For proof of dance's mainstream popularity on the Internet, look no further than YouTube.
That site's most-viewed video, an absurdly silly stand-up comedy routine called "Evolution of Dance" (youtube.com/watch?v=
dMH0bHeiRNg), still captures hit after hit.
But until recently, such attention to movement on the Web has largely eluded the professional dance world.
In the past year, dance has finally carved out a space for itself online as dancers, choreographers and institutions embraced the Internet with video, blogs and new Web sites.
Now artists are using the medium as a way not just to build awareness for their work but also to change the nature of the form.
Driving these developments is a wave of young dance artists, among them Camille A. Brown, 28, the choreographer whose new work, "The Groove to Nobody's Business," premiered this month as part of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's season at New York's City Center.
Along with the pictures of friends and shout-outs to the singer Jill Scott and the actress/singer Jennifer Hudson, Brown's MySpace page,
profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&frie ndID=68029298, is flooded with studio portraits, reviews of "Groove" and blog entries about the City Center engagement, as well as an up-to-date calendar of her performance schedule.
Brown, who put up her page a year ago, is one of many young artists using the Web as a way to level the artistic playing field.
"Everyone has a page," she said, "and people have contacted me about jobs through MySpace - both dancers looking for jobs and directors who want to use my work. A lot of companies have them now."
These include companies as diverse as Martha Graham and the Pennsylvania Ballet.
"It's the sign of the times," Brown added.
"A year ago, it wasn't really geared toward business, but in the past six months it's been turning into that. The amount of contacts you can have - you can send out a bulletin about your show, and all of your friends, whether it's 1,000 people or whatever, can find out about it. You can reach so many people."
Reaching out and connecting with fellow dancers is a big part of what going online is about.
When Jennifer Alexander, a corps dancer with American Ballet Theater, was killed in a car crash in early December, her colleague David Hallberg paid tribute with photos and reminisces on The Winger (thewinger.com/
words/), a blog started by Kristin Sloan, 27, a former dancer with New York City Ballet who is now the new-media director for the company. His posts were met with an outpouring of comments.
"The dance world, particularly ballet, is very closed and isolated," Sloan said.
"It's supposed to be mysterious, which kind of goes against everything today. There are tons of reality TV shows; people want to know what goes on behind the scenes, and what goes into creating things."
Sloan started by posting photos, which she took backstage, and eventually other artists, including Hallberg, wanted to contribute.
"I did a lot of blogging in Saratoga in 2005," she said. "I did it from my mobile phone, and there was no community online yet to provide links or anything. It's not like now; you make a blog and everyone knows about it. It was literally a needle in a haystack of nothing."
The Winger links to a range of blogs, including Great Dance (greatdance.com) and Danciti (danciti.com), and Sloan was even featured in a television commercial for the iPhone as a mobile blogger.
Dance Theater Workshop (dancetheaterworkshop.org/) rolled out the first phase of its new Web site in September. With constantly changing photographs and video, the new site is sleeker and inspired by sites as diverse as those for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and MC Hammer's Dance Jam. The workshop put $25,000 into making the site more user-friendly.
"We knew we wanted there to be much more movement," said Megan Sprenger, the workshop's marketing director. "On the previous site there was almost none, and here's a movement institution with no video. What's that about?
"So definitely we wanted much more motion," she said, "and to have it be a part of the DNA, which is why we chose the changing colors. Every click, it changes colors to kind of subconsciously highlight the user's movement through the site."
The site now also focuses more on resources for artists and international programming. "People didn't even know we offered grants," Sprenger said, "and it was because it was buried in the navigation bar."
The next phases of the rollout, expected in February and in the fall, will involve creating a members-only section, turning the artists' directory into a collection of profile pages like those on MySpace.
"It's a place for them to speak to each other," Sprenger said. "Now we have a member directory that lists those people and links to their Web site if they have one. What we're doing in the fall is making it much more depthful." She said the site would provide members with pictures, links to video and a networking system.
The Merce Cunningham Dance Company (merce.org) is also moving much of its focus online, said Trevor Carlson, the company's executive director.
"We've been engaging in biweekly e-newsletters and e-mails," he said.
"The biggest thing we recognize is that Web access is really driving the way that we communicate with one another, and how can we utilize that form of technology not only to communicate but to influence our creative concepts?"
This focus is hardly surprising for Cunningham, who has spent much of his career experimenting with technology, from incorporating iPod shuffles into a dance score to using DanceForms software, to visualize and chronicle dance steps in 3-D images. Other companies, including New York City Ballet, are putting their entire repertory online. *