With the success of the movie, The Black Swan, audiences are getting a glimpse at some of the hard truths about dance, and dancers--albeit disappointed about the depiction of the darker side of their art--are rejoicing that their profession has finally received some prime time play. This brings to mind the challenges that many art forms have in reaching the pedestrian masses. How do performers reach and excite an audience that knows little about their work? How do theaters welcome and teach newcomers to enhance their enjoyment? We'll look at a few innovative ways the arts are using to break down barriers and raise awareness alongside revenues.
In a world where ballerinas are supposed to be delicate and silent, New York City Ballet dancers have started using Twitter to communicate with audiences in ways once seen as taboo. One such dancer, Kathryn Morgan (@KMorganNYCB), tweeted last season about her day-to-day injuries while rehearsing for her performance in “The Sleeping Beauty” and continues to tweet medical challenges she's facing this season. Ms. Morgan is also known for tweeting between acts of her own performances, and a quick review of her tweets show a dancer working hard to be accessible to her fans and young protégés.
This communication is a huge step (or perhaps a grand jeté—if you will) for ballet, giving followers a closer look at ballerinas’ day-to-day lives in their own words. Katherine E. Brown, NYC Ballet’s executive director, told the New York Times that ballerinas’ tweets “demystify” ballet for the viewers. Regardless of whether they are informative or funny, all of the ballerinas’ tweets give viewers an invaluable and intriguing look into these dancers’ lives.
Gasp! Dancers Talking on Stage?
Innovative dancers aren’t only breaking former taboos by tweeting, but in a significant departure from the arts' roots in silence, dancers are beginning to relate to audiences by speaking from the stage before performances. Public sharing via Twitter and Facebook helped to push forth the idea, ballet companies have learned that sharing personal vignettes or a self-deprecating laugh reduces the cultural formality in a way that connects with people. Like all "performers" in the public spotlight--from baseball players to movie stars, artists are beginning to realize the benefits in speaking about their work.
Finding a Place on "New" TV: YouTube
Kanye West, the same guy accusing George W. of disliking black folks, recently employed ballerinas on his music video and MTV Music Award performance for his song, "Runaway." But this video outreach goes well beyond cameo appearances. Dance has come a long way since Arnold Haskell uttered that ballet had no place in video, and virtually every major ballet company runs their own YouTube channel further opening up the beauty of their world to unschooled audiences.
For a particularly personal look at ballet, check out NYC Ballet's "When We Were Kids", a montage of video clips of some of their leading dancers during their formative years.
How are these new methods of outreach stacking up for dance? Consider that David Letterman recently invited his first dancer, Veronika Park, for an interview on his show, Misty Copeland, principal dancer for American Ballet Theater, landing a role in a Blackberry commercial, and Natalie Portman finds herself in the running for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in The Black Swan, and one can't help but wonder if the resurgence in dance isn't coincidental.