Dance in the Digital Age

Deanna Peters, December 2016

This past spring, I completed the Canada Council's Arts in a Digital World survey.

The CC describes the survey as "the first concrete action we're taking to tackle the explosive growth of digital technologies. The survey goals are practical and actionable: they will directly inform funding to support our first digital strategy starting in 2017". The survey was distributed in conjunction with the CC's 2016-2021 Strategic Plan, in which the CC claims that "responding to the opportunities and challenges that the digital era presents to the arts sector in Canada is one of our four key priorities".

Responding to the survey, I wrote that my practice as a dance artist does not really involve digital technologies, as it is primarily body-based. Aside from promoting my work, engaging audiences via digital platforms and maintaining day-to-day communications, my practice does not usually utilize, nor does it depend on, digital technologies. So, what does the CC's focus on digital mean for dance artists? Will we have to insert technology into our practice to be considered legitimate 'innovators' and to access funds being set aside for digital 'strategies'? Is there something else that digital technologies can do for dance? And, looking at it from the other side, what can dance bring to the digital realm?

I see many applications for the 'dance' knowledge that I've acquired over the years. I posit that we undermine the form by making it subservient to technology. I see dance as one of the only 'places' left that can eschew the embedding of digital technologies and I think that we need to protect these physical 'spaces' as they become rarer and rarer. I'm also a web and graphic designer, careers that are often perceived to be incongruent with dance.

Working online a lot, I've noticed that I rarely come across content around our bodies and expressions of physical experience. In 2013, this realization led me to create Body Talk, a series of slides with sayings from my movement training. This project has had many iterations – from web, to live, to print – and includes periodically embedding these physical ideas in my social media feeds. Through this, and other projects like , I've learned how all of the work I do is a part of my (dance) practice and I'm diligent in keeping spaces, actual and virtual, open to the physical.

As dance artists, the gap between our bodies and technology is one that we are very equipped to bridge, but only if we acknowledge the power and intentionally hone the abilities our bodies have to express. Dance can remain vital in the digital age, but only if we keep it physical. Below are some other thoughts around our bodies, dance, performance and technology. Enjoy your ride down the dance hole...

Rage-ing With and Against The Machine by Natalie Gan via the SpiderWeb Show

How screen addiction is ruining the brains of children by Seth Ferranti via Vice

Life without smartphones – in pictures


A quick look at the history of Posthuman Performance by Mirannda Delarosa-Lindberg

Becoming Posthuman: Disappearing Bodies & Dance as Thing-Power by Hilary Bergen

Post-Humanism in Post-Modern Dance by Julie Akerly


How lighting design and technology are transforming dance on stage by Judith Mackrell via The Guardian

Tracking Performances in the Digital Age by Deborah Jowitt

Digital technology and the arts: all the world's a screen by Nicholas Kenyon for The Guardian

Digital Transitions and the Impact of New Technology On the Arts, a study prepared by David Poole w/ Sophie Le-Phat Ho for the Canadian Public Arts Funders network

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