Film Making Notes on my new films - Line Dances (seven cinematic journeys).
Line Dances is a sense filled journey for the viewer. Reaching back to Modernism, and forward to the future. Klee said “One eye sees, the other feels”. This statement sits at the heart of what I hope to achieve with these films. Dance is as much visual as it is physical. Watching dance unfold live or on screen is emotive. Capturing the body moving on film holds the dance in time. Like a specimen. You can revisit it, dissect the dance, re-interpret and re-choreograph in the process of editing the film. And finally you print it. The printing of the dance pulls it back to a truly flat space experience, and ties it strongly to graphic art. Although movement is inherent, it has become artificial. The kinetic passages are given the heart of the machine. Like an iron lung on dance. However, there is great merit and beauty in these processes. There is true potential for expression and discovery within the confines of the technology available to us to capture and re-create dance. Choreography quite literally is the method for graphing body movement - artistic movements of the dancer are formulated into pattern, shape and design.
Line Dances demonstrates various levels of interaction between moving figure/body and other imposed geometric systems, aiming towards a fluid space, a modification and metamorphosis. I reference built environments, with aspirations towards an amalgam of the structural and the organic. This many dimensioned window presents the fabric of existence as malleable - there is pulse in the line; a natural geometry underlying all that moves.
It is kinetic as much as it is photographic. The choreography incorporates graphic work layered behind and between the filmed dance. At times the lines exaggerate the corporeal, and develop texture within the space. Discreet spaces challenge, provoke and resist the performer.
The dancers are forced to interpose between visual and audio static realms - electro magnetic fields. Here, the figures (human) are negotiating a series of physics storms. Bombarded with lines, they are fully emerged in this world of cosmic challenges. The electronic audio presents a texture-like wind, and an ambient domain through which the dancers and the piano music speak. Digital Weather. Weather of physics, mathematical weather, choreographic weather, electrical surges, pulsing linear anomalies, dancing zeros and ones.
I'm trying to create a theatre where the artificiality of the stage is evoked in cinema. We are working the plastic space of the screen in a very physical way, and we are inhabiting that visual window with the human body. This film window is as much instrument as the body is instrument. Both talk to each other in a kinetic sense.
Digital line derived from Paul Klee's drawings, informs the collaboration between dancer and new technologies. Part of this exploration is the line relationship to quantum physics. The films are constructed from oscillating lines and the human figure in space. The vibrating strings of the piano render Anthony Ritchie's delightful compositions audible. The lines are being calibrated and re-calibrated by the presence of the dancer. Dancers become catalysts for acceleration in the screen space. These works are like moving paintings which conduct torrents of dance, and line, and colour. I use the visual matrix of the screen like a tuning field seeking frequency. Fragments of dance are tuned into and out of for these kaleidoscopic journeys. This is literally choreographing the screen.
The design in Line Dances embodies the screen as stage, and the stage as instrument. The films treat the visual space, or screen itself as an amplifier and a telescope. Early cameras present us with a miniature stage inside; concertina wings and heightened perspective. In this tight, incubating framework the dance, graphic, and sonic all belong together. It is a dialogue. The scientific visual references to String Theory and astrophysics suggest further spatial potential, and pull the work into a larger context. I have attempted to illustrate M-Theory, where 11-dimensional space is danced in and across lines extended from Klee’s studies of theatre life.
The films are meditations on, and celebrations of space - the human figure pictured in time. In a truly plastic and choreographed screen, seven miniature stories in dance are presented. In the films the characters are taking steps to waking up in a spiritual sense. They have their own magic. They are touching, seeing and observing the lines and light in space. Are they walking along lines of destiny? They are creating the future as they make that walk. It is an odyssey in dance.
The films are blueprints for a genesis of consciousness. Line, dance and music converge in the screen space to create as Klee said, a 'between world' (Zwischenwelt).
Portrait of an Acrobat
Acrobats are fearless. They have to be. This state of mind is reached through great discipline however. It is not fickle, but a platform of clarity, arrived at through sacrifice, trust, diligence. The acrobat is about surrender - the merger point of the vertical and the horizontal planes, the body free, weightless, representing the spirit.
Harlequin on the Bridge
Only Harlequin has the audacity to turn Klee upside down. He's the only one that can get away with it and make us laugh in the process. Harlequin is the great risk taker. A maverick who treads the fine line between sanity and insanity. He finds just enough balance to stay on top of things, most of the time. He is the part of us that dares to walk the unstable bridge between question marks. He is sage and acrobat, idiot and magician. Thinking before acting is not part of his repertoire. All his decisions are intuitive, and this can land him in trouble. On wobbly ground Harlequin becomes a jelly. Yet, led by his heart he will fall on his feet.
In Harlequin on the Bridge it's like he's helmsman, but then he isn't. He plays the stage space like a harp, and it is discordant, edgy, unpredictable. The film descends into a rehearsal state, as if we are behind the scenes. Its the only environment I feel I can allow this to happen in. Things playfully fall apart, and then are collected and pitched with grit and pluck to a resilient finale. I think we see the puppet theatre of old emerge, the pantomime back story. It starts with a degree of caution, and then the Goose Girl appears with her egg (the seed of consciousness) and a bond is made. But Harlequin is easily distracted. It takes the re-appearance of The Fool to send Harlequin on his right passage - which is as a father (as Picasso saw). He reunites with Goose Girl and then antagonises the sacred geometric "Star of David" to appear. All is well again in the world. Harlequin's message is breath, humour and the geometry of laughter.
Realm of the Curtain
This is the veil of illusion, the illusion of physicality. It is also about memory and remembering our true selves. The curtain is a veil, the theatre a place for healing and transformation. The Anti-Figure belongs in Realm of the Curtain because this is the skeleton - it is the mechanistic aspect of constructed space exposed. It is the machine; the engine of theatre. This figure also appears as an Anti-Fool. Wearing the negative hat - the Fool's interior self. This is why the clock ticks for Realm of the Curtain. It is stagecraft - the realm of theatre opened, like the bellows in a camera, the concertina of time and space. For Realm of the Curtain Donnine states "The Fool is a Time-Lord..." and then she poses the question "is time linear, or is it curved?" Einstein said "The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once"
Saint A in B
The house of life. Pattern, form. The brilliant mind, the inventor. Imagined to reality.
The Fool's hat signifies the presence of divine consciousness. It is as courageous as it is humbling to don the Fool's guise, and tread into the unknown. There are moments inverted or in negative. These sections are for me like the subconscious at work. The dancers are creating an anticipation in the films. It could be called magnetic for we are revealing something magical with our breath, our movement, our intent. The spirit shines through.
In Equilibrist we see many figures play with the possibilities of balance. I have focussed specifically on two characters as the masters of dimension. The Sailor who opens the closes the film, is the key protagonist. His work links directly to the mimetic power of gesture and then the emotional pendulum of this language is offered as a sacred tool for enlightenment. You cannot lie with the body. Truth is revealed through gesture. This is the mastery of the Equilibrist. Assisted only by a simple pole to aide balance, great heights are navigated skillfully. The dimension master is a mistress. She walks 11 dimensions. It is an illusion, but an illusion worthy of our contemplation and willingness to embrace. What would 11d really be like? We can only imagine.
Perspective with Inhabitants
Reflection, as above so below. Community, the life path. Past, present, and future selves. In Perspective with Inhabitants, a jubilant new consciousness is reached. Symbolised by the apex of the temple, and the expanded rotating perspective lines. It is about rites of passage. This dance is the harbinger of unity and demonstrates the strength in community. The temple is the temple of the mind, of expanding consciousness, and awareness ("The Sun it Shines for All").
Growth and Branching Out
At times the physics lines are like the strings inside the piano. This is where point and line merge, creating pitch. Everything is moving, vibrating. In Growth and Branching Out, the figures are earthing the energy. They are the anchor points (especially the female). They earth the energetic force in the line and ground it. Donnine is weaving, pattern making. "Growth is the progressive movement of matter accreting round a nucleus. Growth is not only a quantitative striving for elevation, but a spread of energies and transformation of substances on all sides". Klee
In several films I have attempted the illusion of 11 dimensional space. It is an illusion because we can only perceive this from our current dimensional experience. In 11d I believe we would not only see and feel, but all our senses (including the dormant ones) would have to be engaged in order to exist within it knowingly. The films are a many dimensional conversation which play with transformation at the atomic and sub-atomic levels. It is complex and intuitive. Light cuts through shadow, and in this act or movement (because it is only achieved through movements) we see revealed new dimension.
Why is the Fool burdened? This is his key role. In a world full of imperfection, full of folly, the Fool can be our saviour - he is one entity capable of reflecting back to us - and indeed this is his master responsibility - to say "look at this stupidity. Silly humans. Oh gosh I am one of you". He is our brother and a great, great teacher.
It is the Fool's risk taking which is heroic. He stares disaster in the face and exclaims "there is another way...". He is the marrow of lunacy and the genius of the light. The Fool's relationship to theatre is profound. He is the big question mark. He is the zero in zero point energy. His wake creates spasms of creativity and chaos; he is the great movement maker. Every step of seismic proportion and humour.
In my films the Fool, through his mighty zero (the mouthpiece), breathes colour into his world. There is a melancholy surrounding the Fool and Harlequin at times. These clowns carry a deep sadness behind their facade of merriment. "Klee's awareness of dualism - of the extremes between order and chaos, tragedy and comedy, the horizontal and the vertical - is central to his philosophy of art" Margaret Plant
In the films I am revealing states of being. There are hues cut in time. Different calibrations of colour, stepped up in relation to melody, and pitch. Especially in Equilibrist this is evident. In this work the rose space is a sanctuary. A dancer considers a line, and then moves on it. The dancer is magnetically drawn to a line, in the same way that the painter is.
Moving Paintings of a Between World (Cinematic-Painting)
I am a visual artist before I am a choreographer. For Line Dances I am making dance, music and line converge in the screen space as a painter does. It is painting in the film frame. The edits are also very rhythmical and I attribute this to my experience as a musician and Anthony Ritchie's beautiful scores. I worked closely with Anthony and asked him to respond to six Paul Klee works directly. I gave him direction in terms of the type of sound, cadence, and at times humour, I was looking for. His music (recorded in July 2010), is one of many layers in the overall work palette. The real relationship between piano, dance and line has been meticulously rendered in post production during the final two months. To edit and complete the films as they are I have poured over the music (every note), and the dance (every gesture), and the line (every animation, and variable of line composition). I have sat with these key elements and meditated on their relationship to each other and to the screen space.
The edit space is not just about imposing ideas. It is a place for discovery as well. It is an incubation space. You are working with light as a painter or sculptor does. Light is the fundamental constituent. The lines are live. The whole space is electrical - like there's current surging through everything. The line is alive.
There is a kind of alchemy about the process of editing. Each ingredient, each layer has to be carefully considered and tested, before it is allowed to fuse properly with the other elements. So there is a process of experimentation to find the most suitable joining of materials (choreographic, musical, visual-graphic) in order to tell the story, or impart the message in it's most heartfelt and direct way. It is all about the choices one makes - the decisions - it is a conversation with the material. This is what I call cinematic-painting.
There is a universal belief that our reflection is a vital part of our soul. It is said that reflective surfaces are doorways to the world of spirit. The screen space is one such doorway, and as such, is an invitation. The human body is an example of the most concentrated expression of the mind. Dance is the undiluted voice of spirit, as demonstrated in the physical world. Dance is the spirit captivated by the beauty of geometrising.
Harmonic phase cosines, astrophysics datum and euclidean optics depicted in line as charged electrical forces recur in my films. Notably in Equilibrist, Portrait of an Acrobat, and Realm of the Curtain. I am working light and line as a choreographic partner to the dancer. It is all about expanding and contracting space. Klee said "The wonderful thing about lightning is the broken form in the atmospheric medium"
"Sometimes I dream of a work of vast scope, spanning all the way across element, object, content and style. This is sure to remain a dream, a vague possibility, but it is good to think of it now and then. Nothing can be rushed. Things must grow, they must grow upward, and if the time should ever come for the great work, so much the better. We must go on looking for it". Paul Klee (excerpts from The Thinking Eye)
The Line Dances project has been 3 years in the making, but in many ways I have been working towards it for as long as I can remember. Klee's legacy is that his works go on inspiring us generation after generation. For this we can be forever grateful. I dedicate these films to the memory of Paul Klee.
Daniel Alexander Belton, October 10th 2010 (Creative New Zealand Choreographic Fellow 2009-10). Director/Designer/Choreographer/Dancer/Cinematographer/Film Editor, etc. Images and Text Copyright (c) 2010. All Rights Reserved. The Line Dances films (seven cinematic journeys) are viewable online at www.goodcompanyarts.com