Sunday, July 02, 2006

Technology has changed the face of dance.

In the olden days, you would go to a dance studio that you read about in the paper, on a flier, or heard about from a friend. Registering at a dance studio involved a physical address card that sat in a box or file somewhere. You could buy a single class, or buy a class card for multiple classes that gave you a discount on the individual classes if used within a specific duration of time. You would bring the card with you, and the attendant would date stamp it and write your name on the list of the class you wanted to take on that day. No more. At New York studios like Steps or Dance New Amsterdam, when you register, your personal information is entered into their database. You are then issued a card with a bar code or magnetic strip. Your data is kept in a computer file, and in some cases you can add money to your card over the Internet with your credit card. When you arrive for class, you swipe your card, it deducts the class fee, and the attendant clicks on the class you want to take, directly into the computer. Zap--you're done.

In the olden days, you received postcards or read about performances in the paper. Although these archaic methods continue today, you can also subscribe to various email lists that send you information on upcoming performances you might be interested in attending. I often find that that works best for me because it's one less piece of paper. (Says she, who is writing this draft in a paper notebook with an ink pen on the subway home.) Then I can add it directly to my electronic calendar, and I'm ready to go.

In the olden days, dance teachers would travel to and from class with huge, heavy bags of records. These large discs were played as accompaniment to the class exercises and combinations. You would have to know exactly what song you wanted to use and be able to find it. If you wanted to start at a particular spot in a song, you would have to try to put the needle on it by trial and error. We did progress to cassette tapes, and then came the amazing technological revolution of the compact disc. Now you can load all your MP3 files onto your iPod, and, with a special adapter, you can plug into a sound system and play your music easily. Oh, and it's not quite as heavy as all that vinyl!

Performance reviews can now be accessed quickly by such services as flash reviews. You don't have to wait a week or two for it to appear in the Times. Posting previews on the Internet before a performance takes place is also a great service for artists to let audiences get inspired to see a show.

The Internet is an increasingly useful place to search for all kinds of information about dance, from supplies to studios to venues. It serves as a way to educate you about the possibilities that technology offers, and to gain specific knowledge about the dance community. It may be foreign to some, but technology has allowed us to be spontaneous, as well as to automate tasks that used to require excessive paperwork.


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