Dance vs. PowerPoint?

A Response to the TEDx Talks from John Bohannon Dance vs. PowerPoint at the TEDx Conference in Brussels’

By: Lucie Baker

In this brief speech about the perils of PowerPoint and the advantages of dance as a form of communication John Bohannon brings up a number of important questions about the way we share information and the role of art within contemporary culture. Two of the most compelling thoughts for me are: Does art have a purpose? and how can I most effectively make someone understand an idea?

I personally believe that art must have no function other than to be art;  a distinction that separates art from design. For example, a beautifully crafted fork is still a fork, not a sculpture. That being said, I also believe that art is a method of communication that is more holistic and intuitive than language. I have understood nuances of rage and tranquility by looking at a Mark Rothko painting that I could never articulate in language or PowerPoint. I agree that PowerPoint is a misused and ineffective tool for communication. However, I feel somewhat belittled by relegating dance to explaining scientific research. It is so much more. I am excited by the prospect of combining disciplines and sharing knowledge between the artistic and scientific communities. Dance is one of the most complicated ways that the human body interacts with the laws of physics which would make it a uniquely articulate way to explore new ideas about physics. However, it communicates a wide range of emotions and experiences as well.

All that aside, I often find that people are woefully habitual when it comes to their methods of communication. People think in many different ways. Why not use all of our senses to convey what we mean? Visual, audio, texture, taste, smell. I often find myself singing a story to a friend or my gestures turning into more of a dance when I am really getting into a good point. I am not interested in turning dance into a tool for rhetoric but I am interested in new ways of connecting to one another and sharing the knowledge of the world.

So move over PowerPoint. Let the dancers take the stage and teach us about super fluids.

Inspiring local communities through TEDx

ASTEP was invited to present at the TEDxYouthDay event on November 19, 2011 at The School at Columbia University. In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, the well-known TED conference created TEDx so local communities could spark deep discussions and share a TED-like experience. The theme for TEDxYouthDay 2011 was Play, Learn, Build & Share,  and ASTEP’s Mauricio Salgado presented A Call to Action to highlight creative ways to inspire curiosity and empower young leaders. Read below for his account of the day’s events:

Twelve presenters, including Charles Wilson (author of Chew On This) and Dickson Despommier (author of The Vertical Farm), shared innovative ideas and projects to encourage aspiring middle school students to make positive change in their lives and communities.

For my presentation, I adapted stories shared by ASTEP students and alum during the A Story per Step Campaign to relate the power of story-telling and what it can embody. After the presentation, I received help from a group of ASTEP volunteers–Will Clark, Laura Mead, John Egan, Dion Mucciacito, and Slaveya Starkov–to facilitate a story-telling workshop for students and parents. Both ASTEP presentations were received very positively by the community and a handful of people expressed interest in connecting with ASTEP in the future. Most importantly, I was honored to have 9 ASTEP members and supporters present, including Joe Norton (the Director of Educational Outreach for Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS).

The piece I performed was co-created by Alejandro Rodriguez, Slaveya Starkov, Cindy Salgado and myself. At the core of the piece is the following story:

Truth, naked and cold, had been turned away from every door in the village. Her nakedness frightened the people. When Parable found her, she was huddled in a corner, shivering and hungry. Taking pity on her, Parable gathered her up and took her home. There, she dressed Truth in story, warmed her and sent her out again; clothed in story. Truth knocked again at the villagers’ doors and was readily welcomed into the people’s houses. They invited her to eat at their table and warm herself by their fire.

Thank you to Karen Blumberg and The School at Columbia University for including ASTEP in this rewarding community building experience.