Posts Tagged ‘youtube’

Street Dances with Screen Smarts Pt 2

How media sharing is changing the value proposition of street dance

Since its inception, street dance has benefited from it’s organic connection to hip hop music and urban culture. Arising in the 1970’s out of disco, funk, and the black and latino urban cultures in America’s inner cities, hip hop culture encompasses all the art forms including music, visual art, dance, and poetry, as well as fashion and design. As hip hop has spread from the underground to the mainstream culture, it has gained a foothold in large entertainment and media industries as well. The Sugar Hill Gang and Run DMC became some of the first Billboard topping hip hop music groups, sparking megastars like Michael Jackson and Blondie to embrace and emulate this new vibrant street culture in their music and videos. Along with hip hop’s rise in popularity, street dance forms such as break dancing (or bboying) became well known and dance crews arose on every street corner and club where hip hop music spread.

Still to this day, street dance styles develop in tandem with new strains of hip hop, electronic and club music. The two disciplines of dance and music virtually exist to support each other. Club music is made to get people dancing, and the dance styles form around the different rhythms and vibes of the music. Since the decline of hip hop music sales, simultaneous with the rise of video’s popularity online, the power dynamic of the two art forms are shifting. Previously the hip hop music industry was the giant, and hip hop dance played a supporting role in music videos and stage shows. Now however, hip hop dance seems to be moving ahead through its popularity with viral video hits. Today dance videos are becoming important ways for music tracks to get noticed, rather than the other way around.

Marquese Scott, aka Nonstop, is a streetdancer from Inglewood, CA. He started dancing in high school after jumping in a dance circle at a local skating rink and getting “maxed” (laughed at and humiliated in front of his friends), which spurred him on to practice and win other dance battles. Today he is part of the Atlanta-based dance crew RemoteControl and his specialty is “animation”, a robotic style of motion that comes out of poplocking and autobot dance styles.

After a special appearance on So You Think You Can Dance with Remote Control, Nonstop began posting solo videos on YouTube that garnered a great deal of attention. His biggest hit was a solo performed to Butch Clancy’s dubstep remix of “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People. Seen over 24 million times, Nonstop’s simple video was done in a single take from a camera he left on a tripod. What follows is a mindblowing display of movement that seems to defy gravity, time, and any other human constraints. The video was immediately picked up by bloggers and major media outlets who fueled its viral fire. While Foster the People’s single was already a break away hit, Nonstop’s video elevated the dubstep remix version to chart topping levels as well.

Since his YouTube success, Nonstop has become a sought after dancer for commercials, music videos, and live appearances. His story reveals an alternate path to a career in dance that is becoming more common in the era of online video. As streetdancers continue to post viral video hits online, videodance is poised to become a major pop culture phenomenon, akin to music video on MTV thirty years ago. Dance and music will still be inexorably intertwined, but this time, the dancers will get credit and esteem as well.

Street Dances With Screen Smarts (Part 1 of 3)

Encompassing a multitude of urban dance forms from breaking to crumping, and from popping to jerking, street dance is a thriving movement with both a strong amateur community and a robust industry of professional artists. Since the launch of social media and web video technology, street dance has had an artistic renaissance. No longer relegated to local street corners and individual club scenes, street dancers have fully exploited new media outlets to share their moves with a global community eager to see and learn more.

In this three part series we will discuss:

  1. The artistic effects of media sharing on the development of street dance forms.
  2. How media sharing is changing the value proposition of street dance.
  3. What the concert dance world can learn from street dance in the video age.

Pt 1: The artistic effects of media sharing on the development of street dance forms

In October 2009 a crew of young Oakland street dancers uploaded a video on YouTube that showed four of them meeting on a street corner in the rain. The music was solemn and reverential, and their moves were graceful and emotional. Unlike most street dances, these dancers weren’t battling it out, instead they were paying tribute to a brother who had died on that street corner, and expressing their grief the way they knew best, by dancing. Unbeknownst to them, this video would put these artists on the international map and set the course of their careers.

The crew is TURF FEINZ, and they were filmed by their long time friends and collaborators, the Oakland-based video production company, YAK FILMS. Within a few weeks the video had gone viral in Europe, spreading from Germany to France, then to Brazil, Russia, and Denmark. Ten months later, the video took off stateside and today it stands at 3 million hits and counting. YAK FILMS have gone on to produce a weekly video series cataloging the street dance from around the world, and TURF FEINZ now has their own internationally recognized dance style called Turfing. Among other things, YAK FILMS puts out a very popular series of street dance tutorials taught by rising talents. Here is one on how to do the wave taught by Chonkie from TURF FEINZ.

In street dance, the goal is to be seen as the biggest, baddest dancer out there. One of the ways to do that is to coin a new move or a unique style that everyone tries to copy. Street dance choreography is generally made in a competitive environment, with dancers literally battling each other. The more their moves are copied, the better bragging rights the originator has. As moves get copied, each imitator tries to put their own stamp on the choreography, resulting in many mutations and variations on the original. With the advent of YouTube and online video sharing, this evolutionary process has gone into overdrive. Now a single video can be seen by millions of viewers worldwide in a matter of days or hours. When a street dance video goes viral, the choreography will be copied by hundreds if not thousands of other dancers and tweaked each time. These imitators will post their own videos online, and if even a couple of these go viral again, it starts a new wave of mutations. In this way, street dance forms are evolving at a breakneck speed. If an evolutionary biologist were to study street dance, they would be astounded at the rate of new moves, genres, and styles being made all the time. The developments in this form are growing at an exponential pace. As a result more has happened in street dance in the past five years than in the 30 years prior.

Chris Anderson, the curator of TED conferences, mentioned the phenomenal growth of street dance in his TEDtalk “How web video powers global innovation.” Anderson presented his theory of “Crowd Accelerated Innovation” to explain the rapid evolution occurring in many cultural and scientific sectors today. The way street dance spreads is a perfect illustration of the three components that make up “Crowd Accelerated Innovation.” First you need a CROWD of people that share a common interest, then LIGHT or clarity need to be shed on the crowd so that they can all see each other, and lastly you need the DESIRE to excel. Street dance was already a global movement when YouTube appeared, but the light that web video was able to shed on dancers everywhere from rural villages to inner city street corners enabled dancers to reach for greater recognition and influence on a scale never possible before. Anderson says that “Crowd Accelerated Innovation” is a kind of positive feedback loop where the more light that gets shed on the street dance movement, the more people desire to become dance stars in their own right and join the ranks of the crowd.

Jon M. Chu, filmmaker and creator of the popular web series, The LXD (The Legion of eXtraordinary Dancers) spoke of the new renaissance happening in street dance in his TED talk by saying, “Dance has never had a better friend than technology…Dancers have created a whole global laboratory online. Kids in Japan are taking moves from a YouTube video created in Detroit, building on it within days and releasing a new video, while teenagers in California are taking the Japanese video and remixing it to create a whole new dance style.” Chu speaks from experience as the director of the blockbuster hit movie, Step Up 2: The Streets and his latest success with The LXD, that was cast entirely through YouTube audition videos. Chu believes that what is happening right now in the “underground” street dance community will resurrect the popularity of dance to its status during the Golden Age of movie musicals. Once again kids will grow up with dance heros like past generations had with Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and Michael Jackson.

What is immediately apparent when watching TURF FEINZ’s video is that the dancers are well versed in many dance techniques including ballet, jazz, and modern, as well as street dance forms like breaking and locking. In an interview for the Bay Citizen, YAK FILMS director, Yoram Savion said that YouTube has been important in the development of TURF’s signature style. “The dancers would come to my office and watch YouTube videos,” Savion said. “They’d watch everything. Once we even saw a random video of 1950s jazz dancing in Chicago that the dancers would incorporate into TURF.”

As street dance continues to garner devoted fans on YouTube, and new moves spread like wildfire across the internet, big media industries are taking note of it’s rising popularity. Street dance professionals are finding plenty of demand for their work, and an entire indie dance/film industry is rising up around the culture. YAK FILMS is an example of how one production company got its start by specializing in urban street dance. In the next segment of this series, we’ll examine how the video age is effecting the commercial potential for street dance giving it an economic edge over other many other dance forms.

Beyoncé’s “Countdown” Video – Theft or Flattery?

Contemporary dance lovers and dance film aficionados have been set afire by the latest music video by pop sensation Beyoncé Knowles. “Countdown” is a breezy number about all the ways to “keep your man,” however beyond the driving beat and batting eyelashes the video displays many blatant quotes from works by choreographer Anne Theresa de Keersmaeker, including her seminal dance film “Rosas danst Rosas” and “Achterland.”

To see the quotes clearly, some fans of de Keersmaeker put together this video showing Beyoncé’s video and the original material by de Keersmaeker side by side. Incredibly, it is the second video that comes up when you search for “Countdown beyoncé” in YouTube!

In a statement for the social network,, de Keersmaeker responded to the hubbub by saying that she is neither flattered nor upset by the heavy borrowing from Beyoncé, rather she is sad that it has taken so long for the world to recognize her dance experimentations from 30 years ago.

Personally, I think it is great that Beyoncé and her creative team have brought these dance works into mainstream consciousness. I’m also happy that the arts community has responded with a flurry of comments on YouTube because it is leading Beyoncé’s fans to see de Keersmaeker’s work for themselves.

This is not the first time Beyoncé has quoted great choreography. Her viral video hit “Single Ladies” was clearly inspired by Bob Fosse’s choreography for “Mexican Breakfast” (Beyoncé found as a video mash-up with the rap song “Walk it Out” and has since been removed from YouTube). What was wonderful about “Single Ladies” was all the subsequent copying that happened around the world with millions of fans reconstructing the choreography and posting it online. From fat men to 3 year old kids, everyone and their brother learned that piece of choreography to perfection. Can one wish for anything more as a choreographer? It was a stroke of marketing genius for Beyoncé to give that choreography away for millions to copy and share. I can only hope that “Countdown” does the same.

What do you think? Are you outraged or overjoyed? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Update 10-26-11: Here’s a news clip from Reuters announcing de Keersmaeker’s pending law suit against Beyoncé. Doesn’t look like she’s taking the imitation as flattery!

Weekly Webdance: May 12

This week’s featured video is “in the kitchen” by Alice Gosti. Although this is a single-shot, single-angle dance short, I find the use of private space in a public (at least online) performance to be quite compelling. “in the kitchen” is a great example of low-budget, spur-of-the-moment, improvisational videodance and is also one of several video posts in an ongoing webdance conversation called You’re Right Here. Visit the blog for the rest of the dialogue!

YouTube Preview Image

Check out more featured web dances on our YouTube Channel.

Develop and Feature Dance Films and Videodances with Movement Media

Announcing Movement Media’s YouTube Channel: FilmingDance4web Video Dance Channel

Featuring Artistic Video dances made by amazing choreographers, dancers, video artists, film directors, dance companies, and beginning film makers interested in making dance for camera.

Join Our Videodance Community of Artists by sharing your work with us.

Choreographer, Christine Soriano. Photo by Rex Miller

Types of videos featured on Video Dance Channel:

  • Dance Installations from Museums
  • Works created for Video Art Festivals
  • Dance Films featured in Dance Film Festivals
  • Urban Dance Projects
  • Dance Company Artists: Choreography and Movement for Camera
  • Creative Stories and Video Art developed by Artists from across the Globe.
  • Flashmob Dance Videos
  • Dance ‘Webisodes’
  • Silly, ‘Just for fun videos’
  • Videos by Emerging Artists within the Videodance Community

Movement Media helps Emerging Film Artists develop creative projects.

Photo by Lois Greenfield

  • Attend our Meet-up Groups to Practice Filming Dance (dates and locations to be announced in up-coming weeks).
  • Your videos can be featured on our channel for viewing, feedback, and discussion by artists in the videodance community.

Your videodance may be:

  • featured on our Video Dance Channel
  • chosen for our Kinetic Cinema Screenings,
  • or showcased at our annual UMove Online Videodance Festival

Movement Media also offers services to help dance companies, choreographers and other artists develop work for film festivals, art installations, and other film projects.

Urban Playground Quartet at the Awesome Arts Festival

  • After the touring of your work, we would be happy to feature your work in Movement Media’s Kinetic Cinema Screenings or for other educational purposes.

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Move The Frame
Move the Frame is the official blog of Pentacle's Movement Media, a project serving to help dance and media artists make dances for screen and use media to market their dance work more effectively. Move the Frame is a locus for dialogue about the form and a clearing-house of information about all things dance and media related.
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