IdeaHO: Dance Encyclopedia

Many years ago, when I first heard about this thing called the Internet, I immediately saw the possibility for something that has yet to happen. Now, with the kind of thinking that is triggered by the iPad, I am having that dream again and still don’t hear about it happening. So I’ll write it down here because ideas stuck in my head hurt after a while.

Will someone please make a true encyclopedia of dance?

The way I’m thinking about it is quite different from the limited book + tv versions of “interactive textbooks” concepts that I’ve seen so far. An example:

When I was in college, I studied Balinese dance and theater for a little while. Many of the pieces were inspired by the Ramayana, an ancient text originally written in Sanskrit that is used throughout much Hindu art and in other cultures as well.

I thought: What if I was watching a video of a performance of a Balinese dance of a story from the Ramayana? What if I could stop the video at any point and: Read the original story in a variety of languages? Ask about the name of the piece, the orchestra that’s playing it or the instrument that did that last solo? Could I hear some other pieces using that instrument? Are there other instruments like it in other cultures? Could I hear some pieces and see dances using those other instruments? Can I hear them side by side with this performance? What if I could see other forms of dance that were based on the same story? How about seeing paintings, books, or plays that told that tale? Or could learn about the costumes – what material is that? How is it made? Show me something about the village that specializes in making those shoes. That makeup was originally made of what? Who invented that – the Egyptians? What’s the recipe? That move that the dancer just did – what’s it called? What other kinds of dance use movement like that? Can I watch them overlaid on each other? What’s the history of this performance style in the culture? What other things were happening in that culture at the time this dance emerged or when this performance was recorded? What’s happening right now in the country that this is from? What’s the importance of the Ramayana in a spiritual sense and can I be taken to various religious events that refer to this story? Are there modern dances or films that use this story? How about a comparison between this story and another from a different culture’s canon (or version of the Ramayana)? Can I see those side by side? How is that set made? What’s the significance of … well… just about anything? Can I link to that right now please?

And then could I have the same kind of experience while watching a video of a modern hip hop dance? Please?

Yeah, I know this probably hasn’t happened because it’s a giant project that would involve experts, aficionados, and collectors in dance, music, history, anthropology, pop culture, literature, art, and more. And it would probably be a project of love that is difficult to turn a profit on. But if we could crowdsource/wiki/collaboratively create something like this, how amazing it would be!

Then after that I’d like to think about how to redo telling stories. Like an entirely non-linear movie. Beyond choose-your-own-ending. Nothing difficult.

Yeah, I’m most interested in thinking about ways to get us out of the habit of envisioning projects that continue to feel like paper+tv or that are wedded to a linear timeline. I’ll be even more excited when this becomes something I can play with!

[Note: “IdeaHO” means “Idea Hand Off” – something I started doing when I was blogging for Sexiest Geeks Alive. They’re ideas I have that I’d love someone else to do because I can’t.]

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One response to “IdeaHO: Dance Encyclopedia

  1. This is almost like the old hypercard programs, where almost everything was linked, and you could wander from subject to subject.

    There’s some work being done with contextual linking in videos, something like the commenting you can do with flickr.

    That, in a video context, in a wiki format, would let you start doing something like this.

    And then of course, you could have links so you could buy a dancer’s dress or shoes, or something 😉

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