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Videodance is a genre of dance made for the camera. In videodance, movement is the primary expressive element in the work rather than dialogue (as in conventional narrative movies) or music (as in music videos). Other names for this form are screendance, dance film, cinedance, and dance for camera.

Defining characteristics[edit]

Because movement is a basic element in all time-based visual media forms, videodance is distinguished from other film genres by its emphasis on the craft and composition of movement in the work. Often this movement is recognizable as dance in which people are moving in stylized ways, however in some experimental and animated videodances the movement can be pedestrian and unstylized, or even the motion of animals and inanimate objects.

A related genre that is often confused with videodance is the dance documentary film. This is the documentation of dance as it is practiced in real life such as a live performance (i.e. "Dance in America: 'Swan Lake' by American Ballet Theatre" on Great Performances) or a journalistic profile of a dance company, figure, or community (i.e. DanceMaker about Paul Taylor). Videodance is not a documentation of a dance that could be done in real time in a live setting. It exists only as a fictional or fictionalized dance for screen.

There are a number of different sub-categories and genres of videodance including experimental, narrative, commercial, video games, web dances, and multi-channel installations. Videodance can be seen on almost any media platform from iPods to feature films, commercials and television programs. Currently there are over 150 dance film festivals world wide that feature videodance work.


For every time-based visual media platform there are examples work in which dance and movement are used as the primary expressive tool. For instance in the early days of film before sound, movement was the main vehicle for communication, perfected by the great physical comedians of the day such as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Later experimental filmmakers such as Maya Deren innovated camera and editing techniques to manipulate and redefine our concepts of movement for film. With the rise of video as a conventional medium, videodance was born. Early innovators in this new medium included Merce Cunningham, Nam June Paik, and Alwin Nikolais. Today in the digital age with the rise of affordable digital video equipment, there are a number of notable dance film makers, choreographers and directors working in this medium including British choreographer/director Lloyd Newson of DV8 Physical Theatre, Australian directors/choreographers Richard James Allen and Karen Pearlman of The Physical TV Company, American director Mitchell Rose, American filmmaker Charles Atlas (Media Dance) Belgian director Thierry de Mey, and New Zealand director/choreographer Shona McCullagh.

Early film Late 1800s-1930[edit]

Thomas Edison/Lumiere Brothers

In 1896 the first exhibition of Edison’s projecting version of the Kinetoscope called the Vitascope showed the Leigh sisters doing their umbrella dance. In the same year the Lumiere Brothers recorded Loie Fuller dancing her Danse Serpentine. [1]

Georges Méliès

Silent Films

Musicals 1930-1950[edit]

Busby Berkeley

Fred Astaire

Gene Kelly

Experimentalists 1940-60[edit]

Maya Deren

Hilary Harris

Yvonne Rainer

Video 1960-90[edit]

Alwin Nikolais/Ed Emshwiller

Merce Cunningham/Nam June Paik/John Cage Pts in Space

Alive from Off Center

Alive From Off Center was originally conceived as a series that would be the Off Off Broadway of PBS, according to Melinda Ward, the executive producer who began the show and supervised the first three seasons. We wanted it to be a place for performance video work that was fringey and not mainstream, she said. We tried to define it as broadly as possible, but it was meant to be a place for theater, music, dance, performance and video that fuses the performing arts with television. The idea was to go beyond simply putting these young artists on TV and to have them make TV as well.[2]

Saturday Night Live

Ballet and hip hop...have co-existed onstage since the late 1970s...the most famous early alliance occurred in 1978 on Saturday Night Live. That’s when Toni Basil paired four of The Lockers (including Don Campbell, father of locking) with four ballet the Four Little Swans variation from Swan Lake. Dressed in white from pimp hats to shoes, four guys locked and popped alongside four women on pointe, transforming the cygnets’ quartet into a witty octet. Basil repeated the concept, mixing the street-dance style to include locking and boogaloo with classical dancers in another Swan Lake on The New Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, which was nominated for an Emmy in 1988.[3]


Carlos Saura films ("Sevillanas", "Flamenco")

Digital Age 1990-2007[edit]

Internet art

Amateur videographers

Videogames - DDR, Second Life

Motion Capture Animation

Social Age 2007-?[edit]

Selfie Dancing

A current social trend is people recording themselves dancing and posting to social media sites such as YouTube and Vimeo. These typically consist of low resolution, mobile phone video clips of someone dancing to a popular song. However, a group of young choreographers are popularizing a much more sophisticated style of selfie video dance. Among the most highly viewed are TakeSomeCrime, his self-acknowledged protégé JustSomeMotion and Josy Carver among others.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Dance and Media Timeline". Dance Films Association. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  2. ^ Bennetts, Leslie. "'Alive From Off Center' Continues to Seek Out Innovative Video". New York Times. New York Times. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  3. ^ Sommer, Sally. "Balletic Breakin'". Dance Magazine. Dance Magazine. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 


Article: "A Dance of Definitions" by Karen Pearlman

External links[edit]