Tuesday, 26 March, 2013
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Some newspaper or other was reporting on the exploits of professional hair care products salesperson Justin Bieber. What the story was about is irrelevant but the online piece included a tweet, from Mr Bieber, embedded in the story which stated "worst birthday ever" and nothing more. The data within the embed noted that Mr Bieber's nugget of banality had been re-tweeted over 170,000 times.
So our question is this; Why are 12 year old little kids better at sharing information than the grown up professionals in the wide world of dance?
Back in the day, during training, one of the first things we remember being told was to "immerse ourselves in the dance world". Know who was doing what, why they were doing it and where it was happening.
The web was just getting started back then but had it existed in its current form we imagine that knowing what every dance company and dance organisation was up to at all times would also have been part of the plea to get immersed.
Social media, if it gives us anything at all, provides the outsider with an illuminating insight into the thinking of your average dance organisation and, in many cases, it's like reading the playbook from some speaker at a marketing conference.
From what we can see there's not a whole lot of immersion going on at all. In fact most people appear to be caught in a bubble of their own making where they can only hear and see what their own company is doing.
Should something or someone else enter their orbit then that may warrant a mention but for the most part it's like being on the worst date ever.
A lot of dancing folk talk about engagement but they don't appear to know what that word means.
A couple of weeks ago we published a feature on Verve, the post graduate company from the Northern School of Contemporary Dance. Late last week we did a little test tweet that you can see below.
Of the 9 re-tweets we mustered only two of them came from dance companies (2Faced and James Wilton) although Mr Wilton was one of the choreographers for Verve 2013 so that doesn't really count.
As for all the other dance companies out there? We know that nearly all of them follow us so why didn't they "show a little love" for Verve?
Chances are they never saw the message at all and wouldn't have no matter how many times we posted it because in the arts and dance in particular too many people are talking and not enough people are listening.
Tweeting or re-tweeting something in and of itself is a fairly minor thing and even if they had all done so the very nature of Twitter and tweeting would have resulted in only a small amount of additional click through traffic to that particular feature.
The bigger issue here though is one of engagement by the dance profession in the very profession they are a part of.
The Most You Can Do
For sure dance organisations are constantly telling us about shows and workshops and anything else that they might be a part of. But there is no larger, more general discussion of dance and the profession as a whole going on.
Some people are trying to make that happen (Female Choreographer's Collective for one) but as with so many other things they don't seem to be getting a lot of help from the profession at large, especially the NPO companies.
On the whole the industry appears to have adopted an "everybody for themselves" kind of attitude and in a profession as small as this one is, that's not gonna work.
Sharing information via social media is as simple, often times, as pushing a button on a web page and if the profession as a whole can adopt a more pervasive, engaged attitude about something that is so simple then bigger more complex things would surely be possible.
Too often we here from small-scale companies that have managed, against all the odds, to put together a tour only to find out that the venues that have booked them can't be bothered to actually market the performance. That, right there, is Monty Python levels of satire.
NPO companies need to be openly and actively involved in helping out project based and independent dancers and choreographers (and vice versa if at all possible) in any way that they can and not just the ones they happen to know.
If a small scale company comes into their area then they should be immediately aware of it, reach out, ask them if they need any help with getting the word out, professional classes, setting up a workshop or two, providing some contacts or whatever it is they can do to provide some assistance.
Fundamentally, don't say "that's the least we can do!" ask "what's the most we can do?"
Perhaps, as an NPO, you are already doing these things or have provided support like this in the past? If that's the case then write about it and put it on your blog, the one that's on your company website. You do have one of those, right?
Most importantly though, make sure you tell somebody what you've done so others can learn from it, so that you, as an NPO, can lead by example.
Again, as an NPO company, ask yourself if you have done everything you can to make sure as many people who need to know something about your company are able to find that information. The more organisations and individuals that help you out with that the better things will be.
Even if the "most" you think can do is write about another company or tweet about them then make sure you do it. (TopTip™ it's not, nor will it ever be the "most" you can do!)
For a lot of people in dance the profession itself can be a very scary place, even inside an NPO with regular funding and a modicum of security.
The advantages of the profession as whole being fully engaged (that means listening as well as talking) at all times are far too numerous to mention.
As a job it's always going to be hard but it could get a little bit easier to do so many things if the collective chipped-in and checked all the egos at the door.
Start with the simple stuff, like Twitter and Facebook, spend a bit more time talking about others (out loud where everybody can hear you, not in pointless meetings) and get engaged with the profession. Don't just say it, mean it!