Its The 80s All Over Again

I was getting my 80s fix on YouTube watching Kate Bush’s video for “Running Up That Hill.” Even though the song is fairly old in MTV years, the comments section was very active with responses as recent as an hour before I viewed the piece. (Which serves to confirm that I have good taste in music.)

The video features a lot of modern dance (which was probably even more modern in 1985). While I imagine most everyone was coming for the music, I was trying to think if there was a way to have a high rate of success in juxtaposing a little arts performance with something a lot of people wanted to watch/listen to on YouTube. For every coolness factor I could think of, there was a possible negative influence that would suck the cool right out so I am not quite sure what the answer is.

While looking around YouTube to see if any other dance companies had put anything intriguing up, I found an interesting effort by the Cincinnati Ballet. The have posted YouTube video contests corresponding to each one of their shows. Each video asks you to cast a vote between three possible choices and when you do, you get $10 off a ticket to that show.

The most recent contest had people voting to decide which of three slobs turned suave would get to take the artistic director to the ballet. Over 3500 people voted which isn’t too bad a result. I would be interested to know how many of those who voted weren’t regular attendees. Even if they didn’t end up going to the show, they visited the ballet’s website which is a good first step.

You can take a look at some of their earlier episodes here. My personal feeling is that they did a good job for a first time out. I didn’t like the textures applied to the Twyla Tharpe video because it made it hard to watch. The “Smackdown Ballet Style” was a fun idea to promote Bolero but I think it went on a little too long to engage an curious new attendee’s interest.

The one I liked the best was the “Nutty Dance” where three people from the community (music reporter, musician and vice mayor) were pitted against each other trying to do a segment from The Nutcracker. Each did a credible job and put their own stamp on the piece.

Remembering some of the first music videos on MTV back in the 80s, I don’t fault them for the somewhat rough first attempts. I salute them for their imagination and initiative and hope they and others will work to refine their technique in using tools like YouTube to promote their work. I am betting these clever folks devise an entirely different approach to marketing their product altogether.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


Leave a Comment