Peridance Contemporary Dance Company on Peridance YouTube channel
February 14, 2021
‘Collage-style’ films that switch between many dancers in different locations, sometimes dancing the same choreography, were common in the early days of the pandemic. Some were good, some less so. Having made one such film for the Peridance Contemporary Dance Company, artistic director Igal Perry wondered how possible it might be to put dancers in the same digital space. Seven months on, the result is Reverie, a duet that draws on the loneliness and separation of lockdown, now available on YouTube.
Set to Debussy’s eponymous piano music, the six-minute piece features PCDC dancers Katie Currier and Craig Dionne in dance that shows how meaningful connection can come from thoughts and feelings.
Rehearsing on Zoom with the filming done on mobile phones against green screens in their own homes, Currier and Dionne could never touch, yet on the film they appear to lift, turn and support each other. The removal of the green background leaves the couple appearing to almost float as they dance in the void of space; a place where not even a single star shines.
That surrounding blackness helps the focus enormously. Reverie definitely shows an emotional connection between the couple. In an illuminating after-streaming discussion (also on YouTube), both admitted how much it helped that they had danced together previously.
There are time when it is remarkably effective, although not always so. There are moments when the two dancers were very obviously filmed separately. More often than not, it’s the floor and the feet than give it away rather than their upper bodies. There are also times, most notable on a couple of lifts, when the dancers’ movement jerks noticeably. But, you have to agree with Perry when he says that, given it was made with no budget and using computers that really were not advanced enough, and that he was very much learning how to use the advanced editing software as he went along, in many ways it is quite an achievement.
An easy-going ‘behind-the-scenes’ film gives away some of the secrets. It shows Dionne using a basketball and then a music stand as his partner, the former to give an idea of where Currier’s hips might be, the latter in bigger turning moves. Currier in turn spins on a revolving chair to try and mimic being spun round as she is held by her partner.
Afterwards, pianist Daniel Gortler, who also appears in the film, explains how much a musician relies of seeing the dancers to judge tempo and make small adjustments, none of which was possible here. He explains that he also had to deal with issues around matching live playing with the recording.
There are not too many positives to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, but one has been the willingness of choreographers and dancers to experiment and innovate: to find new ways of keeping the art form alive and staying in touch with audiences. Ways like this. It has been twelve months in which dance for the camera and dance on film have moved on enormously.
Post-show, everyone admitted how much fun Reverie had all been. Currier explained how much she enjoys the rehearsal process anyway. “I like how uncertain it can be, and this was the epitome of not knowing where it was going to end up.” While Perry’s noting that, “You can always improve it. It’s never good enough,” is true, the result is something to be applauded, that maybe can be taken further, or that might spark ideas in other choreographers or film-makers.