Live Performance in the Digital Era

Hello everyone! In this blog post I am going to discuss the idea of Digital Humanities in the dance world!

What is “Digital Humanities”?

A quote I found written by Christopher Long sums up the idea behind Digital Humanities very well: “The performance of humanities related activities in, through and with digital media.” I also found the video below that explains what exactly Digital Humanities are. Jeffrey Schnapp explains that Digital Humanities used to be called Computational Humanities or Humanities Informatics, and that it is defined as applying computers and systems to analysis of cultural objects, literary texts, or other humanities.

See the source image

Image: “Digital Humanities” by Brianna Marshall via Flickr.

Dance as a Humanities Subcategory

Humanities is defined as “disciplines that study aspects of human society and culture.” As dance is one of the oldest forms of communication and expression throughout human society and culture and is a large part of many cultures, it is considered one of many humanities. Dancers have traditionally performed for audiences in theaters, streets, clubs, parades, and so much more. The common factor between these spaces though are the fact that they are all live performances.

Live Performances Impacted by Digital Transformations

Living in a technology driven world now, this has challenged the idea of live performances not only for dancers but also in the aspects of plays, musicals, theatre performances, musicians, and so much more. “The whole notion of entertainment is confused and diffused” says Craig Lambert. One of the main problems with technology in the entertainment world is that “entertainment delivered cheaply to a laptop or handheld device beats theater on price and convenience.” As it is so much easier in our world today to watch things online or through online services, the beauty behind a live performance is taken away. These devices threaten and challenge industries such as dance that thrive as a form of a live performance. This also causes issues with how we understand the importance of documenting live performances. Typically, live performances are documents through the use of digital video. However, now that many live performances are enhanced through the use of digital technology, the “digital process becomes the crucial defining factor in the notion of documenting or archiving the work.” Therefore, there is a large struggle between live performances benefitting from digital technology but yet again at a disadvantage due to digital transformations.

Image: “Ballet” by Distillery Trail.

The Beauty Behind Live Performances

Personally, I think live performances will always be more impactful and worthwhile for me than performances viewed on technology. Going to a theatre and being fully immersed in the experience offers so much that you can’t experience via technology today. For example, when you go to a theatre, you are surrounded by a type of atmosphere you can’t experience from your house. Everyone is dressed elegantly and it creates an ambiance that can’t be replicated. Then, in your seat you are surrounded by an eagerly waiting crowd. You realize that you all have one thing in common: love and passion for live performances and the performing arts. Then, the lights dim and you are immersed into the performance. You are surrounded by booming and echoing sounds as you are watching a beautifully performed live act. The beauty behind a live performance is that each one is unique and cannot be replicated exactly. I think that provides so much value itself in the idea behind live performances. It makes your experience special and it allows for the performers to share something special with their specific audience.

Image: “Concert” by

Advantages of Live-Streaming

With technology, we have found a new definition of the word “live.” With technology, we now think in terms of “live-streaming.” Live-streaming is the idea that you are watching a performance being performed live somewhere else through the use of digital technology. Many concerts, performances, and other events are now being recorded and people are able to live-stream the events from anywhere in the world! For example,”livestreaming music festivals and concerts are also becoming increasingly popular. In fact, 81% of internet and mobile audiences watched more live video in 2016 than in 2015. YouTube for instance, livestreams large events including Coachella and Ultra, giving new meaning to the concept of seeing a performance “live”.” I think that the idea of live-streaming has quite a few advantages. For one, it makes artists’ work more easily accessible and viewed by a larger audience. However, I still struggle getting past the idea of the audience not truly being able to experience the “live” aspect of the performance as described earlier. In the future, I hope that someone is able to come up with some sort of technology that can continue improving the idea behind live-streaming without completely destroying the art of live performances.

Thanks for reading my blog! Hasta luego, amigos!

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