Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"Only"...Mark Haines

Director Bridget Palardy had a dream for her video project. The concept was to play with depth and perspective, foreground and background, and the passage of time. She then teamed up with California based choreographer and teacher, Mark Haines. The resulting collaboration is an amazing example of creative alchemy between two highly innovative minds. I wanted to dig a little deeper into the process of Mark's work to give the SERVINGCHOREO readers a behind-the-scenes peek into their creative process. Enjoy:

I noticed that this project is a fusion of dance film and music video, how did the actual musical track affect your choreography?
This video is really the "brainchild" of the Director, Bridget Palardy. I met with her a few times prior to the shoot and hashed out her concept and found ways that movement and dance could enhance her original was a true collaboration. As far as the choreography was concerned, I used the "feel" of the music and key imagery words from the Director ("rough", "smooth", "streaming", "cacophony", etc) as inspiration as we were creating movement phrases.

That's fantastic...I noticed that the video has a wonderfully organic, loose naturalism to long did it take to achieve that level of cohesiveness?
Usually I would take more time to work with dancers to make sure they "represent" the movement in the way it is/was intended - but in this case, we were under HUGE time and budget constraints, so many of the dancers (all but 8 or 10 of them) I didn't meet until the day of the shoot! At that point, it was a matter of refining and editing the movement so everyone could do it and then finding the dancers that I could "feature" in certain sections of the Music Video.

One of the most interesting aspects of this piece, is the sand. How much did the "dance surface" affect your movement choices?
This had the MOST impact on the choreography. My assistant, Megan, and I worked on movement in the studio but spent an equal amount of time (if not more time) reconfiguring the movement so it could work in the sand. The "softness" of the sand was great for floor work, but WAY more challenging then you would think to prep for jumps....and, of course, any kind of turn was out of the question.

I feel that "on-site" situations like this could cause problems for younger, less experienced choreographers, who are obsessed with THEIR choreography. How did you maintain a good, positive experience for your dancers, despite the challenges of working outside, for long hours, in the sand?
The best advice I can give a young choreographer to inspire their dancers is (pardon my language) "Don't be a Dick!". In my experience, I have found that most dancers (if not all) prefer "respect" over a "dictatorship". If you can establish some sort of bond with your dancers (no matter how superficial it may be....remember, a majority of these dancers I met the day of the shoot), they will intrinsically/subconsciously WANT to work for you and WANT to perform your choreographic work with all the passion and energy you ask for. Aside from spending the day teaching choreography, re-staging things for the Director, and re-creating movement that wasn't working, I spent the rest of my time making the dancers laugh, making sure everyone was having a good time and thanking them for what the "magic" they were bringing to the video.

That sounds like a great piece of advice for all kinds of "site-specific" work, eh?
Hmmmmm.....I'm less inclined to think of this dance as a true "Site-specific" piece and much more apt to say it was a "Music Video/dance piece that happens to take place on the beach". Obviously, there would need to be some major modifications if the piece were going to be set on a Proscenium stage, but I'm not 100% sure what those changes would be....each performance space and every group of dancers brings forth new and different challenges, ideas and experiments.....we'll have to wait and see.

As someone who works both on stage and in video work, what shifts do you make to translate dance for an online audience?
The choreographic process changes immensely because you are taking a 3-dimensional art form and applying it to a 2-dimensional medium. Many subtleties and nuances found in live performance are greatly reduced....but if you are working with a Director and film crew that understands movement and dance (as I was lucky enough to), certain allowances can be made to bring life to the filmed choreography.

Many online choreographers rely on quick camera shots and flashy editing to maintain the tempo and pulse of piece, but I was fascinated by your ability to keep the viewer engaged, while never moving the camera angle. How did you achieve this?
Again, the fixed camera angle and the the elongated view of the horizon and the ocean was part of the original concept of the Director's. ...she really wanted to play with the idea of visual depth within a one-take-continual-shot fixed camera angle. But because the camera only moves once from it's original spot to the overhead shot, the dancers had to do A LOT of running!!! We had taped lines and markers all over the sand to remind the back-up singers and the dancers where their site lines were for the camera. We started filming around 5:30pm and did our 7th take around 7:00pm. The dancers were exhausted, to say the least.

KUDOS to Mark for assessing the situation and skillfully adapting the movement for the dancer's safety and still creating a visually engaging, exciting piece of video choreography.

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