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Breaking at Olympia 2024: What will happen?

On December 7, 2020, the IOC officially approved breaking as a discipline at the Olympic Games in Paris 2024. That’s exciting news for competitive breaking, but the dance scene is ambivalent about it. There is widespread concern that the essence of our dance might get lost, once it gets drawn into the world of sports.

The risk of breakdance being part of the Olympic Games

The biggest fear that is around in the dance scene is that breaking will become detached from its cultural roots and the bigger part of the world will perceive it as an acrobatic form of sports, instead of an art form that goes hand in hand with cultural values. There is nothing we can say to debunk this claim. That is a possibility, but it is not inevitable.

How the wider public (outside the dance scene) perceives breaking will depend on how the competitions are judged and who the judges will be. If we are honest about this point, there is no difference to events that are happening right now. Depending on the judges panel, the character of events changes a lot.

Also, the mainstream media and therefore, the majority of people worldwide already perceive our dance as acrobatics and not a dance. When we ask random people about breaking, they have no idea what we mean. When we ask about breakdance, they know it is about spinning on your head.

The advantages of breaking at Olympia

With breaking becoming an Olympic discipline, its exposure will be much bigger. As mentioned before, there lies the risk of creating the wrong image in many minds. But if you pay attention to the discussion and the signs that Olympia sends out, they at least try to do it right. They call it Breaking instead of Breakdance, even though the majority of people are not familiar with that name. So they are, at least, aware of the responsibility.

The bigger exposure will create a lot of opportunities for dancers to earn more money and educate the public (if they choose to do so). The older generation will be able to judge and share their view about dance and culture. The young generation will have an additional platform to test their skills. This platform will most likely be the one with the most attention when we count eyeballs. This attention will lead to even more brands and sponsors come on-board for breaking, which opens up opportunities for people to make a living from breaking.

Will breaking change because of its inclusion into the Olympic Games?

Yes and No. We will see an increased focus on the athletic aspects of the dance. The young generation is already pushing the boundaries of what can be done. Olympia will only speed up this development, but it is not its sole reason. Breaking has always been a phenomenon living in the twilight between art and sports, and the aspect that caught people’s initial attention was the acrobatics. This will not change.

The jams, battles and gatherings were we celebrate the culture will not go away, just because there is an additional platform. Underground events that are true to the culture will still be around, and they are not competing with sports competitions. It will be in the power and responsibility of all the b-girls and b-boys participating in significant sports events, like Olympia, to represent our culture appropriately. This includes competitors, but also judges, consultants and even visitors who are familiar with the culture.

Manny talked to Red Bull BC One 2020 E-Battle Champ and World Final Runner-Up Madmax about the balance between being an athlete and an artist. Also, Tracy interviewed Ayane, talking about her point of view when thinking about Paris 2024. I highly recommend you read them both.

We need to play it smart instead of being stubborn

If we want to stay relevant in this thing, we need to play it smart, instead of insisting on being right because we were there before Olympia and other big players. There is a lot to do around big competitions with worldwide participation and media coverage. And we (as people that live in and love the scene) are not good at these things yet, because we never deemed them essential.

I am talking about commentators, analysts, documentation, physical and mental training methods, coaching, mentoring, own independent media coverage – no matter if it is written, video or audio – and many more things that are part of any big competition. People that cover sports for decades have that shit down, and we are just getting started. Of course, some single individuals and companies play the game already, but as a whole scene, we don’t. This could become an issue as people with no interest in the culture would coin the public opinion.

It is up to us to develop the abilities to fill as many of these needed roles as possible. Even for dancers that don’t compete, there are opportunities to bring their expertise and do jobs linked to their passion. Some might even find out that these new opportunities suit them better than competing themselves. The potential to make it happen is there. But it will be a rough ride to level up fast enough to be ready for the competition in 2024. One question remains: Is it important enough for us to try, or will we stay on the sidelines and hate about others making their moves?

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blog business

How to properly research a topic

Research is an essential component in most contemporary works of art and also in a lot of jobs that aren’t related to art at all. The opinions what research is and how to research appropriately vary by great lengths. This is my point of view on this topic.

Not all research is equal

Depending on your project, your requirements for research will differ. In a scientific paper, you will need to quote all sources, verify their credibility and do so as well for the sources of your sources, if you want to be taken seriously. When you research for an artistic project like a stage piece, it might be sufficient to find opinions instead of facts, so the need for verification of every source might not be needed. 

If your art wanders into the fields of political activism (which is indeed often the case and the premise for the core of this article), you better dig deep and make sure that you are telling the truth or you risk to lose all credibility when it easy to debunk your claims. People tend to not believe people again, once they could find a lie themselves.

No research is ever quite complete. It is the glory of a good bit of work that it opens the way for something still better, and this repeatedly leads to its own eclipse.

Mervin Gordon

Tools of research

Access to information via the internet seems to make research much easier than ever before. This is partially true. It is easier than ever before to find info about every topic, but the quality of that information is not as reliable as it was in a time when putting out information was harder to do.

  1. Nevertheless, our research usually starts online. Google the topic. Make your search specific and not generic. If you consider censorship and filter-bubbles as an issue (you should) do the same search with another search engine (like duckduckgo) that is not based on Google.
  2. Search social networks, discussion forums, community pages and specialized sites for info on the topic. Don’t stop after checking Facebook and Youtube. These two platforms are owned by the biggest corporations that earn money, with your data and preferences. They cater strongly to what they think you want to read. Specific discussion forums and alternative networks that don’t earn money with your data should be your preferred sources online. Examples would be reddit or the social network minds. Which platforms you go to depends on the topics you search for. I already wrote about alternative social media platforms, if you want to dig deeper into that topic.
  3. Check out documentaries about the topic.
  4. During steps 1 – 3, you hopefully picked up some names of experts for your topic. Grab their books from the library if they published something, check their blog, social media and whatever is available. If possible, get in contact and talk or write with them.
  5. If they reference others in their work, repeat the steps above with those people as well. This can be a time-consuming loop until you really get to the point when you find the source of something.
A visit in the library to grab some books should be part of every serious research project.
Your resarch should also lead you to the library, not only to your laptop.
Photo by Aleksey Popov on Scopio.

Golden rules

  1. Don’t prefer one opinion over the other, just because it suits your point of view. Check all theories with the same enthusiasm and depth of research, until you debunk or confirm them.
  2. The fewer sources you have, the less reliable your information.
  3. The farther away your sources are from the origin of the information, the less reliable your info.
  4. Spreading false information will hurt your reputation.
  5. So will sharing misleading information.
  6. If you consider your topics to be the target of censorship and your primary sources are platforms that use algorithms to decide what they show you, you are doing it wrong. 

In the end, research always comes down to asking the right questions. Only you can know what these questions should. Be honest to yourself and invest enough time to come up with everything important to your project.

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blog dance espresso

Social media is not the problem

Often we tend to feel that social media is keeping us from doing more important or more productive things. But saying social media is the problem is a serious misinterpretation of the case.

If we hang out online instead of doing stuff we want to do – the problem are our priorities. Because we just don’t want it enough. Facebook and friends can be ignored if we really have something to do.

via GIPHY

Recently I made a Dance Espresso about that topic. Bottom-line: we need to be the master of our digital life or we will become it’s slave.

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blog dance espresso

4 important things to consider when receiving feedback

As we talked about showing our art to the world, the next inevitable step in the chain is receiving feedback. Sometimes because we ask for it, sometimes because people want to share their thoughts. Getting other people’s thoughts about our work is probably the best way to learn about things and improve what we do. Here are 4 crucial things to understand when listening to feedback, in Dance Espresso episode 4.

Don’t confuse the messenger for the message

We should be able to separate our personal feelings for the persons who feedback from what they are saying. Being likable does not make one’s opinion more valuable or right. More often than not, the most valuable input comes from people who don’t sugarcoat what they have to say. Try to give every opinion the same amount of thought from your side, no matter whose it is. And please, don’t get upset without listening.

Don’t take fighting advice from people who never stood in the arena

Try to get feedback from people who have experience in what you are doing. When we talk about dance, get your input from dancers, choreographers, producers, directors, or dance curators, producers. Everybody is quick to judge art. When applying this feedback, you should be aware of the audience you are creating for. If you want to reach the masses, listening to a lot of amateur feedback will help, but if you want to grow in your work, it might be a better idea to reach out to fellow artists.

Immediate reactions vs. well-considered feedback

The third point also depends on what feedback you are looking for. Today it is prevalent to present something and ask for feedback immediately. This practice gives you the first impression of the people, which can be what you are looking for. If you are doing a piece of work that is intricate and needs time to unfold in the viewer’s mind, giving them time is the better thing to do as the material needs to germinate to have its full impact. The more simple the matter, the less important it is to give people time to think about it.

A business sidenote: when you present a complex issue or solution with many implications, don’t pressure your colleagues into quick feedback without having the time to think it through.

Sort out some feedback

In the end, we are talking about your work. It is about your style, your view of the world, and your way of doing things. When a response makes no sense for you, goes against what you are trying to achieve, or simply is stupid. Please ignore it.

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blog dance espresso

Why perfect is not the point in art

Dance Espresso episode 3 is out: this time it is about not showing your work, because it is not yet perfect. But being perfect is not the point.

  • Art is subjective: it will never be perfect for everyone. On the other hand, it will probably always be perfect for someone.
  • Not showing your work slows down your creative process
  • It also breaks the cycle of getting work done: create, publish, receive feedback, repeat.
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blog sharing is caring

How to support art and culture in the Corona lockdown?

Many countries are sliding into Corona lockdown nr 2, which hurts a lot of businesses but especially people working in culture and arts. Some get funding and support from governments, but the majority is on their own and needs help. These are seven ways you can use to support and help that our artists don’t suffer, without relying on governments and stimulus bills.

1. Buy something directly from the artists

Musicians, filmmakers, painters and a lot of other artists sell their work. In today’s internet age, buying from them is often only a mouse click away – and not affected by Covid-19 regulations at all.

2. Take online classes

Especially in our dance world, teaching is one of the most reliable forms of income, which is off the table for many in a lockdown. Tech-savvy dancers take their classes to the internet. Join online dance-classes to get your regular dose of dancing and support your favourite teachers, while doing so.

3. Spread the word

This point does not involve any financial commitment. Still, it goes a long way by exposing artists to a bigger audience. Simply share the work of your artist friends on social media. Does someone offer a dance class? Give them a shoutout and let people know why the course is great.

Someone released new music? Share their Spotify or Bandcamp. Sharing art is golden, no matter if we deal with Corona or not.

4. Engage in social media

Another point that goes without spending any money: drop some likes and comments on social media. All these platforms are data-driven, and the algorithms that decide about the importance of the posts use comments, likes and other interactions to measure. Follow the artists on all platforms you use, this rates them higher as well.

5. Become a patron

Some artists have set up ways to send them money via Patreon, Ko-Fi or similar services. If you have some change, there is your chance.

6. Be a voice

When there are public events, petitions or similar ways that can be used to get in touch with government institutions to raise awareness for the topic. Be there.

7. Validate their work

Let people know, what you think about the artist’s work. There are a lot of rating systems and platforms out there, that play a central role in the perception of art, especially when people want to find out about artists they did not know before. Some are built-in into your favourite social media platforms but most of them are not.

When the artists have stuff available on Amazon or other online shopping platforms, rate their products. You don’t have to give it 5 stars if you don’t think the work deserves it, but 4 and even 3 stars are better for discovery than no review. Same goes for artist pages on Facebook, ratings on Google Maps, Tripadvisor (if we talk about venues or stores) and every other rating system you can think of. The more reviews, the better. In the Corona lockdown, people are more likely to shop online, so help them to make it easy, to buy from artists.

While none of us alone will save artists or people who work in culture from bankruptcy, the combined help might secure people’s ability to do the work that matters to them, instead of going back to a job that pays better but does nothing to relieve people from stress, inspire thought or entertain. Imagine a lockdown without music, movies, books or clips from fellow dancers on youtube. Doesn’t sound so funny to me.

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blog business

Dance Job Aquisition for Introverts

For many aspiring dancers, the most significant topic that seems to hinder career progress is the acquisition of jobs. Without an appropriate network, it becomes even harder to create momentum and establish yourself, more so if you even lack a crew. Let’s add being an introvert, which isn’t as outgoing and has a hard time connecting.

A lot of companies are not casting at all. The reason for that, in my opinion, is that a lot of choreographers and directors know who they want for a specific role, while creating the piece – long before the rehearsals start. Organising a casting and checking other dancers, is a waste of time and money, if you already have your preferences. It’s not happening to exclude anyone, but makes much more sense from a production point of view as you can invest your time and money better.

To make things even worse: not all countries have a big developed scene. Depending on your location, there might be only one or two companies that are doing the kind of pieces you want to dance in. If there are only two companies and none of them is casting, you are out of luck – or so it seems.

So, what to do to get more jobs?

1. Get out of your comfort zone and invest in your network

I know, this is is not the answer that satisfies the real introvert dancer, but it is the best advice, to get ahead when you consider only the business side of things. 

There is a saying that goes “your network is your net worth.” In most cases, this is true. The more people you know that are creating pieces, manage dance companies, or book shows, the better your chances to be considered for either the work itself or at least being invited to castings.

This means you can’t spend the whole night in the cypher. There are times to dance, and there are times to talk.

Of course, there are other things you can do, to get more dance jobs, but be warned that this advice #1 is the one that gives you the best results.

2. Do your own research

No matter what kind of production you want to dance in, you need to know when there is an opportunity to join. Those opportunities are not always obvious or easy to find. 

Google and social media are your best friends. Research all the companies and crews that do the work you want to do, within the area that you are eager to travel. Bookmark their websites, follow their social media accounts and get on their email list if they have one. Some companies have a list for notifications on upcoming castings only.

Find and join groups on facebook, telegram, reddit or whichever social media platform you prefer. If you really want it, get on all of them.

There are print magazines out there that have calendars with upcoming shows and auditions. Additional potential sources of opportunities are dance universities, private education facilities or the culture departments of administration. Depending on your countries policies, some companies might be required to publish their auditions there.

3. Consider other genres

Many dancers only want to be part of productions within their scene. Means a hip hop dancer only wants to be in shows from hip hop dancers. There are many opportunities outside your scene. As a hip hop dancer consider auditions for contemporary pieces. Choreographers from there often appreciate the additional movement vocabulary and open to cooperations. Contemporary dance is much more established and therefore usually has more active companies.

4. Nourish your existing relationship with companies

If you booked and with a company or choreographer and enjoyed the work, stay in touch. Find out when something new comes up and let them know you are interested. Show up at shows and interact on social media from time to time. You might be invited to audition again or go directly to the show, if you fit the role. 

5. Get to know the others

When you are in a production, take the time to get to know your fellow dancers. More often than not, people dance in one production but run their own projects as well. 

6. Be versatile

The broader your repetoire, the easier it is for others to fit them into their production. If you can only do one dance style, your are limited to roles that require precisely this one dancestyle. If you have a solid foundation in many styles or are a real jack-of-all-trades, you can fulfil multiple roles.

7. Be more than a dancer

When you can do more than dance, your value to smaller companies, who don’t have everything covered, increases a lot. In small productions it often happens that the choreographer dances in the piece. Can you provide music, do dramaturgy, create costumes, stage design, shoot videos or photos? Whatever you can offer might be your ticket in.

8. Run the show yourself

This one is counter-intuitive at first but has proven correct many times. When there are no jobs, start creating them yourself. Make a piece, create jobs and people start showing up. If you are valuable to others on the same path, they will consider you for their projects as well.

I wrote about this topic earlier: Work together in flexible structures as a strategy in niche-markets.

9. Let your skills be known

Make it easy for people to see that you can do the job. Have videos online, that show what you are good at. If you are a fantastic storyteller, create some narrative dance clips. Good at choreography? Choreograph the shit out of that super complex or emotional track.

10. Bring your fans

First, I suck at this one – because my following on social media is super small, but it is still a thing. If you have a lot of fans or even just followers on social media, that make a significant difference for the group you want to work with, play that card.

When you are based in the town where the production of company X premieres and your local fans are enough to sell out the theatre, only the most established companies will be able to resist. That’s leverage.

Not every point will work for everyone. I consider #1 the best advice in general, as being able to do what needs to be done to create your network is a skill that will benefit you in your business forever.

#2 is also an essential skill in today’s information society and will give you many more opportunities. It is just essential to dig deep in your research.

#5, #6, #7 and #8 are the points that I used myself. I was never the best dancer in any production, but I always had way more to offer than my dance skills and I produced my own pieces as well. That helped we grow my network and build a reputation as someone who makes stuff happen.

You don’t have to work all the suggestions above. Check out which feel right for you and focus on those. If you can apply #1 and #2, go for it and add some of the others for extra spice.

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The Fragrance of Memories is out

For the past few months I supported my wife for the release of her debut album “The Fragrance of Memories.” Finally, it is available to stream and purchase.

If you want to support follow Szintra on Spotify or grab a copy on Bandcamp.

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blog

Temporary Layout Change

Due to a bug in my regular blog theme, I am temporarily switching to this one. I hope the bug will be fixed soon. Until then, we will have this sleek, plain look.

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blog business

When and how to avoid or utilize tunnel-vision

The filter bubble is a term that describes the phenomenon of search engines, social media platforms, and online advertising systems showing you only the content that you are supposedly interested in while withholding the rest.

While the internet coined that term, the phenomenon itself is not new. The same happens to a lesser degree when you are primarily moving in only one social circle or one cultural scene. The topics that people talk about, as well as trends and political opinions, are (most of the time) consistent as long as you move within the same crowd.

This bubble leads to unintended tunnel-vision as information that is not part of our bubble goes unnoticed. Depending on your current situation, this can be good or bad.

Utilize a single bubble if you want to learn a craft that is specific to it.

If you want to learn a new skill or craft from one specific culture or subculture, immersing yourself into it is the best thing to do. Unwavering focus without any distractions will let you progress faster on your quest to learn a specific skill. That is the case if you want to learn hip hop dance or breaking. Dive into the scene, find friends, teachers, or mentors there, and become the greatest dancer you can be.

Avoid tunnel-vision by participating in multiple bubbles if you want to create or come up with a plan.

If you want to create something or come up with original or creative ideas, it is better to avoid bubbleism (I know that is not a word). You want to be on the edges of multiple bubbles. You have more influences and also access to more information. This is the case if you’re going to turn your dance passion into a sustainable dance business, beyond hip hop dance moves. You will be better off having access to the body of thought from the hip hop scene, entrepreneurs and community builders.

Know where you are on your journey and which bubbles you need to reach your destination.