Monday, December 10, 2012

"Amsterdam"...Daniel Robinson

Recently, I have been asked why I have not featured such distinguished choreographers as Mark Morris, Paul Taylor, or Martha Graham. While I have utmost respect for these legends, their work exists primarily on stage, where is is best appreciated live and in person. The purpose of SERVING CHOREO, is to highlight the exemplary work of choreographers who are creating art and content online. The degree to which a choreographer is successful in translating their work from stage to YouTube screen varies considerably from person to person. However, there are some individuals who have boldly embraced this new frontier and sought to choreograph SPECIFICALLY for online appreciation. Daniel Robinson, is one such innovator. As opposed to using the internet as a marketing tool for real world performance, his choreography is intentionally formatted to be enjoyed via small screen. For him, the decision to turn a dance piece into a video project is not a secondary afterthought, but instead, an integral component of his creative process from the outset. Daniel's work is a fantastic demonstration of a choreographer making full use of the online potential for creative perspective, inventive editing, and dynamic pacing. He is a TRUE "videographer" (video-choreographer) since he not only choreographs, but also films, edits, and masters the resulting video content.

MUSICALITY: I had the opportunity to speak with Daniel about his creative process. With regard to musicality, he mentioned that "the music for a dancer is like the map - so it affects the movement of the dancer. I like to use many different kinds of music to get a range of movement quality. During the shoot we constantly discussed the story and where the character was coming from. It was a very collaborative process." Also, when using the camera as a tool for choreography, the ability to edit musically becomes paramount. If you watch carefully from (2:18-2:24) you will realize how precise Daniel edits the imagery of his movement. We see the dancer literally crippling under the weight of being "pushed to the ground." Similarly, the body is seen wrapping the pipe, like a serpentine ribbon, on the word "around."

DANCER SYNC: I am always looking for opportunities to highlight choreographers who have healthy communication with their dancers. Some choreographers are simply beastly when they make certain demands, which compromise the dancer's safety and well-being. Daniel, however, is just the opposite...actively engaging the dancer to find a solution that works in the body as well as the camera. He told me, that their process was a mix of suggestion on Daniel's part, and improvisation on the part of Josh (the dancer). Daniel said, "thankfully Josh lives in the world of improv, so you say an idea, feeling, or image and he's two steps ahead. He never judged anything or second guessed himself - it was purely forward and fearless. He's a true master. When I film and choreograph my dance films I like to let the dancer know they are un-judged and can make no mistake in front of me or the lens." This idea of "there-is-no-wrong" during the creation process is wonderfully empowering to the dancer and allows them to truly invest themselves in the choreography. (On a related side note, I recently came across another video where Justin Bieber's back-up dancers created an impromptu site specific piece in an airport terminal during a flight delay, LOL, dancers are the luckiest folks alive)

AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: For the audience, it is always thrilling to see the banal aspects of life, filtered through a brand new perspective. Site specific choreography is one of the easiest ways to achieve this effect. Site specific choreography is created to exist only in a certain place and is generated through research and interpretation of the site’s unique cultural matrix of characteristics and topographies, whether architectural, historical, social and/or environmental; discovering the hidden meaning in a space and developing methods to amplify it. To this end, Daniel succeeds brilliantly. He mentioned that when he is choreographing for a filmed project "there is more freedom and you find yourself taking more risks with ideas and images. In my experience when choreographing a staged piece and then filming it - I fall in love with things from the front and fear going anywhere beyond." When I asked him about choosing to film on the roof, he said that he tends "to film many pieces on roofs, since the views and images are always so delicious. When editing a live performance, it can get monotonous. I like the not knowing of what you'll see. The roof is a magical place." When you watch the piece at (1:13-1:19) you can see an unbroken movement phrase from two different perspectives. The first is in the dancer's vicinity, while the second is from a far, framed by the raw materials of the environment. This shift in perspectives creates a sort of energetic heartbeat that compels the piece forward. Daniel also understands the key element of motivation. All of the images in the film exist for a reason. And whether or not the audience can articulate why they feel the movement is justified, they know subconsciously that it is rooted in reality. To ensure that film is authentic, Daniel studies "story formulas constantly. I am a very big believer in the western story structure. Then the choreographer's eye comes in on the places in between. The movement must communicate quietly with a point of view. The lens never lies. I love them both - dance and film. Perfect Match."

KUDOS to Daniel for embracing the digital medium, not as an extension of the choreographic process, but as a fundamental component of the work, from start to finish. For more info on Daniel's work, please visit DANIEL'S WEBSITE

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