Dance Film- Compiling the Semester

Here is a compilation of my work throughout Dance Film I this semester. Some of these have already been posted but they will be reposted here for a concise place for all of the work from this semester, culminating in my final project film, Unveiling, posted at the end of this post.

Firstly, I want to post my review of Dance@30FPS, a small dance film viewing of different works from across the globe.

Dance@30FPS

Dance@30FPS offered an array of different approaches to how we view dance and what we perceive as “dance.” I was fully involved and taken in by each of these films as each took on and exploited a different essence of dance. From choreographically comical birds, frozen ballerinas in which the choreography was the camera, and a playful parkour puzzle that intrigued the eye, this show was the poster child for diversity. One of the most curious pieces was Well Contested Sites by Amie Dowling who found a way of illuminating the isms of cell life through movement that was set on the foreboding island of Alcatraz in the decrepit cells and broken walls of its ruins. Ultimately I voted on Jopsu Ramu’s film Me: Story of a Performance as my favorite of the show, not because there was an actual women dancing in front of the camera, although her movement was exquisite, but because through the filming, sound score, and editing I felt I was experiencing every aspect of a performance experience: the ecstasy, the submersion, the retraction, and so much more.

            Dowling’s Well Contested Sites evoked so much about the emotional contingency of detention, and her filming choices have stuck with me since the show ended. The opening shot, I believe, is the back of an African American man’s bare shoulder with   the stretch marks of time etched into his skin. A wider shot of his entire back, the muscles, flesh, and structure come into view and we sense the burden of past upon that shoulder as he lays out his belongings to join the line of men being dragged into the cells. The use of the cells as a form of which to explore dance and the constraints of the space was striking as well as the unison of the core of men who exhibited the strength and power they had to maintain in order to make it through their once hellish ordeal. A poignant moment I remember is that of the main dancer/inmate standing in a tower overlooking the surrounding water, yet even though all the cinderblock walls are broken down he was still trapped inside—unable to flee this experience. Evocative and artful, Dowling makes you look at the prison system in a new light.

            Jopsu Ramu’s Me: Story of a Performance made movement and sound a single entity, but could have only been captured by the fearsome filming of Ramu. The stark nature of the barely off-whites, feathered blacks, and deep ocean blues supported the dancer’s harsh appearance, yet juxtaposed the fluid-like movement. Ramu successfully evoked the different feelings of each point of view of a “performance”: the shots that seemed to be of an isolated tundra with only a white ground and blue-black sky meeting at the horizon line made me feel like an audience member of the nose bleed seats, yet how I wished to never leave that seat for the solitude and grandeur of the dancer was magnified and awe-inspiring. The shots of the dancer underwater clarified this idea of complete submersion into a performance. As a dancer you lose your senses and everything is muddled for those mere minutes of performance, as it is when you sink underwater. Ramu obviously has a very clear sense of both performance and film and was able to eloquently merge the two into this wonderful film.

Throughout my Dance Film I class this semester we had smaller projects to focus on certain film editing techniques and a final film.

22 Shots: Taking a series of very small clips of movement and covering them from certain prescribed angles and facings.

   Edit 1:

             Edit 2:

Coverage and Rolling Edits: Working on covering different angles and roll editing a longer phrase with many different shots rather than just single/ one-second movements

Art Project: Taking a piece of physical Art and letting it inspire the creation of a dance film

Final Film: My culminating work in Dance Film is this film, Unveiling, which utilizes many of the techniques worked on in the previous films of this post and honing my personal aesthetic.

How to be Original…

This topic of Originality/Creativity/etc has popped up a lot recently for me. A respectable choreographer/artist/dancer Emma Portner posted a Facebook status addressing the issue the same week I had a reading due for my Dance Composition in Special Topics class that, also, addressed the subject. It is the same tired question we, as artists, all rack our brains with… Is what I am creating original? Is this thing that is regurgitated out of our minds and onto our bodies born from my own creative perception, or am I entirely influenced by the work of other dancers of which I both watch and practice?

“We all like to see something fresh, not least the presenters who put the work on, but the problem is you can’t make a piece by trying to be original. If you make a piece by trying to be original, then the piece will only be about trying to be original… It helps to keep your eyes open, but to know also when to close them.”- A Choreographer’s Handbook by Jonathan Burrows

Hypothetically I wonder, what if we all stopped watching other people’s choreography? What if I stopped dancing other people’s choreography? Basically, what if I pull a choreographic Thoreau? Will I be able to find the patterns my body naturally creates without the subconscious guidelines of other works I have seen? Maybe…but we don’t live in a hypothetical world. Thoreau couldn’t even completely cut himself off from society, because dinner with his mother was JUST that important.

We, as creators and artists, cannot escape our media-driven world; we cannot shield our eyes from the work of other artists for fear of morphing to their artistic style. Maybe it’s like dessert; it’s good in moderation. Or maybe when you’re in a choreographic process you make a conscious effort to take time to explore you’re own body’s patterns and leave the viewings for another day. Maybe there is no such thing as originality since every idea must be sparked by some piece of inspiration that already exists.

I constantly question my choreography. Common phrases said when choreographing:
1. Nope, that is too predictable.
2. Nope, I always do that move.
3. Does that look good?
4. Ughh I give up…

Part of it is the aesthetic parameters engrained in my mind from 17 years of technical training, and the other part is youtube. Another part is whether or not my professors and friends will respect or like my creation. I can be really self-conscious, but what I always forget is the response I get after sharing my choreography or teaching a class combination…it’s always really good and satisfying. I, like many other young artists, psych myself out trying to be both original and a crowd pleaser, but in the end “it’s just a stupid dance.” (Burrows).