D.C.’s Chamber Dance Project will broadcast the world premiere of a new dance film created by choreographer Diane Coburn Burning and composer James Bigbee Garver, the same team behind last season’s acclaimed “Prufrock.”
“We have had a June and July season in D.C., and we were to go to Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival,” says Bruning, artistic director for the Chamber Dance Project. “[But] when it became clear that wasn’t possible, we knew we wanted to still do something with and for the artists and continue to create new work. We had funding from the National Endowment from the Arts and they were accepting a new plan that wasn’t in the theater.”
Knowing they could not safely get the dancers together, Bruning and her team thought of things they could do virtually over Zoom and the idea of a film was bandied about.
Bruning and Garver collaborated with award-winning producer and filmmaker David Hamlin on the new film, which incorporates eight of the company’s dancers, who learned how to use the equipment to film themselves.
“David had wanted to work with me to take Prufrock and create a specific dance film on location in the city, so I asked him what it would take to get the dancers equipment to train them on cameras, and I would choreograph a dance film over Zoom,” Bruning says. “We figured out the cheapest high-end camera that we could get them all – a GoPro – and the company bought eight Hero-7 GoPros and a Jaws clamp to give them.”
Since Chamber Dance Project had planned to give their dancers about seven weeks of work this summer, Bruning felt a strong commitment to give them something to do that was artistic and could help them financially.
“I knew this would charge us all up. We were all in our living rooms or kitchens or wherever, and I knew if we were going to do this, the dancers would have to do everything: film, run sound, etc. So we gave them training. We had a series of four work sessions through Zoom with David and we taught them everything we could about the GoPro and the elements of film, and I was breaking down what the scenes would be in.”
Her vision was to create a work in the architecture of our times, which Bruning sees as our houses and where we live.
“I wasn’t looking to make any big statement,” she explains. “I just wanted to create something in place. We created a series of vignettes that I choreographed. The first scene has four of our men on their stairs and a very physical driving dance. I also included a section with two of the women and two men on tables or sliding on the floor.”
Principal dancer Davit Hovhannisyan of the Milwaukee Ballet enjoyed the process of creating a new piece and collaborating with others while not being in the same space.
“In the beginning, it felt like everything was a challenge technologically, trying to find spaces that will work for the film,” he says. “But shortly and surely, everything came together as we got used to the technical aspect of it and started to create. It was definitely a team effort, and everybody put their hearts into it.”
The other dancers in the project include Francesca Dugarte, Luz San Miguel, Julia Erickson, Cooper Verona, Grace-Anne Powers, Christian Denice and Austin Powers.
“This is new work and something that has never been seen before,” Bruning says. “It’s compelling with fantastic dancers throwing themselves with no holds barred into dancing in their homes.”
The film, which streams on September 24 is free, though donations are requested.
For tickets and more information on Chamber Dance Project, visit www.chamberdance.org. Follow them on Instagram @chamberdanceproject.