Technology and the Arts: Can They Play Well Together?

The impact of technology on the arts has been a matter of debate at least since we had to be reminded to turn off our cell phones in performance halls.

At Lincoln Center Institute (LCI), we always prided ourselves on espousing the latest technology, but we also insisted on engagements with live performances. This duality was not easy to maintain, especially in a frosty economic climate, and, early on, technology came to the rescue in the form of video. After the students have attended a performance, they need something that will stay with them and be available as long as they study the subject: video allowed us to bring storytellers, chamber ensembles, and Shakespeare to classrooms where being stranded without technology would have meant being stranded without art.

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Shall We Dance?


Monica Bill Barnes & Company in SUDDENLY SUMMER SOMEWHERE. Photo by Jane Hoffer

Monica Bill Barnes & Company in SUDDENLY SUMMER SOMEWHERE. Photo by Jane Hoffer

When we’re good at something and do it often, it’s easy to slip into autopilot and lose track of the real essence of what we’re doing. Then when we do get stuck, we don’t know how to extricate ourselves: we’re too close to the thing; we’ve lost our sense of perspective. So how do we break free? As a young dancer, I learned the answer the hard way—that is, physically.

I used to practice contact improvisation, a postmodern partner dance form based on communication and shared points of contact. I would take on my partner’s weight, he or she would take on mine; we’d charge, lift, roll, and balance each other in a state of constant awareness, tuned in intensely to one another’s subtlest movements. But sometimes we’d get stuck. Locked into a position. Communication breakdown. I’d want to move one way, my partner would want to move another, and instead we’d end up like Vladimir and Estragon in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot: “They do not move.” And if one of us tried to force the issue, to make a unilateral decision, it wouldn’t work: cooperation was necessary for progress. So I learned, over time, to stop pressing. Continue reading