Dances circulate online in many different ways. They are shared via films, recordings of performances, rehearsal footage, short reels, trailers and screenings. Dances appear across YouTube, Tik Tok, Instagram and Vimeo, accessible via computers, televisions, smart phones and tablets. Dance online is not a new phenomenon but the restrictions put in place in response to the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in new forms of dance, 1 which have raised questions about how online dances are understood, described and exchanged.

Dances are often copied, reworked and recontextualised and legal cases related to such activities are rare.2 However, now that dance occurs online more than ever before and in new and experimental formats, the open sharing of movement that has often occurred in dance communities is being expanded and tested. I propose that consideration of the nature or ‘ontology’ of online dances will help us to understand more about the way they are exchanged.

Moving Online: Ontology and Ownership of Internet Dance therefore explores the following questions: 1) What kind of thing is an online dance? 2) Is dance online a different thing to dance offline? 3)  Do the aesthetic and cultural histories of different dance forms mean that each produces a different kind of thing or are all online dances one kind of entity? 4) How does dance’s ontology shape social practices around ownership online? 5) How can ontological understanding support artists when sharing their work online? 

The project focuses on: Indian dance forms, such as Bharata Natyam, Kathak and Bollywood; Hip Hop, African dance practices and different forms of street dance; and contemporary dance. I will interview choreographers and dancers, observe making processes and examine examples of dance online. The project will involve the commission of three choreographers to undertake creative processes focused on the making of online dances (see Artist Commissions), the initiation of a research group focused on ontology and ownership in performance (see Research Group), and the publication of a model for ontological analysis. The research is carried out in partnership with Sadler’s Wells Theatre and One Dance UK.

The project will include a series of public events including: public talks, a seminar series, a workshop to introduce the model for ontological analysis and a final symposium (see Events). Outputs include a magazine article (see Outputs), a project blog (see Writing) and a monograph.

  1. see Bench and Harlig 2021
  2. see Bench 2020; Burt 2017; DeFrantz 2012; Kraut 2015; Ravetto-Biagioli 2020; Whatley, Waelde, Brown and Harmon 2015; Van Camp 2019