Pointe and Click.
The Internet was an uncharted frontier in November 1995 when Dance Magazine pioneered the placing of dance online. Today, it's well-settled territory. Major companies and schools have Web sites and routinely distribute information and schedules on the World Wide Web dancers on tour routinely use e-mail to keep in touch with friends; dance lovers enjoy spirited debates in newsgroup bull sessions and in chat rooms.
Getting on the Internet is easier than ever today. Practically any new computer system you buy comes with the hardware and software you need (although getting everything set up can still be tricky). Service providers abound in most major cities. And many schools, universities, and public libraries offer Net access as a routine service.
But, your grandmother might ask, what can you actually do with this Internet thing? Not a bad question, actually. While there are lots of dance resources on the Internet, it can be hard to zero in on those that meet your needs and interests. Here's an opinionated tour guide to help with your search.
Working the Web: There's plenty of dance-related information and entertainment on the Web, but it's so scattered that it can be hard to find. The trick is knowing where to start.
For general dance info, look no farther than Dance Magazine's own Web site [www.dancemagazine.com], where you'll find articles from the magazine, online exclusive stories, photos, and links to other dance sites. Russian Classical Ballet [www.aha.ru/~vladmo/] is a Russian-based site affiliated with the English-language magazine Ballet in Russia, offering articles and links to Russian dance resources that might be hard to find anywhere else.
Tracking down the Web site of a specific dance company or organization can be harder. Fortunately, online dance enthusiasts have already done a lot of the work, collecting links and building them into web sites. Queen of this genre is Rose Anne Willenbrink, whose award-winning CyberDance [www.thepoint.net/~raw/dance.htm] offers a huge directory of companies, organizations, and individuals.
General-purpose directory sites such as Yahoo! [www.yahoo.com] can also help track down dance-related resources. Yahoo's Arts/Performing Arts/Dance section lists several hundred dance site in more than forty categories, from ballet and modern to butoh and capoeira. Another useful directory: the Mining Company's Ballet/Dance site [balletdance.miningco.com], with links to other sites.
For brushing up on your ballet vocabulary--or for dazzling friends with the Web's multimedia potential--a must-see is the Online Ballet Dictionary at American Ballet Theatre's excellent site [www.abt.org]. This dictionary includes definitions of hundreds of ballet terms. Even better, many entries include short video clips of ABT dancers demonstrating the steps and positions. The videos are small and spartan, but high-quality--you can step through frame by frame and actually see how Stephen Hyde does his brise vole, for example. (You'll need the QuickTime Plug-in, a freebie from Apple Computer that equips your browser to handle a wide range of content. To download the latest version of the plug-in, visit www.quicktime.apple.com.) Other mega-company sites include New York City Ballet [www.nycballet.com] and San Francisco Ballet [www.sfballet.org].
When you're looking for a specific dance factoid, though, general-purpose sites may not have the answer. Then it's time to turn to a search engine such as AltaVista [www.altavista.com]. Search engines robotically catalog the contents of millions of Web sites, then let you search for keywords that guide you to sites. That's the theory, anyway. In practice, a search often returns hundreds of thousands of irrelevant pages. Be as specific as possible. AltaVista (along with several other search engines) makes this easier by letting you phrase your query as a question, such as "In what year did Rudolf Nureyev die?" or "What was Ninette de Valois's real name?" (1993; Edris Stannus.)
Extending e-mail: While the Web may be the Internet's more glamorous service, friendly old e-mail is probably the best liked. But e-mail can do more than let you swap messages with friends. Mailing lists are a popular way for a group of people to discuss a topic of mutual interest. You subscribe to a mailing list by sending a "subscribe" e-mail message to a special server called a list server or majordomo. You participate in discussions by sending e-mail messages to the list server; it forwards them to all other members of the list, and forwards other members' messages to you.
Many special-interest mailing lists accept subscribers by invitation only, but there's at least one dance list that's open to all comers: ballet-modern-dance, hosted by Netcom. As often happens with uncontrolled lists, the quality of discussions varies. If you'd like to try it out, send an e-mail message containing only the words subscribe ballet-modern-dance to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to save the confirmation message you'll receive from the list server so you'll know how to update, change, or cancel your subscription.
Newsgroups are another popular Internet discussion medium. They work much like mailing lists: you participate in discussions about a topic by mailing your comments and reading those sent by others. But newsgroup discussions are easier to follow than mailing lists because they're organized into specific topics, or threads. Using a piece of software called a newsreader (built into most modern Internet packages) you can log on to a newsgroup, browse a list of its current threads, and read or reply only to those that interest you. (Consult your Internet service provider if you need help connecting to Usenet, the Internet service that transports newsgroups.)
The key newsgroups for dance buffs are alt.arts.ballet and rec.arts.dance (the former specializes in performance dance, lair in recreational dance, although there's a lot of overlap between the two). These active groups are usually packed with threads covering topics from sophisticated aesthetic discussions to silly but amusing arguments. To get your beatings, you may want to start out by simply reading messages rather than posting your own, a practice known as lurking.
If you're looking for newsgroups about more specialized dance topics--or if your Internet provider doesn't offer access to Usenet--you can turn to a Web service called Deja.com [www.deja.com]. In addition to letting you read newsgroups from a Web page, Deja.com lets you search the entire Usenet "universe" for past postings on any subject.
Immediate gratification: Web, e-mail, and news services let you read and write at your own pace--but they don't have the immediacy of a face-to-face conversation. For fast-paced interaction, turn to one of the Internet's real-time services: instant messaging and live chat [see box below].
Instant messaging is like two-way e-mail. You and a buddy--who's also equipped with instant-messaging software--arrange to be online at the same time, then connect and communicate by typing back and forth. Instant messaging is an America Online specialty. All you need is AOL's Instant Messenger software, available as a free download from www.aol.com. You can send and receive messages, and maintain a list of "buddies."
Doing it yourself: Once you've cruised enough Web sites, you may find yourself thinking, "I could do that." And you probably can. Your Internet service provider probably offers server space where you can post your own personal Web site, devoted to anything you want (although most have restrictions on commercial activity; check with your ISP for rules). You'll need a commercial HTML editor software package to design your pages (I recommend Home Page, from FileMaker Inc. at www.filemaker.com) and a little practice. Just remember to obey copyright laws: Do not filching material from books, magazines, or other Web sites.
RELATED ARTICLE: Live Chat Online
Live chat is like a phone conversation in which anyone can pick up an extension and join in. A more orderly variant is the live-chat interview, in which a celebrity comes online to answer questions. Dance Magazine has its own live chatroom, "Backstage Chats," in cooperation with the San Francisco Web site Voice of Dance. Just log on at www.voiceofdance.org on Monday nights at 8:00 P.M. (EST) or 5:00 P.M. (PST) to chat with such notables as Jacques d'Amboise, Lucia Lacarra, Lauren Anderson, Richard Philp, Angel Corella, and Linda Hamilton, among others. Chat is one of the hardest Internet services to get into because there are so many different software standards for it. Some online services, such as America Online, offer chat rooms restricted to service members. The Internet Relay Chat protocol lets anyone participate but requires a piece of software called IRC client. Internet chat services on standard Web browsers are probably the best bet for beginners. Watch for announcements, then check the Web site of the service hosting the chat to learn how to participate.
Jim Williams, Dance Magazine's Nebraska correspondent, is a professional computer graphics designer and Internet developer.
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|Title Annotation:||survey of online dance information|
|Date:||Jul 1, 1999|
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