Vranish discusses Web’s effect on dance

Rabab Al-Sharif | Staff Writer

When the Internet flourished in the 1990s, dance critic Jane Vranish thought the dance world would never be a part of it.

“Well, I was wrong,” she said. “Now dance, I think, has grown the most explosively, and that’s due to a lot of things, but one of them is YouTube.”

Vranish, former dance critic for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and creator of Cross Currents, an Internet magazine on dance, will give the lecture “You and YouTube: Changing the Landscape of Dance” at 3 p.m. today in Smith Wilkes Hall, discussing how the Internet is changing dance.
Vranish was a critic at the Post Gazette for 34 years and still contributes to the paper and to The Chautauquan Daily as a guest reviewer.

With the Internet, she said, dance lovers can find a variety of things, including serious concert dance, up-and-coming artists and the latest trends.

“It’s just feeding dance lovers,” she said. “I must say, we have quite an appetite.”

An Internet gem Vranish came across is hip-hop dancer Lil Buck, whose intricate footwork is of a Memphis-born style called jookin’.

He has created remarkably fluid routines to “The Dying Swan” ballet, Vranish said, and even dances en pointe in his sneakers.

Lil Buck performed his solo “The Swan” accompanied by world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Someone who knew Ma had seen a clip of Lil Buck on YouTube and suggested to Ma that the two perform together.

Vranish plans to show this and other clips from YouTube at her lecture, sponsored by the Chautauqua Dance Circle.

TV shows such as “So You Think You Can Dance,” “Bunheads” and “Breaking Point” also help to create an interest in dance, Vranish said.

When she was growing up, she said, there wasn’t much dance around at all, but now it’s everywhere.
Since those, other shows and viral videos have made dance a part of popular culture, Vranish has noticed that many people, including her editors, are more aware of the art.

Now that dance has become a part of popular culture, she said, people are seeing it in a whole new way. But some artists think that dance’s becoming a part of pop culture is diminishing its role as an art form.

Vranish said she has noticed some more commercial and competition style vocabulary, such as fouette turns, creeping its way into serious dance.

But there has always been some controversy as dance changes.

“In the ’50s there was a big conflict over whether you flexed your foot or pointed your foot,” Vranish said. “Then all of the sudden contemporary dance was born and it fused the two.”

Twenty-five years ago, when hip-hop dance arrived on the scene, people didn’t think it was art, Vranish said. Hip-hop isn’t just for young street performers anymore, though. She now even sees some of that vocabulary appear in ballets.

“It’s a serious art form, and parts of it are filtering into contemporary dance and ballet,” she said. “I think it’s pushing dance forward.”

It’s that constant development and fusion, Vranish said, that makes dance so stimulating.

“Dance is, I think, the most exciting of the art forms, because it’s growing so much,” she said.

And the Internet is helping with that expansion, she said.

“You’re able to see what new things are out there,” she said, “and all of these young artists are able to grab onto those things and add theirs.”