On Friday, Dec. 4, the Moorpark College dance department live streamed its very first virtual dance performance, the Dance for Camera Project. This hour production was immediately followed by a Q&A with all the dancers, staff and student choreographers. The Dance for Camera webinar was live streamed over both Zoom and YouTube.
The Dance for Camera Artistic Director and Moorpark College Dance Department Staff, Beth Megill, partnered with fellow Staff and Assistant Director, Nancy Paradis to create the Dance Department’s very first film production. The co-directors also received help from the Student Assistant Director, Morpheus Kostromin.
“Coming together, I have never made a dance film before, most of us haven’t made a dance film before and so it was really a steep learning curve,” claimed Megill.
This project was not only new to the Dance Department staff, but to all the student dancers involved as well. Megill described the process of this project as the “blind leading the blind.” The Dance for Camera project was an alternative performance opportunity for the dancers due to COVID-19 and the cancellation of the annual Fall Dance Showcase.
Paradis said, “The process, I think, was a journey. It was starting with a lot of the unknown and as we met on Zoom week after week we did bring in some guests that would help with the choreographic editing process, the story, how to develop dance on film.”
The project started with an unknown ending product. As it grew, it turned into a full fledged, professional dance film. As the students met over Zoom for hours every Friday, they learned choreography, filming, editing and they learned from special guest speakers that specialize in the dance for camera field.
As the Dance for Camera Project presumed, the opportunities for creativity and filming became endless. The Dance Department teamed up with Technical Director, Ariana Burrell, to design lighting and backdrops for the filming production.
According to Megill, “We got some special lighting. You will see some of the dances are set up in the parking structure, the second floor of the Moorpark College parking structure. Otherwise most of the dances, many of the dances, were done completely remotely, or in the students’ personal home environment.”
As the dancers were able to film in person, they remained socially distanced, had their masks on at all times and followed all necessary safety protocols. The dancers also had the opportunity to film within their own households. They utilized all their allotted space and belongings to creatively perform their dances and portray their roles.
All ten dance pieces provided a variety of styles within the dancing, storytelling, filming and editing. Each student choreographer was assigned another dancer to act as their production manager to help with the creative filming and editing processes.
Many student choreographers pulled inspiration from other dance films or movies to help innovate their choreography, filming and editing techniques.
Samantha Longtin, a student choreographer and dancer, self choreographed a solo called “Just Nifty,” and pulled her inspirations from the musical “La La Land.”
“I was really inspired by “LaLa Land” and the way they all are dancing in the streets and it’s very colorful and also like ‘50s films and technicolor. I wanted it all to be very bright and very lively and colorful,” stated Longtin.
Longtin’s bright and upbeat performance was just one of the many pieces that drew inspiration from musical films. Student choreographer, Natalia Enriquez also claimed that she drew some of her piece’s inspiration from the musical “Westside Story.”
Each piece performed portrayed their choreographer’s vision. Despite the obstacles of digital learning and COVID-19, the dancers put forth their time and energy to allow each of the choreographer’s visions to come to life.
“For that energy to come through the camera, through the computer, to the students, I think that speaks a lot to the power of this program,” pronounced Paradis.
As the Dance for Camera Project performance closed, Megill’s final statement thanked her fellow staff, students and administration for embarking on this adventure with her.
“I just want to say thank you, thank you to Moorpark College for facilitating this webinar, thank you to all of the staff and administrators who allowed us to come to campus to film and supported getting a few dancers in proximity, social distanced always, but in proximity so that they could perform together and we can film them as best as possible,” stated Megill.