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Dance Trends — What Are You Seeing?

Garth Grimball

A few weeks ago I saw this TikTok about world events and trends in movies. I wish I could link to it but I can no longer find it because:

A) it was deleted?

B) I’m an elder millenial

C) All of the above

In the video, the creator connects three of the biggest catastrophes in the US of the twenty-first century — 9/11, the Great Recession, and the Coronavirus pandemic — to the subjects of popular films and television.

In her view post-9/11 saw the rise of SUPER HERO movies. Hollywood and the American Industrial Media Complex needed to put forward stories about heroism on epic scales. But, she notes, the post 9/11 decade saw the popularity of the ANTI-HERO, your Walter White’s or Tony Soprano’s, characters that audiences could empathize with while they did horrible things. A veritable weighted blanket of pop culture that covertly quelled the horrors of war and surveillance by the U.S. in response to the terror attack.

Similarly, post-Great Recession, she says, saw the boom of Zombie/Post-Apocalyptic films. The Walking Dead, World War Z, I Am Legend, etc. Movies about surviving a societal collapse and about survival of the fittest. Stories that can serve as an outlet for the shock of loss, especially loss of control, while low-key serving you an Ayn Rand-esque critique of who is worthy of survival.

Movies as narratives society needs and needs to justify its basest impulses.

The TikTok ends positing on what cultural standard will center pandemic era films: work. How is work and labor justified after a near global shutdown? Shows like Severance already speak to this conceit.

The point of this long preamble (other than hoping somebody finds this dang TikTok), is to set up a conversation on what trends in dance are happening Post-LIVHS?

In my small corner of dance consumption, SF Bay Area concert dance + what the ALGORITHM allows me to see online, there are three trends I’m seeing that feel directly related to pandemic era living.

  1. Increased interest in form

Before 2020 most of the project descriptions I read were steeped in concept. Concept often linked to aspiration. This piece will address issue X and in doing so create a space where Y can happen. Form was rarely mentioned.

Similarly, I noticed a lot of the live work I saw created by Gen Z folk felt transplanted from the screen to the stage. There was great detail imbued in the relational but less so in the spatial.

Form is in abundance since live dance has been able to return to stages and theaters. The pendulum hasn’t swung wholly away from the Conceptual, but there seems to be an increased interest in Form. I think this is in large part a reaction to being cooped up in lockdown for months on end. Thinking about space became a national pastime. How to move through space, the form of movement, is flourishing.

2. The aesthetics of Drag

Drag, Ballroom, dances of queerdom have always influenced culture high, low, and in between. As Drag has gone mainstream with the global success of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Queens who’ve been platformed by the show, the aesthetics of Drag permeate dance and performance. The knowingness, the hi-glam, the DIY, the wit and maybe most influential, the confidence. Drag is not monolithic. And, there is an undercurrent of confidence in the performing. The owning of the stage or catwalk or dance floor. The poise and certainty to pull off byzantine ensembles. The specificity of a spectacular lip sync.

Drag influenced concert dance before 2020, long before. What I’m seeing is a greater desire to apply some of this confidence in aesthetics — costumes, music, set. A theatricality of confidence.

3. Intergenerational

How many of you moved in with family or had family stay with you during the pandemic? Whether out of necessity or preference, intergenerational living became more common. The proximity to diversity in age is manifesting in more intergenerational casting, more work concerned with elders, more dance about social bonds across time.

These are three of the trends I’m experiencing. What are you seeing? What is happening in dance around you? What do you hope becomes a dance trend?

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A collection of articles about ODC and the world of Dance

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Dance dispatches from the most active center for contemporary dance on the West Coast.

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