You know, it's funny: We're so used to seeing the brilliant animation of the Dragon House Crew dancers and their ilk set to aggressive dubstep that "animation" and "dubstep" have come to seem like a milk-and-cookies pair. They're just right together.

But there's so much subtlety and nuance in animation that it can actually benefit from more complex music—like, say, great classical pieces. Case in point? An awesomely unexpected Nutcracker concert given a few days ago by the California Philharmonic. Masterminded by CalPhil maestro Victor Vener, who came up with the idea back in July, the performance combined Tchaikovsky's genius score with the—as it turns out—totally compatible genius of three world-class animators, including our fave Cyrus Spencer.

Cyrus, James "BDash" Derrick and Kevin "Konkrete" Davis thoroughly embraced the Nut-y challenge, performing in spiffy military jackets to five pieces from the ballet: the first-act March, the Spanish, Chinese and Russian dances, and (of course) the Sugar Plum Fairy variation. They gave nods to traditional Nutcracker tropes—lots of Soldier Doll references throughout!—while putting their own witty, unusual, often hilarious spin on the oh-so-familiar music. The crowd, unsurprisingly, went nuts.

I mean, here's the opening to the Sugar Plum variation—even without hearing the music, you can see every note:

Give it a second and I bet you can figure out what Sugar Plum snippet this is illustrating, too:

It's all-around awesomesauce. Take a look at the full clips:

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Animator Marquese "Nonstop" Scott has come up with a brilliant formula for success. Step one: Find a striking and/or picturesque setting. Step two: Choose a dubstep or pop song that's super earworm-y. Step three: Film himself performing an impossibly seamless display of superhuman control in that setting, to that song. Step four: Post the clip to YouTube. Step five: Watch the internet explode.

Rinse and repeat.

But seriously: Scott, who's also a member of Dragon House Crew, routinely racks up hundreds of thousands of views on his vids. (The most successful, set to Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks," has 118 million and counting.) So we’re always excited to see his latest.

This morning, Scott released another mind-bending clip—but he tweaked his formula slightly. Rather than opting for high-energy dubstep, he chose "The Jacka*s" by No More featuring Lime Kid—a chillstep track that's, well, chill, almost dreamy. To echo its mood, Scott slowed down his typical rapid-fire, tick-tick-tick style. Half the time, it literally looks like a slo-mo edit; if there weren't a fountain running in the back of the shot, people would probably assume the footage had been altered.

The result is an animation meditation. There's always a stream-of-consciousness logic to Scott's phrases; when they're slowed down this way, we can see how each movement "thought" leads to the next.

Get hypnotized:

 

On a scale of one to I-need-to-get-down-RIGHT-NOW, how much do you love trap music?

Yep, me too. In case you fierce freestylers out there need some inspiration for the next time the beat drops, may I present tWitch, Glitch (aka Cyrus Spencer), Comfort Fedoke and SHEstreet dancing to "Soundclash" by Flosstradamus & TroyBoi? These four will school you on the possibilities of trap.

I love that each dancer has such a unique style, yet staying true to their preferences doesn't prevent them from playing with the music. When I hear trap, I tend to think about deep and heavy movements, but the dancers' ability to create contrast through their artistry totally changed the way I, as Mr. Balanchine would say, "saw the music."

Maybe this will become the new TGIF dance around the Dance Spirit office. Here's hoping!

 

 

 

Trippy...

Last summer, we introduced you to hip-hop choreographer Vinh Nguyen, who blew us away with how he captured the paradoxically smooth, staccato quality of Lorde's "Tennis Courts." On Thursday, he demonstrated his artistry yet again, this time with a brilliantly thought-out concept video to French electronic band M83's "Midnight City."

The video follows a frustrated visual artist as he burns the midnight oil trashing sketch after sketch. He finally finds inspiration when his drawing of a fedora-clad man comes to life. (You know how excited we get when dance and animation come together...) The artist follows the man to a city rooftop, where they're joined by four other men in fedoras—and then, naturally, the dancing begins.

Nguyen's movement is perfect for M83's swirly, trance-like vibe. It's extremely detailed and fast—his dancers seem to have quadruple jointed appendages—but it's performed with such a smooth ease that it's almost hypnotic.

Does the hip-hop hallucination help the artist find his voice? You'll have to watch to find out.

Raise your hand if you've ever had a clueless (but well-meaning) friend ask you to explain contemporary dance. Raise your hand if you've ever had a friend avoid your performances because she was afraid she wouldn't "get" it. Good, so...everyone?

As you know, your DS editors are diehard dance nerds, and we never miss out on an opportunity to get more people excited about dance. Defining and explaining dance styles is one of the ways we define and explain ourselves as artists, but it can feel completely futile when you're talking to someone who doesn't know a tendu from a tilt.

Cue London's The Place and their GENIUS new series of animated shorts that help dance n00bs understand what contemporary dancers are trying to say when they do freaky things like roll on the ground or pull their leg behind their head. We love it when dance and animation go together, and this is even more spectacular because it's beautiful and educational.

The first video introduces an unfamiliar visitor to "Planet Dance," where there are two hemispheres: Social Dance and Performance Dance. Contemporary dance is located in the Performance Dance hemisphere, along with its neighbors ballet, street dance, etc.

 

The following three videos cover what The Place calls Body Talk—that is, how to communicate with a dancer when she doesn't use words. Think of it as your go-to cheat sheet for the next time a friend tries to dodge your shows. Remind her that she already has a lot of tools to appreciate performance, and then sit her down in front of one of these (GENIUS) videos.

 

 

 

 

In July, we told you about animator Glen Keane's masterpiece, Duet, which brought 10,555 drawings of two dancers to life in a mesmerizing pas de deux. Needless to say, we're still in a bit of a trance.

#teamwork

Today, we'd like to introduce you to the work of another dance animator in-the-making. Christina Yee's Galatea tells the story of a ballerina sketch that quite literally climbs off the page to dance. At first, the paper ballerina is delighted to discover she can move, but after a series of fouetté turns goes awry (been there!), she realizes that dancing may be more fun with a partner. Cue paper ballerino—and assisted pirouettes for days.

Galatea was posted by Press Pass TV, an organization that educates youth about media arts as a form of empowerment (yay arts!). It may not be quite as complex as Duet, but its simplicity is part of what makes it so charming. And who knows, maybe if this young animator keeps at it, she'll be following in the footsteps of Mr. Keane one day.

Without further a do, Galatea:

William Forsythe with Jodie Gates, the director of USC's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance.
(photo by Ian Carney)

You may have read that legendary choreographer William Forsythe is leaving his company to join the faculty of the new BFA program at University of Southern California’s Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. (The school will enroll its first class for the fall 2015 semester.) Forsythe will be leading composition and improvisation courses and mentoring the USC International Artist Fellows—a program for emerging artists. He'll also serve as the the artistic advisor to the school's Choreographic Institute.

The university has also announced that dancers will have the opportunity to work with professors and students at USC's School of Cinematic Arts—particularly with the animation department. This is super cool, especially since we already know what amazing things happen when dance and animation meet (ahem, Duet). The collaboration, however, has already started: Take a look at the School of Dance's website, which was created by cinematic arts associate professor Mike Patterson.

Is college on your mind? Check out the Dance Magazine College Guide. It's got tons of helpful info on college admissions, auditions, finances and programs nationwide. And if you want to stay up-to-date on the latest college and university dance news, you might consider signing up for the monthly DanceU101.com newsletter. Get tons of info about college dance delivered right to your inbox. Click here to sign up.

You know we're obsessed with animation, as evidenced by our constant and consistent gushing on the topic. But this new video with our perennial favorite Cyrus "Glitch" Spencer and one of my early "So You Think You Can Dance" faves Jaja Vankova is on another level entirely.

It's incredibly interesting to watch two hip-hop dancers engage in a true duet (that is, not just dancing side-by-side or challenging each other in a battle). Set in a dimensionless white room, and cut with lots of quirky camera angles, the dancing in this video is almost surreal. Here's hoping this is the beginning of many more videos from these two.

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