Ballet Web 2.0

The dance world has come a long way since Arnold Haskell, eminent critic & balletomania’s “patient zero”, spoke against filming ballet for posterity:

…the loss of the third dimension always ruins all my pleasure in dancing.

…I do not want to see a Toumanova who is for ever fourteen years, ten months, one week, two days and so many hours old. The idea appals me. It is altogether too inhuman. From “A Conversation with George Balanchine”, January 1934, published in the book Balletomania

Ballet companies, choreographers, dancers, writers and bloggers are realising the importance of educating and engaging with audiences via social media to promote ballet as an art form. Through the rich and diverse ballet content on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and blogs we now have exposure to ballet events around the globe as if we were “virtually there”.

Can web 2.0 and social media help bring ballet back into the mainstream? It’s too early to tell and trends like these might, as Elitedance notes, “die off or morph into another trend like all trends do”. But at present it’s never been easier to educate oneself and to follow what is happening in the dance world. The offshoot of this wealth of content is information overload and, in some cases, poor quality so we recommend you choose your ballet fix wisely.

Pick your Social Media Poison

Visual Feast:

Use if: you want to see extracts of performances, interviews, historical ballet footage

Skip if: you don’t want to put up with the latest heated debates on hyperextensions, sickled feet and general balletic nitpicking

While YouTube and such other video services as Vimeo and Yahoo!Video are the most direct way to experience the art away from the stage, they are also very problematic given the copyright issues they raise. Read our take on the YouTube & Ballet debate here.

Blah Blah Blah:

  • Twitter

Use if: you like the thought of a news channel that reports on ballet and dance all day long

Skip if: you fear information overload

If YouTube is the best way to visually experience ballet on the internet, Twitter is certainly one of the easiest, most effective and non-intrusive channels to keep up with ballet trends.

Twitter is a microblogging service that allows users to post 140-character messages. When one elects to follow users who post about topics of interest, their updates will be streamed directly like an RSS feed. You can reply (@), retweet (RT) to your own followers and/or privately message (DM) users. Communities are created by sharing news, links of interest, asking questions.

Unlike Facebook you don’t need to become “friends” with anyone to start following them (unless they have protected accounts – bust most active users don’t). Many ballet companies and dancers use Twitter as a way to engage with their audiences and you can find plenty of interesting ballet follows by searching on wefollow (the most popular Twitter directory).

Use if: you want to connect with other ballet enthusiasts, either via becoming “friends” or discussing topics of interest in fan “pages”

Skip if: you prefer to remain a “lurker”

Facebook is a networking site that gives every user a profile page with a wall/news feed. Users can post text, links, pictures, etc. and share it with their “friends”. Ballet companies, dancers, retailers and all sort of ballet sites typically post the latest news, articles of interest, photos, promotions and tour information via official “pages”. If you connect with a page (you have to click on its “like” button) its related updates will show on your personal news feed. In other words, pages behave as your “friends”. Over here we tend to share in our page interesting ballet articles from conventional media or dance blogs in addition to our own content.

Facebook “groups” used to be popular, but since pages are easier to interact with (groups don’t stream their content – ie. members have to keep proactively visiting them) groups have become less appealing. You can read more about Facebook pages vs. groups in this article. Pages also have their shortcomings. Although they can interact with subscribers, it still remains very difficult to network and communicate from one page to another. In other words, there’s no Facebook equivalent of Twitter’s RT/Retweet or Tumblr’s Reblog functions for pages.

The Twitter-Blog mashup:

  • Tumblr

Use if: you love to share ballet photos and video links

Skip if: you prefer to read full blog posts/dance articles

Tumblr is mainly visual. It is a mashup of blogs, YouTube and Flickr but with the same type of streaming feed as Twitter. Most of ballet-related Tumblr posts we see are links to archival photos and video but some people also use it to write short performance reviews.

The New Kid on the Block:

DeBallet is a brand new ballet networking site. It works like a mini-Facebook for ballet fans, dancers, etc. Maria Kochetkova, a San Francisco Ballet Principal and one of the site’s founders, says the portal is “a great site to connect with ballet dancers from other companies and schools around the world”.

What About Blogs?

Where do blogs fit in amidst all these different social networks? In this interesting video feature entitled “Can Blogs Withstand Facebook and Twitter?” Emily Gordon of Emdashes discusses the future of blogs as places to catalog, collect, reflect and critique.

Further reading: