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How to Discover Great Dance: Stream First, Buy Later

[Image Credit: Ekman: Midsummer Nights Dream by Hans Nilsson]

Marc Kirschner is co-founder of Marquee.TV.  Marquee.TV is an on-demand streaming platform for arts and culture.  Serving up a world class catalogue of contemporary and classic masterpieces, including dance, opera, music, theatre, and documentaries, Marquee.TV has been designed for a growing digital audience of determined culture lovers and the arts-curious.

There has never been a wider variety of terrific contemporary dance choreographers creating and presenting work as there is today. This is a great time for dance. Audiences are enjoying prolific periods by artists such as Crystal Pite, Akram Khan and Wayne McGregor, and being introduced to alternative visions of the art by Alexander Ekman, Kate Prince, Dada Masilio and Herve Koubi.

At Marquee.TV, we get to watch a lot of new dance performances from around the world. If there’s a dance performance we want to see, the odds are great that we’ll be able to see it, regardless of where and when it happened. This is because streaming eliminates the known barriers that audiences encounter: location, cost, other arrangements, travel and the very real risk of having your view obstructed by someone six inches taller and having to watch the entire performance peering around their giant melon of a head. Or, in the absolute nightmare scenario, you could find yourself confronted by possibly the worst ever audience participation moment. Take a peek.

I didn’t always “know” about dance. Years ago I went to my first ballet performance as an adult, and saw a program that featured works by three well-known choreographers. The first work was magnificent - mind blowing even. I remember being awed by a female lead who fluttered her legs with the speed and control of a hummingbird. The second work?

Outstandingly dull. The finale? Much, much better than the second. Now, while I had clear opinions regarding the three works on the program, it was hard to internally process or get a firm grasp on the merits of my reaction - a common experience audiences have after seeing their first dance performance.

Therein lies the challenge for dance -  if you see a great film, you can learn more. If you discover new music, you can listen to more. With dance - you’re stuck. It’s no wonder why over 75% of single ticket buyers don’t buy another ticket.

Marquee.TV subscribers can deep dive when they become interested in a company or choreographer. While audiences may only have encountered Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui as the choreographer of Jay-Z and Beyonce’s Apes**t video in the Louvre, or the upcoming Broadway musical Jagged Little Pill, with Marquee we’re able to give viewers a full spectrum of his creative genius. The “Larbi-curious” can stream Fractus V, which premiered at Sadler’s Wells in 2016 before touring the world, to his Ravel program for the Royal Ballet of Flanders, to his earlier masterwork Sutra, which features 19 Shaolin monks and was recently revived for Lincoln Center’s White Lights Festival.

Speaking of - while the Royal Ballet (take a look at the Royal Ballet on Marquee TV) is more synonymous with classic story ballets such as Giselle and Sleeping Beauty and don’t elicit ideas of edge-of-your-seat cutting edge dance, the truth is that the Royal Ballet commissions and creates some of the most exciting new work in the world. On May 19th, their cinema series delivers a new Cherkaoui work on a triple bill with Christopher Wheeldon’s Within the Golden Hour and Crystal Pite’s Flight Pattern, which won the Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production in 2018, but more importantly is a stunning, moving work. Go see it!

Whether that initial interested in dance is sparked by a trip to the stage or cinema, audiences can take advantage of streaming performances to develop their taste and discover great work that will move, excite and stun them. Streaming is also a crucial benefit for dance venues as well, and has become an essential development tool.

According to our own recent “Cultural Butterflies” survey, more than two-thirds of 22-37 years olds feel that the arts are too expensive, yet more than 75% would be more likely to see a performance live after seeing it digitally. We’ve seen this behavior first hand when subscriber tells us that they’ve taken advantage of our programming to sample an artist’s work that they’re considering seeing live.

If tonight, I were to go to that same ballet program that I first saw those years ago, after having had the benefit of seeing hundreds of performances, I’d still love that first work and hate the trainwreck in the middle. The only difference is my own confidence in my opinion. I’m never going to be that all-knowing human dance encyclopedia - the one you overhear in the interval breaking down the most minute detail of something in a manner that makes you unsure if you think they’re a genius or an annoying, pompous windbag. That doesn’t bother me because frankly, all I want is to be able to enjoy and experience phenomenal artistry, or gripe confidently about how a certain work really needed to be a few minutes shorter (and why is rolling on the floor still considered to be a “thing”), and for most of us, that’s the result we want.

And if you’re still curious about Dave St. Pierre, the choreographer whose performance received that rather descriptive narrative in the Telegraph - you can watch one of his works here, on Marquee.TV and make up your own mind.

Visit mrqe.tv/marquee to start your 14-day free trial.

Disclosure: Marquee has direct and indirect relationships with artists, organizations or programming mentioned in this article.

[Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Antony Gormley with monks from the Shaolin Temple in Sutra]