by Christopher Duggan
I’ve photographed and filmed a lot of top-notch ballet this summer. Nel and I wrapped our fourth season at Vail International Dance Festival, where we filmed some performances by international dance stars from New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Boston Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet and more. Artistic Director Damian Woetzel outdid himself this year, creating beautiful new partnerships and sharing dance classics and world premieres.
Highlights from International Evenings of Dance, video by Nel Shelby Productions
Tiler Peck, Robbie Fairchild, Daniel Ulbricht and other incredible dancers from New York City Ballet performed in Vail, and it was exciting to see them in new roles, after photographing them this summer at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.
I photographed the dress rehearsal of Daniel Ulbricht/BALLET 2014 at Jacob’s Pillow like I do every performance, every week. But I also had the rare opportunity to photograph a live performance of BALLET 2014 from the front of the house.
I also made portraits with Daniel Ulbricht, Georgina Pazcoguin, Tiler Peck & Robert Fairchild. Tiler & Robbie are beautiful dancers and newlyweds. We made two portraits together on the Pillow grounds, and then we went and did some pictures on my trampoline.
I know they just got married, and, as a friendly gesture from me to them, I wanted to make a romantic portrait. That’s where that lift came from. An intersection of weddings and dance right there!
Georgina Pazcoguin found time in her busy dance week to come over and make pictures on the trampoline too. I’ve photographed Gina for American Dance Machine and she is creative and fun. She saw some of my daughter Gracie’s balls in our yard, said we should use them for some of the photos we were making, and it turned into a really great portrait!
Daniel Ulbricht had an extremely busy week, but we found time for him to come over to our house and make pictures. Our daughter Gracie jumped with Daniel on the trampoline, and our 13-year-old cousin Mary, also a ballet dancer, was just over the moon when Daniel said he would make a picture on the trampoline with her too. It was definitely the highlight of her summer! Daniel is gracious, generous and thoughtful, and we had a great time.
Nel and I feel so blessed to work with such mindblowingly talented dancers. We’ve always loved going to the ballet in NYC, and now, high-caliber ballet performances are everywhere we go.
He photographs dancers in the studio and in performance, for promotional materials, portraits and press, and he often collaborates with his wife, Nel Shelby, and her Manhattan-based dance film and video editing company Nel Shelby Productions (nelshelby.com). Together, they have documented dance at performances from New York City to Vail International Dance Festival.
Christopher Duggan Photography also covers the finest wedding venues in the Metropolitan and Tri-State areas, in Massachusetts and the Berkshires, and frequently travels to destination weddings.
His photographs appear in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Knot, Destination I Do, Photo District News, Boston Globe, Financial Times, Dance Magazine, and Munaluchi Bridal, among other esteemed publications and popular dance and wedding blogs. One of his images of Bruce Springsteen was added to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and his dance photography has been exhibited at The National Museum of Dance and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.
His Natural Light Studio (http://www.christopherduggan.com/portfolio/natural-light-studio-jacobs-pillow-photography/) at Jacob’s Pillow is his most ambitious photography project to date – check out his blog to see more portraits of dance artists in his pop-up photo studio on the Pillow grounds.
When it comes to choreography, international collaborations are always interesting. The circumstances that bring people together. The sharing of new ideas–ideas from other places in the world. Today we’re going to take a closer look at one of these collaborations that is happening in Chicago, between DanceWorks Chicago and Taiat Dansa from Spain. We asked founders Inma Garcia and Meritxell Barberá to walk us through the process of bringing their work to the Midwest this summer…
Can you tell our readers a bit about Taiat Dansa?
We first met studying dance when we were young. Both of us continued studying until we graduated with degrees in dance as adults. We were passionate about dancing but also really motivated to create our own dance pieces and so more than ten years ago we formed our own company, Taiat.
We always work from the perspective of presenting the body. This is an important distinction for us – we do not want to represent the body or to make dance theatrical; our objective is to present the body in movement. At the same time we also always insist on a strong narrative theme for each piece.
At present we are on tour with two pieces. No Half Measures: Episodes of dance in museums is a piece that was originally commissioned to be performed on International Museum Day on May 18. The aim of the performance was to bring the typical museum-going public into contact with dance, it was a way of bringing the plastic arts and the physical arts together. We accompany the performance with a questionnaire that the audience is asked to complete, to give their impression of the experiment. It was a really successful debut and we were booked by another 22 contemporary museums around Spain, France and the USA. Also, we are performing We are going to make you dance: Chasing Patti Smith. We are also really pleased to perform this piece again as it has been a really enjoyable 3 year run.
Over the past few years we have worked as choreographers for other companies outside of Spain. We find this facet of our work really satisfying.
How did you wind up teaming up with DanceWorks Chicago?
The Cervantes Institute got in touch with us with the project of facilitating a collaboration between our company and a local Chicago company. They offered us rehearsal and performance space and were really helpful. We proposed the idea to Andreas, the Director of DanceWorks, and the rest is history!
What is your collaboration going to look like and what first steps are you taking?
We have had a very short but intense period in which to investigate movement so that the dancers of DanceWorks can become familiar with the dance language that we use. This time has served to delve into the mood and style of Man Ray’s work. What a lot of people don’t know is that Man Ray himself studied dance – in fact people said he was a very good dancer. Later he turned to photography for his artistic expression but for us the inspiration of dance on his work is very clear. So this time with DanceWorks has been for us, and for them, a time to investigate the different ways we can express his vision in dance, a kind of a full circle for his work. Our first step was of course to inspire the dancers, showing them some of Man Ray’s work. The rest is a work in progress that we hope can be developed into a complete show. The progress that we have made so far will be shown in the theatre of the Cervantes Institute on the 25th of August.
What do you think you might be able to bring to this collaboration?
We hope to bring our particular philosophy of dance and movement to the creation of a dance piece around this interesting theme – Man Ray Dancer. We would love to return to Chicago to create the complete work, we are really inspired.
What are you hoping to get from the collaboration?
For us, as we said, choreographing is really satisfying work. We have always created our own pieces, which is something we love doing, but working with other companies we find that our progress and our creativity are really accelerated. The process of creating new choreography is always dynamic and challenging and when we work with other companies apart from our own then it is also a process of give and take. Every dancer we work with teaches us something. In some moments inspiration can come from a certain attitude or move that a dancer makes, sometimes we take that initial inspiration and develop it, so our choreography is the result of the very personal interaction we have with the dancers themselves.
Have you done anything like this before?
Over the last few years, as we said, we have worked with other companies. Our last work in the USA was with the Ballet Hispanico. The difference between our work in the past and this work with DanceWorks is that it is a wonderful luxury to have a time to work together that is specifically for experimentation. Normally we have to jump right into the creation phase. Usually we do the investigative work on our own and arrive ready to begin the choreographic part of the project when we meet the dancers. It is really nice to have time to investigate with the dancers themselves and of course it is different here again because we have the chance to show the public the results of our investigations - this way we can gauge their reactions and that will help us to direct the course of the work in case it is to be developed properly in the future .
What has it been like to work with DanceWorks so far?
Wonderful, really great. Andreas and Julie have been very supportive and lovely. The dancers themselves have been really enthusiastic and they have understood our philosophy perfectly. We have seen the dancers enjoying the investigation process so you can imagine, when we see them happy it makes us really happy too. They have lived up to our greatest expectations. We are delighted to have the chance to work with a young company that has so much drive. They have a very exciting future ahead of them.
About Taiat Dansa: Meritxell Barberá and Inma García, with degrees in Classical and Contemporary dance from the city of Valencia, founded their own company Taiat Dansa in the year 1999. Since then they have presented their creations in different spaces and festivals within Spain in Valencia, Barcelona, Madrid, the Canary Islands, Sevilla, Murcia and País Vasco; in museum spaces, normally accompanied by an educational work around the country. In the international scene they have performed their work in countries such as France, Germany, Switzerland, the UK and the United States. Also, since 2009 they have worked with other companies as choreographers both nationally and internationally.
The 2013 documentary Flex Is Kings dives headfirst and somersaulting into the world of Flexing, a style of street dance centered in the Brooklyn neighborhood of East New York.
Schoo has captured a do-it-yourself dance movement in the most appropriate way. In an interview for The Wrap, she describes how she met a Flex dancer on a photo shoot and felt inspired to tell the story of Flex. Flex Is Kings, like Battlefest, is a grassroots, self- and crowd-funded operation.
Much of Flex dancing is narrative, an extreme reflection of life in East New York. It’s athletic, flashy and theatrical, full of aggressive one-ups and punchlines (showstopping stunts involving anything from acrobatics to magic tricks) executed to the soundtrack of “B.A!” cheers from an all-ages crowd, including Flizzo’s finger-gunshooting grandmother.
There’s no discussion of Flex’s evolution as a dance style, and here it doesn’t seem to matter. What’s evident is what Flex is to the dancers: a fleeting escape from the tough realities of life, a way of getting out and bringing home culture with you, a way of shaping the future. As one dancer puts it, “It’s really raw. It comes from us, from the neighborhood.”
Schoo and Nichols focus on three personalities. The unstoppable impresario Reem is the force behind Battlefest, a series of dance battles in Brooklyn. In the film, he’s a guide and anchor for this universe who dreams of leaving “a global imprint of what Battlefest, of what extreme street dancing is all about.” He coaches the dancers that they’re role models in their world and representatives of Flex to the world outside. Without knowing who might show up at Battlefest, they should look clean and presentable, “your jeans not on your knees…You’ve got to understand where you want to go”
For Jay Donn, another featured personality, dancing opens up an entirely new world of opportunities. He’s sought by modern dance group Company XIV to perform in a new Pnicchio, an adventure that takes him on a month-long trip to Scotland for the Edinburgh Fringe Fest. Wide-eyed and speechless, he couldn’t look more incongruous than when passing out flyers outside L’Occitane on the streets of mostly-white Edinburgh.
Unemployed with two young children, Jermaine “Flizzo” Clement uses performing to escape from his rough past and harsh present. As a mentor to neighborhood youth, he uses his talent to help shape a better future for the next generation. He has a mentor in Jay, who urges him to “keep doing your thing…and if you don’t make it here we’re gonna make it somewhere, together. This is the life. I deserve it, so do you.”
The film culminates in a frenetic sequence that cuts back and forth between Pinocchio and King of the Streets. It’s all energy and inspiration from there, neatly finished with a brief epilogue for each of the three principal characters.
Disclosure: 4dancers previously ran an ad for this DVD.0
Basic Castanet and Movement Technique Volume 1
In this thirty-five minute instructional DVD, New York City-based teacher and choreographer JoDe Romano walks the beginning student through a series of six castanet exercises. She begins with simple instructions for putting on and adjusting the castanets, then moves on to finger exercises, and eventually incorporates arm, head, and leg movements. Each new element is added systematically, with emphasis on slow repetition and daily practice to develop strength and accuracy.
Romano’s verbal directions are clear and easy to follow, and each exercise is shown from the front and back. Her demonstrations cleanly show the technique for each combination, and she provides an inspiring example of the strength, passion, and power of Spanish dance.
This DVD is a useful tool for beginners of any age, or any dancer looking for a better understanding of the basics of Spanish castanet movement. Basic Castanet and Movement Technique is the first of a two-part series. Both DVDs can be purchased on Romano’s website, www.flamencoromano.com.0
by Nel Shelby
Our dance video team is always thrilled to film the Vail International Dance Festival. Artistic Director Damian Woetzel makes sure every night has a beautiful performance on their outdoor stage in the mountains. It’s our job at Nel Shelby Productions to create dance videos as quickly as possible, for those of you who can’t attend to get a real look at the talent onstage.
The performances at Vail International Dance Festival just get better and better each year!! The festival’s International Evenings are some of the most exciting to film, so I just have to share these dance videos with you.
FIRST UP: STREET DANCE VIDEO FROM VAIL’S INTERNATIONAL EVENINGS
Lil Buck is always a crowd-pleaser, and Damian Woetzel and Lil Buck are a great team. This year, they crafted a really beautiful piece featuring Lil Buck, King Charles, Stringz, and Ron Prime Tyme Myles.
NEXT, TILER PECK MAKES HER DEBUT IN TWO BALLET ROLES
Audiences can’t get enough of Tiler Peck, and if you watch the dance video of her two debut roles during International Evenings, it’s easy to see why.
VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS FROM INTERNATIONAL EVENINGS
Contributor Nel Shelby, Founder and Principal of Nel Shelby Productions, is deeply dedicated to the preservation and promotion of dance through documentation of live performances, fully edited marketing reels, live-stream capture, and documentaries and films that encapsulate the essence of nonprofit organizations.
Her New York City-based video production company has grown to encompass a diverse list of dance clients including American Ballet Theater II, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, Gallim Dance, Gotham Arts, Kate Weare and Company, Keigwin + Company, Monica Bill Barnes Company, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Shen Wei Dance Arts, Wendy Whelan and many more. She has filmed performances at venues throughout the greater New York area including The Joyce Theater, New York Live Arts, Lincoln Center, Symphony Space, St. Mark’s Church and Judson Church, to name a few.
For nearly a decade, Nel has served as Festival Videographer for the internationally celebrated Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in the Berkshires. Each season at the Pillow, Nel’s responsibilities include documenting aspects of festival culture in addition to its 20 mainstage dance performances, filming and overseeing documentation of more than 100 free performances and events, managing two dance videography interns and an apprentice, and educating students about the technical and philosophical aspects of filming dance.
She also serves as Resident Videographer at the Vail International Dance Festival where she spent her first summer creating five short dance documentary films about the festival in addition to documenting its events and performances. Her longer-form, half-hour documentary on Vail’s festival, The Altitude of Dance, debuted on Rocky Mountain PBS in May 2013.
She has created four short films for Wendy Whelan’s Restless Creature, and she collaborated with Adam Barruch Dance to create a short film titled “Folie a Deux,” which was selected and screened at the Dance on Camera Festival in New York City and the San Francisco Dance Film Festival. She is making a dance documentary featuring Nejla Y. Yatkin, called Where Women Don’t Dance.
Nel has a long personal history with movement – she has a B.A. in dance and is a certified Pilates instructor. She continues to train with world-renowned Master Teachers Romana Krysnowska and Sari Pace, original students of Joseph Pilates. In addition to her dance degree, Nel holds a B.S. in broadcast video. She often collaborates with her wonderful husband, dance photographer (and fellow 4dancers contributor) Christopher Duggan on creative projects with dancers in New York City and beyond. They live with their beautiful daughter Gracie and son Jack in Manhattan.