As part of the not-for-profit Dance Short Films project, I recently spent two hours with the Youth Premier team at Pacific Ballroom Dance and we filmed one of their formation routines that was originally set for stage. These kids are a blast to work with, as are their talented directors, John & Lara Graham (also choreographers of this piece).
Stylistically, I originally wanted to shoot and present the whole thing in one take, so we filmed it four times as one-take clips. They were fun to watch, and really showed off the excellence and consistency of the dancers, but I also felt that the energy level was higher when I cut between locations, and that it felt like a more presentable product with a few cuts in the middle. (You can watch one of the single-take versions here.)
Anyone who is familiar with my dance work will notice that this was filmed in a very different style, compared to the more story-based films I generally direct. With this piece, I wanted to highlight the formations, rather than close-ups of individual dancers. It was a stylistic choice, partially to respond to a current trend of showing a lot of close-ups of dancers but not showing the movement of the whole body. When 16 dancers are involved, the group formation movements are also as important as the movement of any individual dancer, and the formations become a dancing body in and of itself. I didn’t want to hide the movement of the body of dancers as a collective whole, so I felt that a simple, more pure presentation of the art of formation dance was the direction I wanted to take for this piece.
This was shot in raw (CinemaDNG) on the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, which was mounted on a DJI Ronin-M 3-axis brushless gimbal stabilizer. I monitored the picture using a SmallHD SDI AC-7 display, and we played music back using a DJTech 50 portable PA speaker that I’ve been using for music videos for the last few years.
I processed the color in DaVinci Resolve 12 and edited in Adobe Premiere. I chose not to use any digital stabilization of the picture, just because I liked the relatively raw feel of the long continuous takes.