I recently attended a dance concert with my family. Ordinarily, dance has little to do with media, being the nice old fashioned art form that it is, but this was a dance concert that took film as its inspiration. Artistically, it struggled with the bridge, some times triumphing, some times falling short. There were two main challenges: one) many of the choreographers took films that the dancers (and most of the audience) had never seen as jumping off points leaving a bit of a generation gap and two) combining screen imagery with a live human is an endeavor fraught with peril, and in this instance, they did not often win the battle, except as a novelty and maybe a way of getting folks out of their texting in the dark (people, really!) Many have tried to integrate dance and media, from Merce Cunningham to Twyla Tharp. And many have failed. We should never stop trying.
But the most fascinating takeaway I had from the concert had to do with the piece
where a man was videotaping a group of young women and it was live streamed onto a video wall. I know the man--lovely dancer and brilliant teacher whom I have been priviledged to study with. Watching, I felt torn between watching the live stream giant video and the dancers. But I was truly shocked at my children's reaction to the piece. They found the vision of a man following a group of, to be totally honest, somewhat scantily clad young women around with a video camera to be down right creepy. Whether its been the recent news stories or one too many school presentations on Stranger Danger, something about the visual language of the piece put them off. What was fascinating for me wasthat I am frankly so inured to the innate visual vocabulary of young girls sexuality, what with the revealing clothing these days on elementary school girls,and the wiggly walks and suggestive movements that even toddlers pick up from YouTube, that I did not read the clear message that my kids got.
We do not notice how innundated our children are with sexualized imagery through media. And never before had my kids talked back to me about how uncomfortable they are with that language. They told me the piece was "inappropriate". Knowing the performers I absolutely know that the intent was not what my kids interpreted it to be. But I will converse with them a lot more on what is and is not "appropriate". This dance piece opened up an entirely new critical dialogue for us, and is making me really look at the visual shorthand we use each day.