A bit of a retrospective one, but a year ago today I took part in a screen dance workshop led by the extremely talented and respected Katrina McPherson.
It was a hands-on experience from the start, with more movement and dancing on my part than I anticipated, which was a genuine joy.
The two-day workshop at Dance Base in Edinburgh was broken up into group exercises, with and without cameras, that challenged us to develop our skills in framing dance, moving with the camera and addressing issues of performance and creativity while being informed by the editing process.
Each exercise had a set of rules called a ‘score’, but everything was improvised and in some exercises we developed our own score as a group. It was a great way to work and really inspired me to use different approaches for future projects.
One of Katrina’s scores I really enjoyed was working in a group of 3 with one person as the director, one person as the camera and the remaining person the subject. The person being the camera could not open or close their eyes unless they were told to do so and was physically moved around the room by the director. Their head and eye line were also adjusted by the director, effectively using their eyes as the camera lens.
It was a really immersive way to see how others would film and edit movement – discovering what they would and would not let you see.
As the workshop progressed we moved on to long-form exercises and broke out of the studio and incorporated our new surroundings into the movement. In our group we decided our score would be for everyone in the group to have a shot of the camera, passing from one to the other, all while the movement continued.
This was great fun to watch back in the edit and it was encouraging to get immediate feedback from others in the group. Again, discovering what each individual ‘director’ picked up on while the movement took place was a fascinating and rewarding experience.
The workshop was a great start to the year for me. Having worked on the same project for a long time, I was starting to feel my creativity was getting stale and the workshop lifted me out of that.
Being mentored by Katrina, whose filmmaking techniques are so different from what I am used to, engaged my brain again and encourages me to try out something new while reminding me to think about the final edit. What do I want the viewer to see, what connection do I want them to have, how to use the location as part of the story and the list goes on.
An extra bonus was having the chance to dance and move again while getting to be spontaneous and try out ideas in a very non-judgemental setting. The other participants were from a variety of backgrounds and levels of experience from all over the world, some of whom I have remained in contact and hope to work with in the future. Our discussions throughout the day and the chance to hear input from some of the more established screen dance practitioners was so beneficial to my understanding and learning.
I strongly encourage filmmakers of all disciplines to take part in a variety of workshops when they can – whether it is film based, improvisation, storytelling, absolutely anything that gets you out of your normal routine. Dipping into screen dance was like fresh air and gave me a new energy. It also introduced me to different techniques and possible ideas for future projects that I would not have considered before.
For anyone looking to find out more about screen dance, please check out Katrina McPherson’s book ‘Making Video Dance: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Dance for the Screen’.