3 Keys to Creating a Successful Dance Film

How to Survive Your First Dance Film ProjectYou’ve been choreographing for the stage for some time, but something inside you says it’s time to make a film.  But how?

Boston choreographer Anna Reyes is currently editing her debut film, “the good parts of being alive“.  Inspired by the portraits of painter Egon Schiele, the film explores how relationships are molded by time and space.

The Good Parts of Being AliveReflecting on the production process now, Reyes shares three tips for choreographers embarking on their first film.

1.  Plan as much as you can.

By planning ahead, you can avoid most last-minute adjustments and emergencies, which were the cause of the most stress for Reyes.  “There’s nothing wrong with thinking you might have to shoot in a year or a year and a half, if that means you already have the funds for your dancers and you’ve already secured the location where you’re going to shoot,” she says.  While details like film locations may be difficult to envision when you’ve only just started choreographing, lock down as many arrangements as you can.  When you do start to film, you’ll be glad that you can focus on the dance.

That being said…

2.  Be flexible with what’s available to you.

“It occurred to me that making a film is a lot more ‘control freak’ than making live performance.”  Nevertheless, there were many times when Reyes’ control “flew out the window” – from unexpected rain to conflicting schedules to adjusting choreography to accommodate fit the dancers who were available, Reyes met a number of unpredictable troubles head-on.

“As much as you plan, there are going to be things that are totally unexpected that come up, and you’ll have to make a split-second decision.”  Knowing that things might not go according to plan will prepare you to make those decisions.

3.  Be nice to yourself. 

“The process is going to be really hard, and if you’re beating yourself up while you’re doing it, it’ll make it a lot worse.”  Inner criticisms and self-doubts plague us all, but you can’t afford to disparage yourself for every little imperfection.  If you mess up, or if something doesn’t go the way you thought it would, remember that you are doing the absolute best you can, and cut yourself some slack!

For Reyes, film is the future of dance – most audience members spend more time with YouTube and DVDs than at live performances.  Though she has starred in a handful of films, “the good parts of being alive” is the first production that she has produced herself.

So would she do it again?  Absolutely.

“The majority of my life that I have choreographed, it has all been for stage, and I love that, but for me, film is really exciting.  As much as it can be stress-inducing, I really love it.”

Rachel Elizabeth MaleyRachel Elizabeth Maley is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Chicago.  She writes being human today and collaborates with artists to tell their unique stories.  Connect with Rachel on Twitter.

Choreographer, Anna ReyesAnna Reyes is a dancer and choreographer based in Boston. She began her dance training in Austin, Texas, and studied at the Boston Conservatory, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BFA in Dance Performance. Reyes has presented her choreography in both New York City and Boston, where she also founded Synesthetic – a cross-disciplinary improvisation project – with jazz musician Jordan Maley. She has starred in films by Tamara Al-Mashouk and Hubbard/Birchler, and her debut film, “the good parts of being alive”, will be released in Autumn of 2014. Reach out to Anna on Twitter.

More Classical Ballet on the Big Screen

Last October, we were pleased to share news of The Royal Ballet Cinema Season. Your response to this monthly opportunity to see the work of London’s premiere ballet company in U.S. movie theaters has been extremely positive.

Well, the series continues in 2014!

If you missed Giselle in January, fear not. You can still catch two more classics in February and March.

Click for details about The Royal Ballet Cinema Event, Swan LakeSwan Lake – Thursday, February 20 (click for details)

Anthony Dowell’s romantic interpretation returns the ballet to its 1895 origins by using the choreography of Lev Ivanov and Marius Petipa. Dramatic costumes emphasize the contrast between human and spirit worlds, while glowing lanterns, shimmering fabrics and designs inspired by the work of Carl Fabergé create a magical setting. The twinned role of the pure White Swan and the scheming, duplicitous Black Swan tests the full range of a ballerina’s powers, particularly in the two great pas de deux of Acts II and III. Other highlights include the charming Dance of the Little Swans performed by a moonlit lake and sweeping ballroom waltzes in the splendor of the royal palace

Royal Ballet Cinema Season: Swan Lake

Watch this video on YouTube.


See The Sleeping Beauty (The Royal Ballet) March 20 in cinemasThe Sleeping Beauty – Thursday, March 20 (click for details)

Marius Petipa’s classic 19th-century choreography is combined with newly created sections by Frederick Ashton, Anthony Dowell and Christopher Wheeldon. First staged in St. Petersburg in 1890, The Sleeping Beauty is the pinnacle of classical ballet: a perfect marriage of Petipa’s choreography and Tchaikovsky’s music and a glorious challenge for every dancer on stage. Today’s The Sleeping Beauty not only captures the mood of the original but shows that this is very much a living work for The Royal Ballet, growing and changing with the Company while celebrating its past.

These special one-night events screen at 7pm (local time) in select theaters nationwide. Follow the links above for more information or to buy tickets.

Many thanks to Fathom Events, Arts Alliance Media, Mr Wolf and the Royal Opera House for making it possible to see world-class ballet on the big screen!

Have you been?

Let us know what you think of the series in our comments below.

Swan Lake: Photograph: Marianela Nuñez as Odette (Johan Persson) and Odile (Dee Conway); background, Act III (Bill Cooper)
The Sleeping Beauty: Photograph: centre, Sarah Lamb as Princess Aurora and Steven McRae as the Prince, Act III (©ROH/Johan Persson, 2011). Image by AKA (©ROH, 2013)

We wish to disclose that Dance Advantage received compensation for the promotion of this series.

The First Film To Tell The Joffrey Ballet Story — Autographed DVD


The first film to tell the story of this groundbreaking company. www.joffreymovie.com

Joffrey: Mavericks Of American Dance is a documentary film produced by Lakeview Films and released by Hybrid Cinema, that chronicles the over 50 year history of the Joffrey Ballet, known as the first truly American dance company.

During the Joffrey Ballet’s 2008 Spring Gala in Chicago, executive producer Jay Alix and producer Una Jackman sat with their friends, famed Hollywood screenwriter/director Harold Ramis and his wife Erica Mann Ramis in a theater box next to the Joffrey’s Artistic Director Gerald Arpino.

Noting that Arpino did not look well due to his advanced age, Alix suggested to the others that someone ought to sit Arpino down and videotape interviews with him about the founding of the Joffrey before it was too late. Alix and Harold Ramis had been looking for a film project on which to collaborate. “Joffrey: Mavericks Of American Dance” became that project.

Narrated by Tony® and Emmy® Award winner Mandy Patinkin and directed by Bob Hercules (Bill T. Jones-A Good Man), the film documents how The Joffrey Ballet revolutionized American ballet by daringly combining modern dance with traditional ballet technique, combining art with social statement and setting ballets to pop and rock music scores.

View the trailer:

Official trailer Joffrey Mavericks of American Dance

Watch this video on YouTube.

The Giveaway

Lakeview Films and Hybrid Cinema would like to give away ONE signed copy and TWO unsigned copies of Joffrey: Mavericks Of American Dance on DVD to Dance Advantage readers.

IMAGE Image of autographed copy of Joffrey: Mavericks Of American Dance on DVD IMAGEThis beautifully designed, six panel DVD package features rarely seen photos and the film contains excerpts from many seminal Joffrey works including Astarte, Trinity and Billboards, as well as breakthrough collaborations with choreographers Twyla Tharp (Deuce Coupe), Kurt Jooss (The Green Table) and Leonide Massine (Parade).

ONE grand prize winner will receive a signed copy of the DVD. It was signed at the world premiere screening which took place January 27 at the Walter Reade Theater in Lincoln Center, New York City where “Joffrey: Mavericks Of American Dance” was the opening night film of the Dance on Camera Festival. Signatures are from the film’s director Bob Hercules, current Joffrey artistic director Ashley C. Wheater, and former Joffrey principal dancers Trinette Singleton and Christian Holder.

There only 100 copies signed by these artists for sale (retail $34.95) at www.joffreymovie.com.

TWO additional winners will receive one copy of the unsigned DVD (sold for $24.95).

The Joffrey Movie giveaway is open worldwide to those 18 and up and closes at Midnight EST on Thursday, February 23.

How To Enter

This giveaway is closed but you can find DVD copies of the film, podcasts, video, and much, much more at www.joffreymovie.com

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Dance Gets Screentime In Toronto

IMAGE A box of popcorn, soda, and two tickets IMAGEButter up the popcorn.

We love seeing dance on film and get particularly excited about movies that get even non-dancing audiences talking about the art form.

On September 11, First Position, a new dance doc screened at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Not to be confused with the 1970’s documentary A Dancer’s Life, which was formerly titled First Position, this film follows six young ballet dancers aged nine to nineteen as they struggle to maintain form in the face of injury and personal sacrifice on their way to one of the most prestigious international ballet competitions in the world: Youth America Grand Prix.

The tagline: Ballet is not for sissies.

Here’s the trailer:

Watch this video on YouTube.

The film will also screen on September 17. More about the film can be found at the TIFF website.

TIFF is a great place for First Position to get picked up for distribution so hopefully we’ll see it in theatres nearby soon.

More reviews are sure to follow the screenings. Until then, read what Dave Robson had to say at Sound on Sight.

First Position wasn’t the only dance film to feature at TIFF.

Wim Wender’s 3D adaptation of German choreographer, Pina Bausch’s work was screened prominently on opening night of the festival.

Originally to be a collaborative project between Bausch and Wenders, Pina almost didn’t happen. Shortly before shooting was scheduled to begin in 2009, Bausch died suddenly just days after being diagnosed with cancer. Wenders almost abandoned the project, but when Bausch’s dance company, Tanztheater Wuppertal, decided to continue on, Wenders went forward, paying tribute with this performance-based documentary featuring the troupe’s trademark dances and Bausch’s extraordinary choreography.

Even the trailer is breathtaking:

Pina had it’s U.S. debut earlier this month at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado, will be Germany’s foreign-language Oscar submission (interesting, as the primary language in this film seems to be dance), and will be in select theatres come December here in the U.S.


Ten Years Ago I Was Dancing

IMAGE 2010 World Trade Center 9/11 Tribute IMAGEAt 8:46 on September 11, 2001, when the first plane hit the North Tower of The World Trade Center, I was about to begin teaching my ballet class at Penn State University’s branch campus in Altoona. In fact, the students in the class and I were not aware of the unfolding events in New York and Washington until class was nearly over. By that time three planes had carved their paths of destruction, reports were just coming in of the plane down in our home state of Pennsylvania, and one tower had come crashing down. The information on the lips of students now arriving for the next class was jumbled and confusing.

Canceling the jazz class that was to follow, I began the 45 minute trip home. The picture became clearer as I listened in horror to the radio reports of the second collapse. But only when I arrived home was I able to turn on the television and absorb the actual images of burning buildings, smoke, ash, and worse now stamped upon my mind and heart.

I remember the overwhelming emotions of that day and am strangely comforted that ten years ago I was dancing.

We will never forget

Multiple dance events are scheduled to commemorate 9/11

Jacqulyn Buglisi’s Table of Silence Project will offer a ceremonial, spare procession by 100 dancers in white who will form a peace labyrinth encircling the Lincoln Center fountain. It will begin at 8:20 a.m. and culminate at 8:46 with the mass of dancers raising their outstretched arms in a gesture of universal peace.

The Joyce Theater Foundation is presenting an evening of dance and music at 5 p.m in Rockefeller Park, located at the northern end of Battery Park City. The Limón Dance Company, Paul Taylor Company, Matthew Rushing will dance Ailey’s A Song for You, while Ailey dancer Jamar Roberts will appear in a new work by Jessica Lang commissioned by the Joyce for this occasion. The Voices of Ascension and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s will provide music.

Learn more at The New York Press

Dance For Airport (film)

Watch this video on YouTube.

9/11 Dance — A Roving Memorial.

Soon after the September 11th attacks, Sarah Skaggs created a minimalist meditative response in a solo called “Dances for Airports.” For the tenth anniversary of the disaster, she has converted the solo into a group work, so that it may emerge out of pedestrian traffic in public spaces.

The work features dancers ages 20 to 70, and it will be simultaneously performed by about 15 dancers between noon and 3 p.m. Sept. 11 at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the National Postal Museum and the Arts on Foot Festival in Washington, as well as in three locations in New York City and and one in Shanksville, Pa.

Read more at The New Yorker
and The Washington Post

Are you, have you, or do you know of events, choreography, or films commemorating 9/11 through dance?

Share or describe them in the comments below or, tell your memories and stories of that day.