Just a week after Alistair Spalding finds himself firmly in the headlines of the national press for outlining his concerns about dance being pushed down the curriculum through the introduction of the Baccalaureate, I find myself working in a school in Bristol. I’m doing a short choreography combining live dance and film with Youth Dance Company, Rise. As we get going on this 7 day intensive I cant help but feel a little seed of anxiety growing from the fact that im here to give these 12 teenage youngsters their first taste of location filming… Champloo style. Typical of the kinds of films I always seem to end up making the odds are stacked ambitiously against us; November weather, barely enough time and a concept for a dance that we’ll only be able to see if it will work by the time its too late to do anything about it. Just how I like working then.
Planning is everything in these kinds of situations but with options for strategy limited we’re forced to opt for 5 days of devising and setting the work without the presence of the film sections, followed by a weekend of rehearsing and filming on location. Assuming we don’t have midweek gales we’ll have a nice autumnal backdrop for our film and it should look like we did it in the harsh reality of early winter for artistic reasons. Not because it was half term and the only option.
Midweek and things are going well, the material is coming together, Rise are stepping up to the plate, and the vision I had I’m my head is taking shape nicely in the school’s giant atrium. It’s even quite sunny outside, but there is still an element of uncertainty looming. Hurricane Sandy is battering New York as we work and the thought of trying to take a troupe of 12 teenagers out into rural Somerset to dance though it’s tail-end sounds less than ideal. Still, Alistair prophesy on Dance seems to be coming to light and the priority to heat the school during half-term for dance is already off the agenda. Our young dancers are freezing but every cloud has a silver lining and a little hardship might just acclimatize them slightly for a cold wet weekend in the countryside.
Come Friday; the piece is in good shape the forecast is not. As is often the case with filming early calls have to be made and based on the Met office’s best judgment we commit to 1 more day inside the school on the Saturday (which will be washed out) and 1 day filming on the Sunday (which will be beautiful). Needless to say Saturday was beautiful and Sunday morning there was flooding and snow. Thank goodness they’ve been acclimatizing all week.
English weather’s only consistency is the fact that it’s always changing and by lunch time we were up on location ready to film. Only 2 versions of a single long 4 minuet steady cam shot to get in the bag, you’d have thought we might even be home for mid afternoon tea. The combination of our home made steady cam (which weighs about the same a small Labrador and has to be operated with one arm, see photo), and a constant stream of mountain bikers, families and role playing medieval knights who, apparently, wage war on Sunday afternoons, made filming slightly arduous and frustrating. None the less we got our shots and Rise performed like brilliantly barely even mentioning the cold. Enthusiastic, driven and committed it’s been a joy to work with them this week. They’ve given up their half-term, squeezing in coursework and jobs to make this piece possible. Its been a real joy and a privilege to work with just a few of the “Five million Brits… participating in dance classes and sessions every week.” That Alistair points out form such an important role in the dance industry. I’m proud of the work we’ve made and I’ll be sure to post up a video of it in few weeks when its filmed so you can all see it.