Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Theatre Thoughts: Modes of Reflection and Communication

Thinking about the internet, and modes of reflection (i.e. I use my personal journal as opposed to my blog or (god forbid) my Facebook statuses, when I want to work through issues)

One of the things I found with my degree course is that it's helping me to think about things in a different way: when I'm reading things online or in the newspaper, or when I hear something on the news I find I'm often drawing parallels to subjects we're looking at in these modules.

Paula Nottingham recently posted a link to a statement from Tim Berners-Lee regarding internet privacy and codes of conduct. (This is the link) He is calling for a Bill Of Rights, which he is comparing to the Magna Carta, to guarantee basic rights and freedoms on the internet.
However I feel this could be near enough an impossibility: one persons idea of freedom may be another's idea of censorship. It is close to the conversation "What is Freedom?" which I am not going to get into because I can't even pretend to have enough knowledge or insight into this subject.

Mel Gibson as Braveheart: all about the freedom...

The article talks about 'concerns over privacy and freedom on the internet.' Now, to me, this is almost a contradiction: for example, the 'right to be forgotten' that has recently been passed through the European Union, allows an individual to censor potentially damaging, libellous or slanderous material that may be online. On the one hand, yes it is fair that an individual has the right to their privacy when dealing with sensitive issues, but on the other hand does the public have the right to this information?
Example: a potential politician may have been arrested in their youth for a minor crime, which was reported in the local newspaper and therefore on the local newspapers website. This minor crime, committed in their teens has little to no bearing on them as an adult or affects their ability to do their job. However, when this theoretical politician runs for prime-minister this article is used against them by the opposition and he is forced to stand down from office because of a youthful indiscretion.
On one side of the argument, maybe the public has the right to know that their potential prime minister, I don't know, stole a bike or something as a teenager, but on the other hand this politician has now had their future career shattered over something that has nothing to do with their ability or personality as an adult.

Tim Berners-Lee states in the article that in order for the internet to be a "neutral medium" it must reflect all of humanity. It is the same problem as the Freedom Of Speech - what is offensive to one person may be the core belief of another, and therefore how can this be patrolled or controlled on the internet?

I think that this 'Magna Carta' for the internet is a wonderful idea but it relies on users adhering to a code of conduct and respecting fellow users rights, which as we all know is near enough an impossibility online!

Allie Brosh - Hyperbole and a Half

I was watching BBC News this morning as they interviewed Michael Palin regarding his new book, which is basically his diary since 1969!

I searched for 'Michael Palin' on Google Images and had to use this one.

Michael Palin on Journals...
"I sometimes miss the odd day but generally I just try and record a day. That's all."

"It's nothing to do with hindsight, because what actually happened on that day, sometimes it's obvious that you've made stupid judgements, or you made the wrong call, or something happened that you'd never actually remembered when you look back. You think life is kind of a smooth curve and it's actually very, very jagged..."

"I always call diary's an 'antidote to hindsight' because hindsight smooths things out. Diary's remind you or how things really were."

I picked out these quotes because of what I took from them and how I related them to the course I'm on: that it's okay to miss a day here and there but it's about consistency. That there will be ups and downs, things that are difficult and things that mean a lot at the time, but that when you look back on them they have paled into insignificance. And that, specifically for this course, the journal will remind me of my thoughts and feelings at the time of writing, which may or may not have any influence on how I feel in the end but that it will show my journey. (Journal/Journey - Ha!)

Originally Published at http://bit.ly/1ndjTDM

Monday, 29 September 2014

Task 2a: Reflective Practice

This task was to keep a journal to explore our own thoughts... I'm actually weirdly apprehensive about this. I kept a journal when I was a teenager and I remember it being full of the usual teenage angst and anger; I tried to keep journals through in to my twenties but life gets in the way and it fell by the wayside. I recently came across some of these old journals and it brought up a whole range of emotions - some that I was unprepared for.

I suppose that's the point of this task then: so as the course goes on we can look back and see where we've come from and how far we've progressed.

The journal could take many different forms - a blog, a physical diary, audio recordings... well I shan't be recording myself. As previously mentioned, I can't stand the sound of my own voice on a recording!

There are many different ways in which people puzzle through their own thoughts and ideas: some people meditate or take a bath, others go to the gym or like to cook. It could be an activity in which a conscious part of the brain is focusing on another task, like reading a book, allowing the unconscious brain to work things out quietly behind the scenes. Some people work through ideas best in a proactive way, by talking them through, writing them down or doodling graphs and charts: like the one I made below!

How to Write A Journal
Green: How/When to Write - Red: Benefits of Writing - Purple: Aspects to write about

I like to write my ideas down in order to work things out. When problems are typed out on a computer screen they seem, to me, to lose some of their magnitude: when an issue is reduced to a couple of words or a sentence it seems to be easier to manage: and for me I like to bring order to the chaos that my thought patterns often spiral in to. It also calms my jumbles of thoughts - the time it takes to physically write out a paragraph is calming for me and by the time I've finished writing I'm usually a lot more focused.

"Journal writing is inherently associated with learning... [it] enhances reflection and therefore Creative Practise..." (DAVID BOUD

I'm not sure how this journal is going to progress: looking back on my old journals from childhood there are a lot of scribbles, lots of pictures and colours, and I suppose I'll probably take the same sort of route. Pretty things to look at are nicer to look back on. For the time being, because no one is going to see it,

My Journal!

I obviously can't predict what might happen for the duration of the course but for the time being I'm planning on using real names and places when talking about events.  If I had to use one of these as an example later in the course I would probably consider anonymising people for ethical reasons, depending on the context of the situation and the example; changing names when appropriate, or deliberately omitting names of venues or agencies. (During a recent Google Hangout session, Paula mentioned that several companies will set Google Alerts to send them a message whenever they are referenced! Despite the fact that online I'm nothing but professional (!) I'd still be worried about any negative implications from mentioning places I work or people I work with!)

No one is going to see this journal, although excerpts of it will be used later in the course. It's purely something for me, for my progress, and that's a lovely thought. I've already written a couple of entries and it's amazing how cathartic it feels!

Friday, 26 September 2014

Task 1d: 2d Images

I have a huge amount of photos taken over my performing career: because of the nature of what I have specialised in, I often find that I am performing to a bank of iPhone cameras rather than to people. (Myself and my fellow performers have been known to take advantage of this; stealing peoples phones or photo-bombing selfies during our acts!)

How the audience looks from the stage!

However this comes with a couple of issues, other than the obvious that it's annoying and inconsiderate: 

* What if I don't like the particular photo that has been taken?
There are often proper photographers in the audience and there have been many occasions where images of me have popped up on their websites. Sometimes I actually hate the picture (my face does weird things when I'm performing!). Nice photographers will either a) ask permission before posting the pictures so I can veto the pictures before they go up, or b) delete or untag particularly unflattering images if I send them a message to do so.
However there are lots of bad pictures of me out of there doing the rounds, either as part of the work of a photographer who has either not asked my permission or refused to delete photos, or buried in peoples photo albums with titles like "Debbie's Hen Party". The latter I am never likely to see or find, but I worry about the presentation of myself on the internet if I don't have control over my online image.

* How is the image going to be used in the future?
The law of photography copyright states that photographers *always* have the right of use over the image unless there is a written contract stating otherwise. This applies even in situations where the subject has paid for the photoshoot: the photographer can still utilise those images for their own use if they feel they want to.
Again, nice photographers will still ask permission, for example, to use a wedding photo on their website. But they don't have to.
Friends of mine have come across products with their image on being sold for profit without their knowledge; again sometimes they hate the particular image being used. I recently took part in a photo session for a photographer's book: the book was published and is being sold with images in it of myself and other performers that I think are terrible (both quality-wise and because of how the performers look in them!). We were not asked which images we would like used, and we are not paid anything from the sale of the book - we weren't even offered a free copy as thanks for our time! Photos of myself and friends have also appeared in magazines and editorials without the model or performers permission.

It's a tricky business and to some extent we don't have much control over our online presence in this respect.

When I started this task I had to think carefully about which images I used. On my performer professional profiles I have a selection of images for each act, that I feel best displays the style of that particular routine. However, given the nature of what I do, this comes with its own set of ethical implications:

* My routines nearly always involve some sort of partial nudity.
   - people don't necessarily want to see that.
   - if the denoument of the routine is partial nudity, do I want to 'give away' the ending, so to speak?
   - some social media sites have rules governing what they deem 'explicit' images (I have friends whose profiles have been deleted for breaking the rules!)

I know, however, that as I self-promote, potential employers need to see elements of what they are booking. In this respect visual aids (photographs and videos) are extremely important! I believe, more so than in other areas of performing arts. My performance portfolio is a record of the work I've done, the standard I've achieved and the style I perform in

A teaser video I shot for a recent act

When I work on a new act I sometimes post a teaser clip to whet interest, or add pictures of elements of the costume to Instagram, or even just an audio clip of the music I'm planning on using. This all adds up to keeping my online presence interesting and relevant and maintaining interest in my product (i.e. Me!)

So, in finalising this task I decided to add a selection of images showing my development as a Burlesque and Cabaret performer, from my very first show up to my most recent: I believe that it shows how my style has changed and evolved, and how I have developed as a performer.

Photos 1 & 2 : Taken from my very first shows: I started with a very 'cheesecake' style, using storytelling to create the arc of an act.
Photos 3 - 8 : I started to experiment with more alternative styles of performance including costume, styling, music and skills to enhance my routines
Photos 9 & 10 : Calling upon my training I often utilised several different styles of dance such as pointe work and lyrical dance.
Photos 11 - 17 : I am currently finding that I am most comfortable performing in a 'classic showgirl' style. I make use of lighting, music, extravagant costumes and props to create high-energy routines.

It's been interesting looking back through my old photos and considering how I've progressed and changed in my performance style - even if I do feel slightly narcissistic! 

* All photographs have been credited and used with the permission of the photographer.

Second Draft - Task 1a: Professional Profile

After working through some of the Module Tasks I have re-written my Professional Profile a little; refined it and made it more appropriate to the course:

"My name is Dani; I am a professionally trained Actress, Dancer and Singer having graduated with Distinction from Liverpool Theatre School and College. During my time training I also gained Distinctions in the three higher level LAMDA Acting examinations and was nominated for an IDTA Scholarship Award in Ballet.

Since graduating I have specialised in Variety, Cabaret and Burlesque performance. I have had the privilege of  seeing a small, niche scene burgeon into a thriving industry which has allowed me to forge a career and travel across the world. Some of my favourite performances include: joining the cast of the world-famous "Simon Drake's House of Magic", touring with the award winning shows "The Burlesque Show", "Circus Burlesque" and "Another F**king Variety Show", and being a Feature Soloist in the original cast of "Burlesque On Ice" for which I also worked as Assistant Creative Director.

As part of my ongoing performer development I have also learned Basic Fire Performance, Figure Skating and Aerial Hoop! I enjoy challenging myself and learning new skills; next I want to learn some form of Martial Art and Tightrope Walking! I imagine things like this will come in handy one day!

I am now studying for a BA(Hons) Degree in Performance Practise with Middlesex University: as I am at a stage of my life where I am searching for the next step in my arts career. I would love to work in a Creative Direction role that would allow me to build on my experience and knowledge of the performance industry and I believe this course will help me achieve my goals!"

Not too much different: just streamlined slightly with a little more information where it might have been needed.

Task 1c: Audio-Visual

I have to admit I've been putting off doing this task - and from looking through other students blogs on this task, I'm not the only one! I hate the sound of my own voice on recording equipment - I won't even leave voicemails as I don't want to inflict that on anyone!
According to my boyfriend who is a sound engineer, what we hear on lower quality recording equipment isn't actually how we sound to other people, due to compression and sound waves and some other big, technical things I don't understand. The point is, don't worry - we never sound as bad as we think we do!

I took plenty of notes and watched previous students videos to get some idea of what to do and say!

It's a funny thing: we are performers so naturally we quite like being centre stage... when it suits us. I can quite happily go on stage and act out a comedy or big romantic scene, or belt out a tricky showtune, but ask me to do something *as me* and I freeze! We're so used to playing a character; acting a role, that often we don't really know who we are ourselves.*

So I've done my best!

Honestly, this was the best thumbnail option they gave me!
Or view it in YouTube here... LINK

*Lightbulb moment, right there!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Task 1b: Professional Communication Technologies

In the early days of the World Wide Web the market was dominated by a few companies with platform-based applications and internal searches, catering for clients who could pay and who had the required knowledge to access and engage with the creator-led sites on the infant internet.

Web 2.0 has fundamentally changed the way we interact with others, from friends and acquaintances to strangers from around the world. Interaction has developed from “Call Me,” or “Text Me”, to “Email Me,” to “Facebook Me”... it's interesting to note the use of 'Facebook' as a verb! A person goes on Facebook to facebook...

Yet, it is something we take for granted in our day-to-day lives. I have to say I didn't even know that Web 2.0 was a term until I read the Module guide! However it has sparked off some interesting (to me) trains of thought, so I will attempt to put my thoughts down!

The original idea of the web was that it should be a collaborative space where you can communicate through sharing information.” Tim Berners-Lee

Some of the notes I made while working on this task!

Defining Web 2.0

The world has never been smaller thanks to Web 2.0 – in one glance you can see what your childhood friend from school had for breakfast or what your cousin in Canada is up to. Web 2.0 could be defined with the following principles:
* User-based
* Social Networking
* Information Sharing
Content on Web 2.0 is created by the users of the site and information is not local to a single user but globally accessible from multiple platforms. The site is improved by the number of users and feedback and participation is encouraged.

Facebook is definitely the modern success story of Web 2.0, and I started thinking about why. Why Facebook in particular out of the multitude of social networking sites? Does anyone still actively use MySpace, or Bebo?

Features that I believe have led Facebook to become a market leader are:

* User-friendly interface: the layouts are simple and inoffensive. Information is presented clearly, and it is relatively easy to find what you're looking for. MySpace was notorious for cluttered profiles with music, moving graphics and sparkling logos filling the page.

* The Wall: Facebook was the first social media platform to present the idea that what other people are up to is more important than what you yourself might be up to – on Facebook the 'homepage' was also the users profile and information was shared through bulletins and private messages. There was a 'wall' element to the site on a users profile however these were only visible by viewing the individuals profile and replying to a specific comment wasn't an option.

* Sharing: The ease of sharing information, pictures, videos, etc is greatly enhanced on Facebook when contrasted with previous social network sites: i.e. sharing a video from YouTube onto MySpace required the user to have a basic knowledge of html code; with Facebook and Twitter the option to share is embedded as part of YouTube's features.

* Constant Beta: features and apps are rolled out continuously and discreetly, disappearing if they are not considered to work well as part of the overall function or fall out of popularity (remember throwing a sheep, anyone?) rather than having huge launches of products that have been developed behind closed doors. The users of Facebook dictate the content and form of the site.

* Comments: as mentioned previously, replying to comments directly wasn't an option on some other social networking sites – the participatory nature of Web 2.0 is enhanced by this feature designed to engage conversation in an immediate way:

75% of the engagement on a post happens in the first five hours – JANE HART (Social Media Statistsc 2014 – c4LPT.com)

Facebook is completely user-driven and I believe epitomises the current definition of Web 2.0

Source: FacebookNewsroom

Downsides to Web 2.0

This passage from the Reader for Module One really stood out to me, as I believe it can be applicable to many areas, not just Web 2.0

If we don't have the instruments by which we can participate (time, money, skills, infrastructure, etc) then we will be unable or unwilling to participate...” READER 1 WBS3730 BAPP ARTS
  • Online networking is quick, free or relatively inexpensive, easy and accessible. Therefore it encourages participation through its very nature.
However, is Web 2.0 now too integral to modern life? Would it actually affect lives to not have the ease and accessibility of social media?

A very messy spidergraph I made spurred by the participation comment in the Module Reader

This question has arisen recently on Facebook in response to the debate about allowing performers to use their stage names on their profiles, and regarding an announcement on the Digital Trends website in August that Facebook may launch a 'freemium' service; charging an amount per month for premium use of the site, although what this service will entail is rather vague (removing promoted posts and ads, I think!).

Mark Zuckerberg believes that using a false name on Facebook shows a 'lack of integrity' (MICHAEL ZIMMER 2014) However arguments against this stance have included examples of those who are better known by their stage name than their real name, all the way to people who may be in a position where to reveal their real name could put them in danger; political activists, ex-gang members, etc.

Friends of mine on Facebook have been asking what people think about this, bearing in mind that in the Cabaret industry, most people have quite an outrageous stage name! Some of the opposing views received are:

Not sure what I'd do. Virtually all of my company promotion and business is done on Facebook. If they shut my account down my business and nearly nine years of hard work would be stuffed.”

Nearly all of my business is through word of mouth. I'm hardly ever on Facebook, just for pictures and catching up with friends so I'd miss that.”

Regarding paying for Facebook, several surveys for online surveys have been conducted. When I asked my network on the site whether they would pay for Facebook, I received some of the following comments:

I would possibly be willing to pay for my business page, although I already pay to promote posts through that anyway and I'm not sure how much good it does. I would never pay for my profile.”

No. I'd just close my account and go somewhere else.”

Digital Trends, the website I initially found this report on had some of these responses:

I would pay for Facebook. [It] is such an integral part of our everyday lives now, and it is an important part of the marketing plan for small businesses...”

Why should I pay for networking when I can do the same thing in groups and forums for free?”

I do not think it would have 1.5 billion users if it had begun as a pay-to-use website.”

From this I get the impression that people are dependent on Social Networks for a variety of reasons, both personal and professional, and removing the access to these networks could affect people in a range of different ways. However, one of the main attractions to Social Media is its accessibility - as in, it's free and easy.

Future of Web 2.0

I started thinking about the crossover between the different forms of communication discussed in both the Module Reader and in Tim O'Reilly's article and where the future of these forms of communication can fuse.

There have recently been a couple of television shows (television possibly falling under the Web 1.0 category as a form of communication that has been developed by a creator and is presented to the consumer) that have taken the opportunities offered by Web 2.0. In the UK the recent live rounds of the television series featured real-time Tweets and Vines from viewers: consumer interaction is nothing new - television shows for years have made use of watchers calling in to affect the outcome of a show (X-Factor and Britain's Got Talent just being two of the most recent) but this was one of the first times Social Media was actively featured as part of the production.
In the USA a recent series of 'Americas Next Top Model' took this a step further by engaging users of social media to actually affect the scores the competitors received. During this series the models were awarded two sets of scores for each task, one from the judges and one from those who engaged with the show on social media. As far as I'm aware this is the first time Web 2.0 has affected a previously established communication form in this way*

*although I could be wrong!

America's Next Top Models receiving their Social Media scores

Ethics of Web 2.0

As we engage more as an individual across a range of Social Media, are we at risk of sharing too much?

Facebook is a social system that allows people to interact, share ideas and content, link that to other users and therefore improve the experience for other users. However a line in the Module Reader caught my eye:

"Facebook... increases its understanding of you as a user and you as a creator." READER 1 WBS3730 BAPP ARTS

Whenever a user on Social Media links or shares content these create links in the very fabric of the internet, in much the same way synapses in the brain link. However this means that with careful searching, a committed hacker could probably find out much more than we would want them to know, purely from following the links. Like a breadcrumb trail.

With web based content there can be issues with copyright and authenticity, confidentiality and permissions: once something is on a public forum can it still be considered 'owned' by a creator? There has been a recent scandal regarding pictures of famous women being leaked and distributed, and one of the most common comments has been that because these women put themselves in the public eye that cannot make the claim that anything they create (be that a film, song or naked selfie) can be considered private or sacred in its entirety.

With the issue of copyright and permissions, where does the previously mentioned issue of people not using their real names on Social Media come in? If I create something under a stage name, can I not lay claim to this as something I've created because I have done so under an alias? 

Wikipedia has also come under fire for this: because Wikipedia relies on user-generated content many academics do not consider it to be a reliable resource however the counter argument to this in the Module Reader is that these academics simply consider the resource to be a 'disruptive influence', undermining and questioning established codes of practice...

...in a similar way to the market dominance of platform applications over web-based resources in the 1990's, and look what happened there!

In Conclusion:

This task has led me to think more about the way I engage with social media and how I present myself as such. It has also made me question the importance of social media to our day-to-day lives, and the impact it can have on both our personal and professional relationships.

It has led me to think about the crossover between my professional life and my personal life, and, as I have two profiles on most Social Media sites in order to facilitate this division, whether one or the other would suffer were social media to suddenly disappear.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Task 1a: Professional Profile


This is the first draft of my new professional profile - I'd love to get some feedback and hear what you think. 

Obviously the 'About Me' section of this blog shows whatever my Google+ profile says, which is not necessarily the most appropriate way to present myself professionally!

"My name is Dani; I am a professionally trained Actress, Dancer and Singer, having graduated with Distinction from Liverpool Theatre School and College. While training I also gained Distinctions in the three higher level LAMDA Acting examinations, and was nominated for an IDTA Scholarship Award in Ballet.

Since graduating I have worked freelance as a performer, specialising in Cabaret and Burlesque and I have performed all over the world in theatres, on television and for private or corporate events.

Some of my favourite performances include: Feature Soloist in the original cast of 'Burlesque On Ice', joining the cast of the world-famous 'Simon Drake's House Of Magic', touring and performing with the award winning shows 'The Burlesque Show', 'Circus Burlesque' and 'Another F**king Variety Show', and appearing in 'Coronation Street'!

As part of my ongoing training I have also learned Fire Performance, Figure Skating and Aerial Hoop! I enjoy challenging myself and learning new skills: next I want to learn some form of martial art.

Outside of performing I am the manager of a dance-wear store in the outskirts of London, which I love as it allows me to pass on my knowledge and expertise to the next generation of dancers and performers.

I am excited to start the BAPP Arts course: I am at a stage of my life where I am searching for the next step in my arts career – my dream job would be in a Creative Direction role within an exciting and forward-thinking theatre or cabaret production company, and I believe this course will help me achieve this goal."

Oh and I also have a proper workspace! I love quirky, vintage pieces (furniture, clothing, anything!) so when I spied this retro writing bureau in a charity store I knew I had to have it!

My little workspace!

During the induction, Adesola stressed the importance of having a specific work area, so I'm deliberately keeping my desk free of clutter and the the detritus of modern life. Although I can't guarantee I can keep it free of cats...

Sunday, 21 September 2014


I've just had my Skype induction with Adesola from the university - it was lovely to chat with some of the other people starting the degree and hear more about the course.

I made lots of pages of notes!


It's also given me some ideas about the direction to possibly take the first module in; Adesola mentioned about professional and personal networks which has sparked off the beginnings of an idea... I'll have to see where it goes!

I'm excited to get started! Knowing what I'm like I'll throw myself in at the deep end then burn out after a couple of weeks so I need to learn how to structure my time properly so that I keep momentum and focus. From past experience I know this is something I definitely need to work on!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Best Foot Forward

Blogging has been a large part of my life for a couple of years: I have been working as a freelance performer and any promotional outlet has been seized and exploited for all it's worth!

You can check out my performer blog here if you like... I mostly write about what I've been up to (complete with pictures... probably NSFW...), but have done beauty product and book reviews, I wrote a blog about the history of Burlesque (which was retweeted by Immodesty Blaize, one of the biggest burlesque stars in the world!), I've written about my insomnia, shared my opinions of various aspects of the Burlesque and Cabaret world, and more!

Since graduating in 2007 from Liverpool Theatre School and College I have been working steadily, specialising in Cabaret and Burlesque performance. I love the spontaneity and immediacy of the art form I, admittedly, fell in to - no two performances are the same. A routine is dictated more by the performance space and audience reaction than any rehearsed or choreographed routine, and obviously every show features a wildly varied line-up. It's truly fabulous and I'm so glad that life found me.

Cabaret Detritus

However I accepted some time ago that this career had a finite life span, and I grew weary of the constant hustle and push for jobs; the never-ending trawl of Facebook and other forums where gigs were posted, and, the bane of the freelancers life, living from show to show and only having as much money as the last gig paid. It's a sad but true fact that most dancers, especially in the cabaret world, can't go on forever and can't make a lifetime career out of it, no matter how hard we all work or how much passion each of us have for this funny little industry.

I was working part-time in a dance shop in London, (I worked in dance stores before and during my training so it's something I know and enjoy) and was lucky enough a couple of months ago to be promoted to manager of one of the companies other stores.

So that's where I'm up to now: I'm still performing but only the shows I want to do and can easily fit around a full-time job that I love. And I enjoy it again; I'm enjoying life and I'm so excited about starting the BAPP course at Middlesex as I can finally see a way of making a sustainable future career out of the experience and knowledge I have gained over the last decade.

So Bring. It. On!