Made Manifest – A Dance Film Adventure

How do we make dance in this our Age of Plague?

I, Director Holly, am part of the Digital Dance Project, an online dance collective dedicated to creating work for the screen and contemporary digital landscape. They invited me to adapt part of THE QUEEN OF NORI into a dance film for their spring show TANGIBLE MOTION, and I immediately set to work planning and scheming the impossible.

How do we shoot a dance film remotely? More specifically, how do I direct a dance film remotely? So much of the experience of making a film is the on-set creation–how can we preserve that element of the process while I am 1500 miles away?

My solution to this problem was:

  • Visual storyboard
  • Detailed shot list
  • Be on Zoom for the entire shoot
First page of the MADE MANIFEST shoot storyboard–black arrows are camera movement

Zoom is of course a pale shadow of the live experience, but in both the film shoot and our rehearsal process I have been surprised how much I can tell about movement quality, performance, and camera angle. Lighting and camera movement were the most difficult production elements to judge, but I already have ideas on how to improve on that in the future from this experience.

So much dance film is what filmmaker/dance scholar Mitchell Rose calls “dance in a place”–take a dancer, put them in a space, and immediately you have a piece about the interplay of location and movement. As an artist, I find I’m much more interested in constructed reality, in controlling more elements of the on-screen environment. I haven’t seen much dance film that incorporates fantasy/science fiction, and creating MADE MANIFEST was a fascinating opportunity to explore that intersection.

Check out the trailer below, and stay tuned for more QoN content coming out soon!

Welcome to THE QUEEN OF NORI

Once upon a time, a little girl ran through the rural Vermont woods, imagining magical kingdoms in between the trees and rocks. She grew up (?), became a dancer, gave up dancing to be an engineer, gave up engineering to be a dancer again, and then gave up trying to keep those two things separate and accepted her identity as an interdisciplinary impresario.

Hi, I’m Holly, director of THE QUEEN OF NORI. Life-long dancer, constant nerd, and perpetual schemer of new things.

This project really began in the spring of 2019, when composer Ian Guthrie approached me about wanting to write a narrative ballet. It occurred to me that I have all of this material saved on old drives, and in about two days I had one of my stories adapted into a two-act libretto. Ian began work, and by Fall 2019 I was recruiting dancers from Florida State University to create a 10-minute “proof of concept” excerpt that would premiere in April of 2020.

Well.

April. 2020.

Obviously we know how that story ends.

We were shut down in March, everyone went their separate ways, and I crumbled under the weight of lost gig and opportunities.

It took a new city, a new year, and a new interest in continuing the work via Zoom for me to re-start the process with the help of Dramaturg and co-conspirator Casey Copeland. With the virtual format and no in-person performance opportunities on the horizon, I wanted to take the time to develop characters and conduct movement research, particularly on the subject of magic.

What does magic look like in this world? How can the dance BE the magic, BE the work that generates a supernatural phenomenon, rather than just representing magic?

The virtual research process has far exceeded my expectations over the past two months, and I look forward to sharing the work more widely. Stay tuned here and on social media for announcements and updates!