Dance: An Expanding Practice – Journal Part IIIby Blakeley White-McGuire
Dance on film revealed its form to me while reviewing raw footage of new choreography, which I had casually filmed during a creative residency in New York City last summer. In a moment, I was struck by the camera’s perspective – unbiased, intimate and honest. My strictly functional placement of the camera (on the floor facing the mirror) captured the dance from a unique position; one that I could not and would not have physically maintained myself. It was this practical, yet synchronous aspect of the camera’s point of view that initially inspired a filmic exploration of my dance film, THESE WORLDS IN US.
Community has been a theme in my dances since I began making them as a child. Dance is a vehicle for me to learn about people and for people to learn about me. In the past, it had been difficult to find satisfaction with any filmic representations of my dances (which had been strictly documentary) because they oftentimes they were two-dimensional and gave me no feeling. The tension and dynamic got lost in translation. But within this particular footage, I saw and felt potential; the images, lines, partnering and formations resonated emotionally with the music and the space inside the frame. I began shaping the footage with editing tools on my laptop and spent all of my free time trying out different cuts, lighting, timing and musical placements.
By the end of that first editing week, I had a draft. It was my sense that the film could have a life, but I wanted to learn more about the genre itself. At the encouragement of a friend, who was also the generous supporter of my dance residency, I met with two directors from Dance Films Association. This encouragement was significant because the idea of DFA had not remotely crossed my mind; I was too caught up in my own thoughts and ideas. It took an outside voice to open new possibilities, another person’s imagination to expand opportunities. DFA Executive Director Beni Matias and board member Marta Renzi generously shared with me their ideas on how a new dance filmmaker might approach the process. I came away from that conversation with the understanding that research and experimentation were going to be essential factors in going deeper into the form, as was developing an appropriate budget and generating financial support. These challenges and the time commitment involved in creating, staging, editing, re-viewing and sculpting fractions of seconds in order to evoke an emotional charge, were great but not overwhelmingly so. As I became more familiar and invested in the process, the editing time seemed to fly by – like time spent in rehearsal honing a transition or exhausting a movement until self-consciousness relinquishes its hold.
My first dance on film, THESE WORLDS IN US, is not experimental in the larger realm of the genre; but for me personally, it is completely experimental. It elucidates the real interdisciplinarity of forms which galvanize to create a unique expression in the world. It reveals the coming together of people – dancers, musicians, funders, filmmakers and audience to contribute something beautiful and subtle to the world – at the very least, striving for it.
Blakeley White-McGuire is a dance artist. Currently a Principal Dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company, she has performed with: Martha Clarke, Sean Curran, Daniel Ezralow, Richard Move, Pascal Rioult, Avila/Weeks, the Metropolitan Opera, at the Superbowl and Pope Benedict XVI’s Concert of Hope. Blakeley has served on thefaculties of The Ailey School, The Actors’ Studio and The Martha Graham Center. Her own dances have been presented in many festivals and venues including Jacob’s PIllow’s INSIDE/OUT and the Joyce Theater. Blakeley is currently pursuing her MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts at Goddard College.