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Computational Choreography

If folk dance creates unity through shared movements and affiliations, online platforms of social media and Web 2.0, create community through networking, posting, liking, and sharing. Where folk dance and religious rituals once served as core opportunities for individuals to affirm their relationship to one another, in many contemporary situations hashtags and memes are the gatherers of human experience, giving individuals the opportunity to self-identify with landless, ephemeral collectives and constantly evolving virtual subcultures.

At Folk Dance Mixtape we are searching for ways to turn digital connections into choreographic practice seeking to create an experience of physical connectedness and community in digital space. Harmony Bench calls these conditions “computational choreographies,” writing at length about the ways that web-based performances can and have reconstituted the archive to produce new performative works.

In Folk Dance Mixtape, choreographic responsibility is shared by the creators of the dances, the performers who participate, and the capacities and limitations of the computer algorithms which arrange the choreographic contributions and create and display group choreographies.

For some users the hybridity and irreverence of the site may feel threatening. The dances may not appear as “folk” to a participant who wishes to retain familiar, codified definitions of dance. In fact, the site is meant to broaden and call into question the signifiers that can be used to construct cultural and nationalistic identities. In this growing, virtual space, identity can be iterative and multiple. Our utopian hope is for users to simultaneously encounter difference and connection in shared identity, the mixtape itself becoming a site where betweenness and negotiation are always at work.

* Web 2.0 refers to the set of internet technologies developed in the early 2000s allowing for collaboration, interactivity, and user-generated content, as opposed to the static HTML pages of the first-generation internet. For an analysis of the effects of these tools on screen-based performance, see HarmonyBench, “Screendance 2.0: Social Dance-Media”, Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies 7, no. 2 (2010): 183–211.

**HarmonyBench, “Computational Choreographies: Performance in Dance Online,” International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media 5, nos. 2–3 (2009): 155–169

***See Victoria Marks and HannahSchwadron’s chapter in The Oxford Handbook of Jewishness and Dance.


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