeybus as outstanding video dance makers. 9)From the Rosemary Butcher website: www.rosemarybutcher.com 10)From the DV8 Theatre website: www.dv8.co.uk 11)Lloyd Newson on Dance in Dance Now (Summer 1993), pp. 11-13. From the website: www.dv8.co.uk/about_dv8/interview_dance_now_lloyd_newson_on_dance 12)British Council website: www.britishcouncil.org/new/forward-motion/Forward-Motion-Articles-Folder/What-is-Screen-Dance/
In the digital era, in fact, we can experience almost every type of visual art through screen regardless of the type of media such as film or video. These types of media would be embraced in digitalization. We face only screens of electronic devices to access visual and performing arts. In this sense, screen has replaced stage and is ‘becoming space’ for performance. This two dimensional space has a lot of potentiality for performers. Maya Deren (McPherson ed., 2005, pp. 221, 230) filmed dance to give dancers “the world as a stage” or to “make the dancer transcend space, to be everywhere and anywhere” and “nowhere”. This space could be “any-space-whatever” in terms of Deleuze.
When we examined the history of performance arts that incorporate new media, it could be seen that there was arguably more fundamental relations between the two areas. From the early history of media, choreographers and dancers such as Loїe Fuller and Merce Cunningham have experimented with media to examine the movements of the body and the way of perceiving, and dance has been incorporated into media by film-makers, media artists, and television programme producers. Particularly, the life of American dancer and choreographer Yvonne Rainer, who turned her career towards being a film-maker, seems to prove the close relation between dance and film. These artists have worked on the basis of the similar features between the two areas including time, becomingness, motion, rhythm, and so forth. Many artists and choreographers have continuously produced or screened dance beyond making documentaries or simply recording pre-existing dance works.
It could be argued that watching moving bodies in the auditorium is a more direct and real way of experiencing dance than watching via screen. However, according to many choreographers who have tried to create screen dance, film or video has the possibility or potentiality to express specific philosophies and intentions, as well as leading the audience to inspect dance on a more detailed level. In this context, screen dance has had the potential to consider dance and spectatorship into a more expanded conception of itself. Cunningham (cited in Dodds, 2001, p. 71) states: “movements can be seen clearer and in more detail on the screen than stage.”
Film, video, and other media could create ‘striking visual images’ and ‘unconventional perspectives’ when combined with artistic effects and new camera techniques such as the close-up and long-shot as well as interacting with new editing possibilities and the possibilities afforded by the extension of the dance space.