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Pointes in cyberspace.

Since last fall, when I wrote about how dancers can get plugged in to the Internet [see "Net Dance: Everything You Need to Know to Dance in Cyberspace," November 1995, page 74], there's been an explosion of dance-related sites on the World Wide Web--the segment of the Internet where cybernauts use special Web browser software to visit sites and view magazine-like pages of text and pictures, moving from page to page and site to site by clicking on hypertext links.

Dance offerings on the Web now range from simple, one-page listings of performance schedules to large sites sponsored by major companies including Boston Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, New York City Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre. ABT's Web site (http://www.abt.org/) has an especially strong "insider" feel, and for good reason: It was programmed entirely by Tamara Barden, a twenty-three-year-old dancer in ABT's corps de ballet.

Barden, a Tempe, Arizona, native who studied at the School of American Ballet in New York City before joining ABT at age eighteen, said that her first encounter with a computer occurred about two years ago. Originally, she said, her main interest was in games--but finding that "I seem to be able to catch on pretty quickly," she moved on to advanced techniques and programming, mostly by teaching herself from books.

Barden's Internet adventures began in the spring of 1995 when she and a friend, ABT stage manager Randal Fippinger, started thinking about ways to give the company an online presence. They considered commercial services such as America Online, but eventually decided that the World Wide Web would be the best vehicle. Barden said she was reluctant to tackle the project at first because she didn't know much about HTML (HyperText Markup Language), the programming language used to design Web sites. Finally, she said, "Randy asked me one last time, `Do you want to do the site?' and I said that I would get a book about HTML and check it out. That's how it all started."

Their timing couldn't have been better. "A short time later, Michael Kaiser became the executive director of ABT," Barden said. "One of his first promises to the board was to put ABT on the Internet. Randy heard about this and went to him to tell him that he had already started getting a people who had done Boston Ballet's site had called and wanted to do our site also. But Randy kept saying, `Just let Tamara program it.'" Working on her own Power Macintosh 7500 computer, Barden gradually developed the programming for the site, using software including Bare Bones Software's BBEdit (for editing text) and Adobe Photoshop (for manipulating photos). "I can't even count the number of hours I put into it," she said. "I never timed how long it took me--a long time, because I'd get distracted by details and by how to change them or make them better. I'm something of a perfectionist! But I had a lot of free time during this period, because I had a fracture in my shin--although I still went on tour and did walk-on parts."

Like most Web authors, Barden found that programming was only one part of the project. "The biggest problem was getting content," she said. "But I was insulated from that by Randy. It was his job to deal with all that--I would just make lists of the information and photos that I needed. I did all the graphics and coding myself; I also organized the sections. Erin Baiano, a friend of mine who also dances at ABT, came up with the idea for the question-and-answer section, "To The Pointe." The site went through many versions and looks before I settled on one. I would get carried away messing with graphics and photos, and discouraged because I didn't know what I wanted. Next time I do a site, I'll do all the content first, and then decide on a `look.'"

When the site was just one week away from going online, Barden and her collaborators previewed it for ABT's management, printing out the individual pages on paper and submitting them for editing. ABT's press department spotted some concerns, such as the need to obtain reproduction rights for photos--but after a few adjustments, the site was ready to go live. "Michael Kaiser loved it," Barden said.

The dancer-programmer is already thinking about how to maintain the pages and add improvements. "I'm going to teach a couple of people from the ABT development department how to code HTML and update the site," she said. "Randy and I both know that we'll be too busy [to do that] once the season starts. Any major fixes or changes will most likely be done by myself, during a layoff. I'd like to add video, and I'm thinking about something like a virtual studio tour. First, I'll have to learn how to do it!"

For others who want to start learning, Barden recommends the book Using HTML: The Most Complete Reference, by Tom Savola. "You don't need anything but this book and information you can find on the Internet," she said. "Also, you can learn a lot by viewing the source code from well-designed Web pages." (Most Web browser software offers a "Show Source" command that reveals the HTML codes.)

Although the combination of ballet dancer and Web programmer may seem unusual, Barden says that both interests suit her personality. "They both are a form of expression that doesn't involve speaking," she said. "I'm so shy that I get nervous at the thought of having to speak to someone I don't know, in person or even on the phone." Also, dancers are realizing that computer knowledge is important, she said: "It's the direction the world is going. Many dancers at ABT are starting to get computers, just so that they'll know how to use them. Think about it--it's going to be a required skill pretty soon, if it isn't already."

Barden created the ABT Web site strictly on a volunteer basis--"I will not see a penny, just a lot of thanks"--but thinks the online world has the potential to pay off for dance in general. "I hope the Internet can bring dance to people who don't really know much about it," she said. "It would be great if someone just stumbled across a dance site and said, `Wow, this looks like fun--I want to learn more.' Just because the world is becoming high-tech, it doesn't mean we can forget about culture."

A "shopping mall" for dance Web sites

With the expansion of dance offerings on the World Wide Web, simply finding and keeping track of new sites can be a problem. One welcome new solution is a Web site called CyberDance, a well-organized and handsomely designed "shopping mall" for other dance-related sites. CyberDance listings are alphabetized and divided into such categories as companies, education, news and information sources, people and organizations, and international offerings, making it easy to browse or to find a particular listing. The listings are hypertext links, so a single click on the listing for a site takes you directly to the site itself.

Despite its highly professional look, CyberDance creator Rose Ann Willenbrink said the site is actually "a personal interest that's sort of gotten out of control. I didn't realize at first how much I would enjoy it, or how much time I'd wind up spending. It's practically an obsession, but it's been a great way for me to unwind from my `real life' as a corporate lawyer." To check out CyberDance, point your Web browser at this URL (Uniform Resource Locator): http://www.thepoint.net/raw/dance.htm.

Online services offer do-it-yourself Web sites

If all this World Wide Web action has made you want to put yourself or your company on the Web, the good news is that it's easier than ever. Major online services, including America Online and CompuServe, have begun making space available to subscribers who want to create Web pages of their own. AOL's "My Home Page" feature, for example, allows each subscriber to create a site containing up to ten megabytes of material and make it available to anyone on the Internet--at no cost beyond the basic AOL subscription fee. AOL also lets subscribers download a limited version of NaviSoft's NaviPress software, which lets users create simple Web pages without having to use HTML programming codes. To see what these tools can do, check my personal Web site: http://users.aol.com/ balletweb/balletweb.html.

Mail lists: Old-fashioned Access

There's more to online life than the Web. One older type of Internet service that's still very useful is the mail list, which lets you receive information and participate in group discussions by sending and receiving e-mail messages.

A mail list is handled by an automated "post office" called a list processor or "majordomo." Typically, once you've found a list that interests you, you'll subscribe to it by sending the list processor an e-mail message containing the word "subscribe." You'll receive confirmation by e-mail that you've been added to the list, and within a few days you'll start receiving the messages themselves. If you see a message to which you want to respond, you must send your own e-mail message to a different special address. (A common mistake for mail list beginners is to send messages to the list processor, resulting in hundreds, if not thousands, of duplicate messages being uselessly distributed.

Although the selection of public dance-related mail lists is sparse, there are some that appeal to special interests. Tap and jazz enthusiasts have their own mail list; subscribe to it by sending an e-mail message reading "subscribe tap-jazz" (without the quotation marks) to majordomo@world.std.com. The Texas Dance mail list includes information about dance happenings--including performances, classes, and grant deadlines--throughout the Southwest; to subscribe, send a message reading "subscribe texas-dance" to mailserv@Post-Office.uh.edu (note closely when capital letters are used; sometimes it makes a difference).

Finally, if you want to participate in the discussions on the performance-dance newsgroup alt.arts.ballet, but are unable to get it through a conventional Internet news service, it is also available through a mail list. Eliot Aronstern, founder of the alt.arts.ballet group, said he recommends using a news service whenever possible--but if e-mail is the only Internet service you have, you can join the group by sending the message "subscribe ballet-modern-dance" to majordomo@netcom.com.

Do you have a favorite Web site or mailing list dedicated to dance? If so, we at Dance Magazine would like to know about it. Send your suggestions for places to be listed in a future article to our new e-mail address, dancemag@walrus.com, with the subject line reading "Cyberspace Suggestions."
COPYRIGHT 1996 Dance Magazine, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:dance information on the Internet
Author:Williams, Jim
Publication:Dance Magazine
Date:Jun 1, 1996
Words:1792
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