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Back to the Future

Technology pushes boundaries, provides new opportunities, and expands horizons. Advancement in technology can enhance our dancing, teaching, and health, let alone our everyday activities like communication, learning, and travel. These technological advancements are balanced with an art form that has existed for hundreds of years. What are some way we can incorporate new technologies in an ancient art form to optimize our performance?

Firstly, in terms of an art form, dance has always progressed and advanced. There are new dance movements and styles being continuously developed and shared. On the other hand, many forms of dance, such as classical ballet, maintain strongly codified roots in the same movement patterns that were developed hundreds of year ago. Whichever style of dance is practiced, technological advancements have had a profound influence. From shoe wear to lighting, technology has allowed dance to progress and advance.

One of the major technological advancements for dancers has been the development and continual improvement of video recording. Currently, with the relative affordability and availability of visual equipment, video recording has become an important dance component. Filming has now become valuable for choreography retention, dance critique, and social media. Video recording can also be applied for dancer health. Taking video of a warm up or routine and examining correct technique together can be helpful to isolate movements that may improve quality of dancing, but will also be helpful in isolating motions that can place a dancer at risk for injury. Since incorrect technique may lead to injury, designated time and film to these areas can decrease the risk of an injury. If an acute dance injury happens to be recorded, bringing this video to a doctor can help with diagnosis and treatment options. When recovering from an injury, taking video of exercises can help a dancer remember which exercises they should be doing. Even though we have advanced technology, such as an MRI, in medicine, often a simple video can be the most useful to get back to dancing.

Another technology that can be helpful to dancers is scheduling and volunteering apps. As groups, studios, universities, and companies often rely on volunteers to help out, scheduling all these times can present a challenge. Sometimes it is difficult to get volunteers to sign up because the extent of need is unknown. Other times too many volunteers sign up and may be frustrated that they are not fully needed. Using a scheduling app can help mitigate some challenges for organizations. This is important to reduce stress, prevent burnout, and improve the mental well-being of all involved – both volunteers and organizers.

While we may not always think of technology as an influence on essential dance items, such as the dance floor or costuming, these are some of the most important technological advancements for dancers. Dancing on a sprung floor is important to protect the joints and body from the impact in dance technique. Being aware if a floor is appropriately sprung can help teachers, dancers, and choreographers know how to tailor movement to keep the dancers on their feet and off the sidelines. Additionally, something as simple as flexible fabric for a costume rather than a stiff corset can make a difference in both quality of dance movement and avoiding injuries.

Technology continues to serve as an inspiration for choreographic exploration. Costumes with built in lighting, make-up with reflective properties, and stage effects, to name just a few, can all enhance a dramatic vision. It is crucial that every technological exploration maintain the human element. By this, I mean that technology in dance provides unique opportunities but in most cases, human dancers are still the working element on stage. Therefore, these advancements and explorations must be balanced with respect for the human body. As always, it is a balance between recognizing limits and pushing those as far as possible. It’s a balance between human and machine. This balance, when done well, allows a dancer, choreographer, teacher to succeed in both wellness and wowness.


Writer: Kathleen Davenport, MD

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