Dance is one of the many industries that has been impacted by the growth and globalisation of social media. The development in technology has allowed us all to access good quality cameras, document our lifestyles and capitalise on our personal brand.
Social media is often used as a marketing tool for brands, businesses, companies and events, and dancers are not the only ones to use its easy global reach to diversify an audience.
Social media has brought on an new way to share information about upcoming performances and projects, and through the medium of sharing, retweeting and inviting, this information be spread like never before to audiences that have never been traditionally interested in dance as an art form.
However, social media and its multitude of uses has also been utilised in the dance world for more than just publicity of work and audience outreach. It has created a chance for anyone from anywhere to see the work of the top dancers from around the world, and the chance to replicate both the images they view, and the lifestyles they see, without a proper understanding of the work or reality behind those images.
It has also added a new layer to the notion of "Art Vs the Artist," a concept that is traditionally foreign in ballet, as it art form that tends to commodify the way you look and move on a stage, rather than the way you think and behave in the real world.
For many dancers the rise of social media has allowed them to connect with other political and social movements that can benefit their career, and use their platform as an established artist to contribute positively to society in a number of ways.
Take for example, one of the American Ballet Theatre prima ballerinas, Misty Copeland, who, in 2018, became the first African American female to become a principal dancer with the company. As a talented artist and a pioneer for racial equality, Copeland has used her social media power to become a leader for many in pop culture, and a celebrity in her own right. She has been on the cover of Time Magazine, worked with sportswear companies like Under Armor, and published a book on her experience as a woman of colour in a ballet company.
However, this cultivation of one's online brand has also created a chance to harm a dance career and represent the dance industry in potentially problematic way. For example, the ex-Royal Ballet superstar dancer Sergei Polunin caused major waves late last year when he began to use his Twitter and Instagram as a platform to express some of his political stances - views many categorised as racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and anti-Feminist.
Previously, Polunin had risen to fame quickly post his career with the Royal Ballet. He starred in the video clip by musician Hozier for Take Me to Church, as well featured in the remake of Murder on the Orient Express.
It was perceived by many that Polunin's use of his social media celebrity to push his political views was unethical, and he lost contracts with major ballet companies.
Often, the insight that social media gives us into the thoughts of the artist we see as inspiring can change the way we see them, the work they produce and the companies they represent. In the past, the media was primarily controlled by the journalists within the industry, and there was a careful filter on how celebrities represented themselves to the public. Now, celebrities are curating their own marketing platforms and their lifestyles and views can have a very real impact on the way their work is received.
We can also dive further into this impact of social media on the dance world. Further than the reception of an audience, we see the effect on the participants, particularly the up and coming generation. The online saturation of perfectly edited and filtered images can also have a detrimental influence on young dancers imitating moves or poses they see online.
Dancers, with their beautiful lines and perfect postures, have always been an interesting subject for photographers, and thus there is a huge online community of dance pages dedicated to curating the photography ballerinas from around the world. But, as we have all seen in many areas of the internet, particularly the endless black hole of Instagram scrolling, these seemingly flawless images don't always represent reality - they may hide an unhealthy lifestyle, an unattainable work level, or even an expertly photoshopped body.
For young dancers hoping to break into the industry, these images can paint a picture of an unrealistic and unachievable physicality, one that distorts the real work of the professional dancer and focuses on an extremely high leg or arched back.
The filtered and carefully curated images of professional dancers can create standards that distract young dancers from the real importance of their studies - to learn to dance, move, and interpret music like an artist.
Russian Prima Ballerina Diana Vishneva addressed the issue in an interview with The Telegraph in the UK in 2018, saying: "Some [dancers] are not yet professional or mature enough to understand what they are watching on YouTube. They see the surface, the great bodies, but they don't realise the work behind that."
In many art forms, social media has become a new and exciting platform to promote, cultivate a new audience, communicate and inspire. Dancers and companies alike have become attune to the many benefits that our contemporary technology holds.
But its influence can potentially yield negative results, and contribute to the degradation of the purity of the art form.
It is common knowledge that this sudden ease of an online voice bring effects to be wary of. Our dance community, whether it be students, professionals, parents or audience members should be careful of being easily swayed by an alluring image, just as they would be in other industries, and of the changes that social media has brought to the landscape.
The online "show" must go on, but, it is up to each of use to appreciate the truth of the art form, and to decide what "show" we decide to be a part of.