Tiny dance videos

My brother Albert recently graduated from theater school. He studied directing, but since getting out of school, he’s been tinkering with online video and dance—the stuff you’d see at a rave, not what you’d learn in a conservatory.

In last week’s video, Virtual Boxes, he combines planar movements with overlaid animation to manipulate translucent blue rectangles hovering in air with his hands. There’s an interesting connection here to mime or prestidigitation, and in fact Albert is pretty good at card tricks.

Virtual Boxes video

But I think my favorite is Finger Dancing, a closely shot video of Albert dancing mostly with his hands. Apparently this is a nascent style that goes by the name “digits” (or “digitz”), and he’s combining it with a more fluid West-Coast approach.

Finger Dancing video

One curious takeaway from this is that it would appear that club dancing communities are starting to take root online through free video sites. Go to YouTube and search for terms like “digitz”, “tuts”, or “rave”, and you’ll find lots of people videotaping themselves dancing in their own bedrooms and living rooms, and then posting the results online for others to comment on. Possibly kids are now learning moves from YouTube, the same way they once did from American Bandstand or Soul Train—the difference being, of course, that now everybody can have their own show.

Secondly, videos such as these point to possible new directions for what we could term “microvideo”: videos with small budgets, small resolutions, and small durations, meant to be displayed through portable devices such as PSPs, cell phones, and video iPods. The tight framing of Finger Dancing makes it easier to watch on a subway ride than, say, an episode of Lost—and when the picture’s so tiny it’s not as noticeable how low-budget it is. Maybe this is obvious, but it would appear that the future of portable video rests mostly on freely available viral content, not clips from movies or TV shows that you download for a fixed price. On a 2-inch screen, a $50 million movie and some suburban teenage girls dancing to “My Humps” look different, but you know, not that different.

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