July 30, 2020
Produced as part of the Burberry Foundation’s Burberry Inspire programme, which pairs schools with arts organisations in Yorkshire and New York, Northern Ballet and American Ballet Theatre have come together for the first time to produce four new short dance films. Shot on location in landmarks such as The Hepworth Wakefield, Salts Mill and Times Square, each film was inspired by a local student. The project was overseen by Northern Ballet’s artistic director of digital and choreographer in residence Kenneth Tindall, who also provided the choreography for the two filmed in Yorkshire.
It was certainly a great opportunity for the students from Airedale Academy in Castleford and Middle School 358 in Jamaica, Queens, New York, who rose to the challenge as, together with Tindall and ABT dancers, they created some engaging. Incidentally, at MS 358, all 6th graders (Year 7 in the UK) study dance with the option to then major in it in 7th and 8th grade, with opportunities to perform. Isn’t that fabulous!
Each film runs between 90 and 100 seconds. So, short. Very short.
Roots, featuring Minju Kang and Lorenzo Trossello of Northern Ballet, makes good use of the massive open space of a room at Salts Mill in Bradford. But, while there are a couple of nice lifts and supports, all the looking and running and posing on ceiling struts actually says little.
If there was ever an apt title, Trapped is it. This one has Northern’s Kevin Poeung in the forbidding surroundings of a dark subway and desolate, empty multi-storey car park. He bounces off walls as if trying to bash a way through and runs fingers down a window with metal built into the glass. He does eventually escape to open space but, and maybe it’s a sign of the times, I still felt trapped.
Without wishing to get into a long discussion about how the definition of choreography is changing, while Roots and Trapped may have featured Northern Ballet dancers, what I found myself really admiring was the filming and Emily Nuttall’s super editing. Great use is made of close-up, occasional slow-motion, constant changes of angle, many of them unusual. They almost have a pop video feel to them, Roots especially. But while acknowledging that dance for the two dimensions of film needs to be different from that for the live stage, it worries me greatly that the art form I love, a 3-D art form, has too often in these times become so reliant on the film professional, on the skill of the cameraman, director and editor.
Interestingly, there is more of what most people would recognise as dance in the two American-choreographed offerings. Open spaces don’t come much bigger than the beach on which ABT’s Joseph Markey finds himself in Blended. The film cleverly links movement by him and his co-choreographers Leah Baylin, Kanon Kimura and Duncan McIlwaine as locations shift.
Best, though, is A Lonely Summer’s Day, choreographed and performed by ABT’s Melvin Lawovi and Chloe Misseldine. It opens with gorgeous and peaceful shots of the pair dancing in a waterfront park and on a pontoon before switching to Lawovi in Times Square. As the settings continue to shift, we even get pointework in the rain. It’s a lovely reminder of what we are missing.
The four short films can all be watched at northernballet.com.