Welcome to Phase II of Dancing Digital!

Welcome to Phase II of Dancing Digital, a project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities to create and facilitate more accessible, equitable, sustainable, and interconnected dance resources online. The previous chapter of this progress blog covered Dancing Digital’s planning phase, which began in 2016 and was funded by an NEH Level I Digital Humanities Advancement Grant from 2019-2020.   

We are grateful for the NEH’s continued support in the form of a Level II Digital Humanities Advancement grant (2021-2022), which allows us to implement ideas discovered in that planning phase. 

This new phase of Dancing Digital involves multiple levels of collaboration. Gesel Mason has joined this phase of the project as Co-Director. Gesel is both an Associate Professor of Dance at UT Austin and Director of Gesel Mason Performance Projects (GMPP).  It is her curated collection, No Boundaries: Dancing the Visions of Contemporary Black Choreographers that serves as the material for our prototype digital archive.   

Other collaborators include the Alabama Digital Humanities Center (ADHC), the College of Fine Arts at UT Austin, and the Harry Ransom Center at UT Austin.    

Two research assistants are invaluable and driving forces behind this prototype-building process:   

Carlson Coogler, a doctoral student in Educational Research with a specialization in Qualitative Methodologies at The University of Alabama  

Molly Roy, a doctoral student in the Performance as Public Practice program at UT Austin whose research is situated at the intersections of dance, surveillance, and information studies.  

We have also contracted with Whirl-I-Gig, the developers of the open-source cataloging software CollectiveAccess, on which the archive is being built.  

Just as we compiled and shared a list of existing online resources that provide access to full-length dance works and published a final position paper with recommendations for how the field might improve dance content online in Phase I, sharing our knowledge and experiences continues to be central to Dancing Digital’s mission in Phase II.  

We continue to gather information about earlier online dance archive projects and to build upon the lessons learned. We are also in conversation with colleagues currently creating dance archive and technology projects, the urgency of whose work has been amplified by our Covid-induced convergence on screens. While we understand that these digital endeavors are not one-size-fits-all, there are many common needs and hurdles.   

With these common needs in mind, we write this progress blog to encourage and intensify the truly collective work of improving and expanding access to online dance resources. We aim to share our knowledge not only in its ‘product’ form, but by providing a detailed account of what our process is requiring and how we are making decisions within it. From our current vantage point – still very much engaged in learning and discovering – we cannot be sure whether what we share will demonstrate what to do or what not to do. We offer it not as the process but as ours, with the hope that this sharing will be of value in our fieldwide pursuit of a more accessible, equitable, sustainable, and interconnected digital dance future.