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Flash Dispatch, 3-29: All-Access
OK Go All Over the World

By Veronica Dittman
Copyright 2007 Veronica Dittman

DODANDUWA, Sri Lanka -- I used to complain a lot about the inaccessibility of modern dance. I rambled on about two variations on the theme. One: the head-scratching 'what the hell was that supposed to mean?' variation. Witness the eight-minute light cue that finally resolves the darkness into spotlights focused on two serious young women spinning slowly. No wonder this is not a popular art form. And two: the 'you weren't in lower Manhattan on Saturday night so you'll never know' variation. A dance is presented for three or four nights in a limited venue and is never seen elsewhere again. There's not the budget or the interest in extending the run or touring the show to other places, and there's certainly no selection of modern dance videos available at the corner store. I never got to see Mark Dendy's "Dream Analysis" -- which more than one of my friends who caught it in its demi-run at the Joyce and few weekends at Dance Theater Workshop said was life-changing -- and I probably never will.

I haven't thought about these issues much one way or another since I got married, got knocked up, had a baby, moved to Sri Lanka, and opened a restaurant. Then my husband tells me there's a dance I should see. Huh? How does that happen? We live in a fishing village where many of our neighbors cook over wood fires and don't have indoor plumbing. Well, he often finds himself working in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, where he has satellite TV and a 100 Kbs internet connection. Wahoo! The result of all this media exposure is that he saw a music video he thought I would dig, found the video on YouTube.com, and showed it to me when next I came to Colombo.

The video, "Here It Goes Again," is by a band called OK Go, and here's a link to it. Go look at it. It's a pop song. It's catchy and fits the 3-5 minute radio format. The video is one continuous shot from a camera front and center that frames the action and doesn't move. The performers are the band members and their skill level is on the guys-with-rhythm end of the dance technique spectrum. And still, I am recommending this to you, a dance insider, because I am confident it will make you happy. Choreographer Trish Sie (the lead singer's sister) used what she had to great effect. The choreography is simple but ever-evolving. There is a gimmick, props, but rather than restricting the choreography, the props are a jumping-off point for continual invention. The movement vocabulary is only a shade or two beyond "pedestrian," but it is wholly satisfying. The performers are frank and earnest and easy to look at. Aah.

This is a landmark, a revelation! Here is a dance that one) is really fun to watch and two) you and I can talk about. Hell, everyone can talk about it. It turns out, and here you have to remember the extent of our isolation, this video has been viewed over 17 million times on the Internet and won a Grammy Award. The point is that even if you're just hearing about it now, it's out there, available for you to see any time; you haven't missed it. And I heartily recommend it.

Now, cue the usual concerns. What does it mean for the art that 17 million people (or maybe a smaller number than that, watching it over and over) have seen this little pop gem but only the scantest fraction of that number have seen Mark Dendy, or even Mark Morris or Paul Taylor? What does it mean for live performance that I am recommending a dance that only exists out in the ether? Part of the degradation of live modern dance? Nah. Or hell, what do I know? -- maybe it is. But I'm inclined to think that guys in a band imagining a video that features dance, having that idea rejected by MTV and their label (if we believe the Internet mythos), borrowing a camera, producing that video themselves, and having it go on to capture the attention of millions of people is a good thing. Not only for the general perception of dance, but also for the good old American DIY spirit. And given my inability to get to BAM, it's all I got, so cheers.

Veronica Dittman is the founding editor of the Dance Insider.


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