Choreographer Doug Elkins Visits Campus to Shoot Dance Film!

photo by Gena Novash

left to right: choreographer, Doug Elkins, dancer, Ephrat Asherie and film student, Michael Zayac

Contributed by Stephanie Schoppe, MA student in Theatre Studies at Montclair State University

Earlier this semester, NYC-based choreographer Doug Elkins visited Montclair State University’s campus to choreograph and shoot a dance film as part of the third and final installment of the Dance for Film on Location at Montclair State University series. The film, titled A Hundred Indecisions, featured professional dancers from Elkins’ own company, and students from the College of the Arts worked behind the scenes. A Hundred Indecisions will have its world premiere April 20-23, 2017, along with a commissioned live dance piece from Elkins, as part of the Peak Performances spring season at the Alexander Kasser Theater.  No charge for undergrads; all others $20!

 Elkins began his career touring with break-dancing groups. Since then he has received many prestigious awards and commissions from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Jerome Foundation, among others. Elkins has taught in both the US and Europe and has created original work for companies like the Pennsylvania Ballet and the Flying Karamazov Brothers.

On a gorgeous Saturday morning in September, the dancers and crew met on the terrace on the 4th floor of the Feliciano School of Business building. It was a bright and sunny day, not a cloud in the sky, and the location offered a beautiful view of Montclair State’s campus. The dancers rehearsed a bit while the camera crew prepared to shoot. That day, the dancers performed a high-energy, fast-paced routine to the first few minutes of Beyoncé’s hit song “Formation.”  The choreography included foot movements so fast that it was almost otherworldly.

Donnell Oakley and Kyle Marshall, both professional dancers and choreographers and members of Elkins’ company, spoke about dancing on film versus being on stage. According to Oakley, she likes the opportunity to redo and make corrections that dancing on film offers her, but the interaction with an audience is missing: “It feels more alive and energetic with bodies before you to share your movement and story.” Marshall commented that, while filming, he has to keep everything in consideration, even small details like what his eyes and mouth are doing. When asked about what audiences can expect from the film, Marshall said, “I think this film will be fun, quick-witted, and whimsical…we played a lot with images that felt a bit surreal or random. I am curious to see how editing will bring these ideas out.”

Amelia Spitler, a senior BFA student in filmmaking who worked on sound mixing on the film, spoke about what it was like to film dance for the first time: “I find it very calming, actually. The set isn’t chaotic…it was lovely to work with my fellow students and professors in a professional environment.” When asked about what it was like to work with Elkins, Spitler said that she loved his sense of humor. “He’s a cheerful guy who is a joy to be around on set.”

Natalie Romero, who graduated from Montclair State last year with her MA in theater studies and is now the Dance for Film project coordinator, says that A Hundred Indecisions is currently in postproduction and that students are working on an accompanying documentary that will highlight Elkins’ visit to campus.  Romero also confirmed that a total of 20 students worked on the film and that the Dance for Film office has employed students from a variety of majors, including film, marketing, and English, to work on the documentary.  The students’ documentary will be screened in April along with the premiere of A Hundred Indecisions at the Kasser Theater.

 

Dance for Film on Location at Montclair State University is a project developed and produced by the Office of Arts and Cultural Programming, with funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Visit the Dance for Film web site at danceforfilm.org.