Monday, November 30, 2009

Dance in New Media: Uniqlo

Starting off this week; we're diving into the large new media world of film, television, advertising, and the Internet to see how dance is being explored in new contexts. Today, we're looking at the Japanese fashion company Uniqlo, who have gained a lot of international attention for their combination of cutting-edge casual wear design, affordable prices, and playful mix-and-match items. The Japanese popping crew U-Min have been featured in a Uniqlo Mixplay video, that's easily viewable on Youtube. And recently, Uniqlo has released videos of ballet dancers in unusual locations as part of their Uniqlock campaign. (Photo above is from the Wikipedia entry on Uniqlo.)

You can see the English version of the Uniqlo site here:

You can see the Mixplay video with Japanese popping crew U-Min here:

And you can see one example of the recent Uniqlock campaign with ballet dancers here:

Currently, there's only one Uniqlo store in the U.S. and it's located in the Soho district in New York City. It's a three-story expansive store that makes the shopping experience vivid and playful. You have to experience it for yourself. Uniqlo started as part of the Fast Retailing Co. under the name "Unique Clothing Warehouse" in 1984. Since then, it's evolved into its own identity and captured the imaginations of many young people around the world. Have you ever worn a jacket that uses your own body moisture to keep you warm? Or have you ever seen a down vest that is lighter in weight than three eggs? Sounds impossible? Well, Uniqlo has done it with their recent product lines. They've kept a fashionable edge with stores in New York, London, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Singapore.

For street dancers, especially for poppers, Uniqlo's designs are highly desirable. Poppers in LA are known for wearing member's only-style jackets that are form-fitting with a shiny veneer that accentuates isolated movements. Uniqlo's jackets are just as form-fitting with bright colors that also aid in the visual presentation of our dance. A waver can make arm waves look even more visible with this kind of jacket as surrounding light is reflected off of each part of the wave moving through the arm. It really sells the illusion. Bright colors make the hit of each muscle contraction stand out for popping. When you look at U-Min's video for Uniqlo's Mixplay, you can see how their selection of colorful jackets really helps to create an eye-pleasing moving mass of primary and secondary colors against a white background. There's a sense of color design and theatricality in this presentation which makes the dancing stand out even more.

In their recent Uniqlock campaign, Uniqlo has also featured female Japanese ballet dancers freestyling in libraries, open halls, and outdoor venues such as the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame in Paris. Watching these carefully constructed visual art pieces is a mesmerizing experience. Camera movement, focus changes, shot composition are all carefully planned and we end up seeing dancers featured in filmic ways that are rarely seen in Hollywood mainstream musicals or dance flicks. The background moves along with the dancers as the camera moves. The form and lines of the dancers' bodies are complemented by background elements in soft focus. And dancers are allowed to fully interact with outdoor elements like fences on the street without fast cuts in editing. These Uniqlock videos are beautiful visual delights.

So we're seeing a company like Uniqlo create a quirky yet desirable image for themselves by bringing dancers into their ad campaigns. That's a wonderful career opportunity for these affiliated dancers as well as a movement towards seeing dance in visual mediums outside of 30-second commercials, film musicals, or stereotypical low-budget dance flicks. It's been heard that even in Asia, the four Japanese women in the Uniqlock campaigns have become popular and many young women want to be like them. U-Min certainly has risen to international prominence through their Mixplay ad, bringing greater attention to popping and animation styles. Let's see where Uniqlo takes us next in their fusion of dance with advertising.

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