Inspiration & Focus
Updated: Apr 30, 2020
"Dancing is a spiritual exercise in physical form." – Merce Cunningham
As a starting point of my creative journey, I was advised to watch previous media productions made about dance, more specifically dance documentaries. My main inspirations for my project being Cunningham (2019), Pina (2011), Dancer (2016) and Five Ways In: A documentary on contact improvisation (2015).
Screen stills from 'Cunningham' (2019) and 'Pina' (2011).
One thing I noticed when watching these documentaries was the movement captured by the camera, the way their bodies moved. The way a series of mid-range to close ups shots of their hands, feet and body was used to convey a sense of touch and motion. In doing so, this allows the audience a way to interpret and imagine the dancers’ sense of energy and movement. It was similar to the way Gardener used close-up shots of the Dani people’s skin and texture to emphasise and convey a sense of touch in his film, ‘Dead Birds’ (1963).
Screen stills from 'Five Ways In: A documentary on contact improvisation' (2015).
To convey a sense of motion, this was a defining characteristic that I wanted to focus on when making my symbolic camera. I wanted a symbolic camera that I could wear, one that could be attached to my being when I danced, allowing me to get closer to other dancers and capture their body movements without the obstruction of having to carry around a camera or recording equipment in my hands, thereby limiting my range of motion and space. I would fear coming too close to the dancers, as accidents might occur.
My symbolic camera.
A reflection of my symbolic camera captured in the mirror of my friend's symbolic camera.
Upon reflection to select the focus of my film, I decided to create an observational documentary that would take the audience on a behind the scene journey, exposing them to the process of choreographing a dance. Starting from the teaching process, to the preparation process up till the dance’s grand performance.
This dance is still regarded one of my greatest accomplishments as I never would have thought that I would be capable of choreographing and teaching an entire dance by myself before.
The choreographing process is something that I can personally relate to. I have been a dancer, but I’ve also been a choreographer before as I had choreographed a Chinese fan dance ballet for the Kent Dance Annual Show 2018. In this process, I had combined a style that was culturally significant and familiar to me with a traditional dance style that I had come to rediscover my love for at University. There was a lot of compromise and fear when choreographing this dance. The style was new for most of the dancers, with some being completely new to ballet entirely, therefore adjustments had to be made on the different levels of difficulty for technical parts of the dance. It was a compromise, my expectation and their dance capabilities.
'Red Rose' performed at the Kent Dance Annual Show 2018.
For my film, I decided to film the choreographing process through my friends’ dance for the Kent Dance Annual Show 2020 – an afrobeats dance, with modern dance moves and music that drew upon their African heritage and roots.
Foyin Adanri and Margaret Archibong, the choreographers of 'Motherland'.
('Red Rose' performance photograph was sourced by the Kent Dance Facebook page).