Documentary: Living Portfolio

Living Portfolio Documentary

I worked on the project throughout the school year, and as summer approaches, I am finally ready to post it on the blog. I feel strongly for this project because each piece of footage is like a found treasure added to my collection for one reason or another. Balancing narrative, visual interest, text, sound, and progression is an ongoing challenge, but one that I embrace. I hope the work shares some essence of what happens, both to the dance piece and to the choreographer and dancers involved, when the two come together for rehearsal.

You can also see these tid bits along side Sofie’s posts on her works in progress page on her wordpress.


I have questions that I am trying to answer through this process. As the weeks fly by, the list has expanded, contracted, had questions answered, unanswered, and answered again. Here is where the list is at now, some questions have answers and some are still open-ended. Please comment with thoughts, I would love to start conversation on this!

  • Who is the audience? Early on in the quarter, I did not know if I was filming for the dancers, Sofie, or for an outside party. Sofie and I soon realized that I couldn’t possibly film for movement preservation for the dancers, as well as work on my own documentary. We decided that she could capture the movement for memory and rehearsal purposes on her camera, and I would focus on my perspective of the process. The first video I posted was an archive video, because we had not yet decided this. Now that I know my audience is an outside party, I am still grappling with who makes up this group, dancers or non-dancers? I think dancers and non-dancers may find different aspects of rehearsal more interesting. For instance, non-dancers are new to rehearsals and some things that dancers find ordinary may be exclusive and exciting to non-dancers. Certain practices and word choices may need much more explanation for non-dancers. In reality, I think my audience is a mix of the two… hence the next question….
  • How can I engage both dancers and non-dancers simultaneously? This is my top question right now. I’m curious to know if dancers or non-dancers would connect more to the featurettes.
  • Can I use social media to change who the audience is? I have posted links to the blog throughout the quarter on my Facebook to try to expand the audience. I was curious to see if the post would attract much attention, and if so, who would watch. The first video got a comment… from my mom. This was a hilarious collision of worlds for me, I just didn’t expect such a personal connection to something “work” related. This shows the complete mix of relationships from every aspect of life that social media such as wordpress, facebook, and youtube contain. The second link I posted got many views, mostly from dancers at Ohio State. This made more sense to me, this is the audience that would most connect to the videos because it is the group who is familiar with the content in the video.
  • How much access is too much? This question came up while creating a featurette of Amanda and Ana working on their duet. I wanted to keep enough continuity so the audience wasn’t totally confused at what was happening. But just showing the duet in detail made me wonder, how much is too much to show? We discussed this in video doc class last year, and came to the conclusion that showing too much of the rehearsal process or dance decreases the allure and mystery, like a commercial that includes all the funniest jokes in the movie. Social media adds another dimension: content protection. If I show entire phrases in detail online, anyone who finds the content can copy the material for their own purposes. Also, at what point does sharing through social media become spam-like, therefore immediately overlooked by the receivers?
  • When is it more appropriate to shoot archival style versus creative documentary style?The documentary that I am creating will have both, and I have often asked myself during rehearsal what style I should shoot in that particular moment. I have become better at discerning what is most appropriate at the time. It is easy to block the world out and become focused on the shot, but I now know that it is important to keep my ears open so I know if Sofie is describing something important that I need to capture, or if the dancers are about to perform as a group. And when Sofie says it is time to break into individual workshop time, I know that I am free to experiment with creative shots. Listening to the room is crucial to answer this question.
  • What characteristics make each shot style successful? I could write a lot on this but I will keep it short. The archival style shows something crucial in the rehearsal, and usually all-inclusive in the group: a group correction, a description of the intention of the dance, or a final showing of the learned material. Clear audio and a steady frame are key for this type of shot. The frame size is usually wide enough to include most of the dancers/body parts, but the angles can still be varied. The shot needs to be focused on the main event happening. Creative shots can be any frame size, and can have shallow depth of field. It is important for these shots to be aesthetically interesting, I try to emphasize movement, energy, detail, shape, or personalities.
  • What narrative am I telling? Now that I am accumulating all this information, and hours of footage and experiences, how will I organize it to convey my perspective? I want each choice I make to contribute to my narrative, which I am still figuring out. The narrative I construct will make all of the information from the quarter accessible for the audience.
  • Videographer Present versus Future Influence? I have addressed the future influence of outside audience members, the featurettes, blog entries, and documentary will be resources to influence outside audience members and share this process with them in the future. I am preserving the process. I am also presently influencing audience because the featurettes and blog posts are published while the process is still going on. The more interesting present influence is on the choreographer and the dancers. My blog posts offer Sofie insight and points of reflection. Now that the choreographic stage of creating formations and order has started, Sofie has asked me a few questions about what a formation looks like from the outside while in rehearsal. The dancers have been able to revisit old solo work by looking at footage on my camera during rehearsal. And even just being in the room with a video camera seems to make everyone work really hard! It is very exciting to know that I am part of the very process that I am preserving.

Nov 23rd

Sofie is helping the dancers refine the core movement phrases, now that they have the phrases mapped in their muscle memory. I found myself intently listening to advice Sofie had to offer the dancers on Monday. She gave corrections about where moves originate from. For example, instead of starting at the shoulder, one movement actually started all the way at the hip crease. Once Sofie showed this to Cheyenne, Cheyenne’s arm was a seamless extension of her torso, and the movement felt more powerful by originating at her hips. Sofie used a great metaphor to describe the quality of movement while talking to Elaine, she told Elaine to dance “sweet and sour”. She explained that Elaine’s high energy, strong movements made the dance too “sour”, and made the phrase seem bitter. Elaine could balance the phrase by dancing with lightness and flow on some moves, which would add captivating juxtaposition. I think the “sweet and sour” analogy is a useful way to visualize movement quality in order to inform phrasing choices.

Sofie worked with each individual to tweak and clean the solos. She was confident in what she wanted in each solo, and she seemed to be seeking a natural pattern for each dancer. She would say: “that arm isn’t you, it’s me. Don’t do it”. She could have been making this conclusion by looking at the pathway of the body through space, or by the energy in which the dancer performed the move. Erin’s solo was grounded with a thick consistency, Sofie took out the jump. The jump disrupted the solo because it stopped the wonderful gooey connectedness that Erin was achieving. It’s so important to be able to see the overall picture and be able to make editing decisions like the ones Sofie made.

Nov 2nd

After five rehearsals, Sofie and the dancers are settling into a working groove. This past Monday, Ana and Amanda worked together to make a duet out of their solos. With Sofie’s input, they altered their movement into one cohesive dance where they were impacted by one another. They traveled together and changed direction as one unit, but their level off the ground was varied. I could feel their focus as I filmed, they worked so efficiently to make the new dance. I tried to memorize the directional changes and movements as they rehearsed them so that I could better anticipate my own movements. I enjoyed getting to try different angles and techniques while they repeated the movement.

Sofie taught a section for the whole group to learn, which consisted of slow and subtle steps to the side, back and front. Sofie took care in teaching the details of the body: hands firmly gripping left leg, back rounded, and weight shifting up and over from one foot to the next. The dancers practiced this section in a tight clump, which gave the subtle movements a higher impact. I get excited when I see the group sections, because it reminds me of the bigger picture. I realize that all the solos, duets and trios will meld into a piece with larger group sections, motifs, and more “performative” moments. For those who do not know, a motif in dance is a movement or set of recurring movements, that may be altered in some way by the choreographer as the piece goes on. For instance, the two hands holding the right thigh may be a motif, it is an easily recognizable gesture that can be changed in various ways to show progression.

Week 4: Reconstructing a Phrase

Week 2: Group Practice

Week 1: Movement Creation

October 5th

Sofie’s rehearsal process started off on Monday night, and I was so excited to begin this journey of complete video documentation. Documenting her work is an exciting project for me because I know that Sofie aims to use the process as further inspiration for creation, like a feedback loop of sorts. So by documenting the process, I am making inspirational material available to her, therefore my work will contribute to the process and product itself.

My mind was filled with many technical hurdles to leap on Monday night as the rehearsal unfolded. It was my first time seeing Pomerene room 205 rehearsal space in that light setting, I was adjusting the camera settings for the light and gaging the best angles to film from. I use any documentation task as an opportunity to practice my camera work. I was trying to find balance between tight dynamic frames versus including all dancers at all times, and smooth operation versus the ability to quickly move the frame and anticipate the dancers’ movements. This project will allow me to keep working on my personal camera movement style.

I reminded myself to stay present in the room and not get too side tracked with the technical aspect of documentation. My perception of the process is just as important as what I capture on film.

The rehearsal was very focused. The structure of the rehearsal was: learned material, movement creation “workshop”, then learned material. Sofie gave the dancers a floor phrase, which involved crawling and high resistance movements. Then she gave the dancers a task with which to create movements that involved connecting points of their bodies together. After 15 minutes of working on this task, the dancers worked on another task involving falling between each movement. The method of layering on tasks created complex phrases that had both stationary and traveling parts. The dancers paired up to combine their work and create a duet, which added another layer. I documented these phrases with an “archive” film style: staying wide to include all dancers at all times.

Sofie was prepared with movement, but I could tell she was also very interested in dances that the girls had to offer. Sofie engaged her dancers as learners, collaborators, and creators on Monday night. The girls are an amazing and dedicated group of my peers.

The second phrase Sofie taught was full bodied connected movement that made and arcs through space. I loved the way the movement begged to “eat up space”, this style of dance dares the performer to go farther with each move. I documented this phrase also with an archive style. I couldn’t capture everyone at all times because of the vast use of space and the number of dancers. This is a problem I will try to work out a solution to (possibly filming from a very high angle?).

I will be exploring the execution of archive versus documentation styles of videography during these rehearsals. Is it possible for me to do both? What are the characteristics that make each one successful? And When is one more appropriate than the other? I hope to find answers to these questions as well as more questions along the way as this journey unfolds. Stay tuned!

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