Something Big and Wild and Different

~ Eleanor Stacey

In the last few years, we’ve had an ongoing dialogue internally at The Civic Theatre about innovations in film and other screen-based media.  Personally I’ve found it really interesting to think about how these innovations have come to be; a lot of the time it has been through a simple desire to experiment and try something new, or extend the reach of a particular art form into new territory.  Ranging from a British interactive film/first-person combat game with live actors playing zombies, to the recent experimental use of virtual reality in spinal cord rehabilitation, there are more and more examples of how screen-based media is seeping into other creative genres and occupational fields in breathtaking ways.

One area that has been really interesting to me is in a crossover genre called “dancescreen”.  The term and the idea of dancescreen was created by Vienna-based IMZ International Music and Media Centre, which serves to “connect the creators of the performing arts – the world’s renowned stages, dance companies, opera and concert houses – with the audiovisual branches – film and TV production, distribution, public and private broadcasting.” IMZ was founded under the aegis of UNESCO in 1961 to preserve the performing arts as a cultural asset.

Since 1988, IMZ have hosted the dancescreen international dance film festival, a competition that exists alongside an eclectic programme of film screenings, panels and pitching sessions and facilitates networking between directors, choreographers and potential buyers including broadcasters, festival curators and media or art institutions from all over the world.

This was where we first came across Alexander Ekman’s A Swan Lake. This film was the winner in the category of “Best Live Performance Relay and Camera Re-Work” – one of eight awards given in 2016, after adjudicators considered over 300 participating films from 47 countries. This work was originally performed for a live audience on the Oslo Opera House, where Ekman filled the Main Stage with 5,000 litres of water (and more than 1,000 rubber ducks!).  Ekman wanted to do “something big and wild and different.” In his vision, dancers wear helmets and kneepads, and use their watery setting to create new sliding and spraying motions throughout the piece, amplifying the choreography in exciting ways.

The film recording of this piece has been specifically for cinema audiences, with choreography adapted for theatrical release. This is a key difference between dancescreen works and live performances recorded with a live audiences.  In fact, the beauty of the dancescreen form is that it can transport what usually would happen on a traditional stage into any kind of environment.  It adds an interesting new opportunity for choreographers and dancers to frame their work, with results that expand the boundaries of the dance form.  As a cinematic presenter, we are looking forward to discovering more full-length dancescreen works to challenge and delight local film audiences.

A Swan Lake will be screened at the Civic Theatre November 27 at 2pm, November 28 at 7:00pm. Join us for something big and wild and different.