Dance is a medium best experienced in person, but it can be inaccessible: You have to show up at a certain place and time, often with an expensive ticket in hand.
One strange benefit to this era of social distancing is that while theaters may be shuttered, the work seen on their stages has become more widely available than ever before. Arts organizations have rushed to set up virtual programming, existing online services have lifted their paywalls and free platforms have expanded their offerings. If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about dance, but geography or cost stood in the way, now is a good time to start.
The proliferation of options can also be overwhelming. Where to begin? Here are some digital spaces, both new and long established, providing free access to high-quality performance videos, illuminating dance documentaries and, in many cases, context for what you’re watching in the form of essays, interviews and conversations. If you like what you see, follow your curiosity; chances are you can find more in the labyrinths of YouTube, Vimeo and Instagram.
Ailey All Access Among its many digital offerings, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is streaming full-length works from its repertory, with broadcasts of past performances every Thursday at 7 p.m. Eastern time. Coming up are Judith Jamison’s “Divining” (April 9) and Rennie Harris’s must-see “Lazarus” (April 16). Recordings remain on the Ailey All Access page for a week. alvinailey.org/ailey-all-access
Trisha Brown Dance Company Though its 50th-anniversary season at the Joyce Theater was called off, this troupe is moving the celebration online, letting Brown’s ingenuity dance across our screens. Videos of her work are posted weekly on the company’s website and IGTV channel (@trishabrowncompany). Next up: her 1985 “Working Title” and a new social-distancing version of her 1971 “Roof Piece” — which you can try, too. trishabrowncompany.org
Chocolate Factory Theater For years, this small but vital space for experimental dance and theater, in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, has been building an under-the-radar Vimeo archive of all that happens there (or most of it). Browse dozens of performances from the past decade — along with helpful “context videos” in which the artists talk about their work — at vimeo.com/chocolatefactory.
Merce Cunningham Trust This organization’s abundance of digital content could keep you busy for weeks. Some possible starting points: the invaluable web series “Mondays With Merce,” compiled in a playlist on the trust’s YouTube channel; videos of “Night of 100 Solos,” last year’s celebration of Cunningham’s 100th birthday, at vimeo.com/mercecunninghamtrust; and full-length recordings of 13 Cunningham works, including “Summerspace” and “Beach Birds,” in the Dance Capsules section of mercecunningham.org. (If you’re new to Cunningham, the documentary film “Cunningham,” now available online for a small fee, is a good primer.)
Marquee TV With its array of dance, theater and opera on demand, this is the digital place to be for fans of classical and contemporary ballet. A 30-day free trial gives you access to performances by the Royal Ballet, New York City Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, Alonzo King LINES Ballet and other companies from around the world. The selection of dance documentaries is also solid. marquee.tv.
Martha Matinees On Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. Eastern, the Martha Graham Dance Company invites viewers to tune into its YouTube channel for screenings of all things Graham, including vintage clips of the modern dance matriarch herself. The troupe’s artistic director, Janet Eilber, offers commentary through the live chat feature, joined by special guests. youtube.com/marthagrahamdancecompany.
OntheBoards.TV The Seattle theater On the Boards created this website in 2010 to bring full-length, thoughtfully filmed works of contemporary performance to a wider audience. It has always been a useful resource, and even more so now. Access to the full library of films — including gems like Tere O’Connor’s “Bleed,” Okwui Okpokwasili’s “Bronx Gothic” and Ralph Lemon’s presciently titled “How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere?” — is free through April. To learn more about the artists, visit the site’s “Shifting Contexts” section. ontheboards.tv
Ovid.tv On this platform specializing in independent films, the draw for the dance-curious is the broad assortment of dance documentaries, which include “Carmen and Geoffrey,” about the stellar duo Carmen de Lavallade and Geoffrey Holder; “Secundaria,” about students in Cuba’s esteemed National Ballet School; and “Dancing Dreams,” about the teenage cast of a Pina Bausch work. Explore them all with a two-week free trial. ovid.tv
PlayBAC In this weekly series, the Baryshnikov Arts Center presents high-quality, never-before-seen videos from its archive of performances filmed over the past 15 years. Each Thursday at 5 p.m. Eastern, a new video is posted on the center’s website and stays up for a week. The series begins April 9 with the astounding flamenco dancer Rocío Molina and the powerful singer Rosario La Tremendita, in their 2012 work “Afectos.” Other dance offerings include Rashaun Mitchell’s “Interface” (April 23-28) and Vertigo Dance Company’s “One. One & One (May 7-12). bacnyc.org/playbac
(Re)Live Arts Streaming New York Live Arts and its resident troupe, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, present a rotating selection of talks and performances from their archives. The queue changes every Thursday and stays up for a week. newyorklivearts.org/streaming
Rosas Open Streaming Before the pandemic brought Broadway to a halt, the Belgian dance maker Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker was in the spotlight for her choreography in the new “West Side Story.” Learn more about her pre-Broadway days through a growing collection of rarely seen videos on the website of her own company, Rosas. Highlights include a recording of “Rain” — a scintillating work to Steve Reich from 2001 — and a film adaptation of her 1991 “Achterland.” rosas.be
Upstreaming This series from the Fisher Center for Performing Arts at Bard College features an exciting array of past performances, with new video content added each Wednesday. The virtual lineup includes a 2015 program of Pam Tanowitz Dance (now available); “What Remains,” a collaboration between the choreographer Will Rawls and the poet Claudia Rankine (to be released April 8); Beth Gill’s “Catacomb” and Tere O’Connor’s “Long Run” (to be released April 15); and “Chambre” by Jack Ferver and Marc Swanson (to be released April 22). fishercenter.bard.edu