Reflections on a Remote Residency 

I applied for a Dance Base Residency and was overjoyed when I heard I’d been successful in January 2020. I was really looking forward to getting into the studio at the end of May 2020 with dancers Alan Greig, Jack Webb, Niamh O’Loughlin, new NCDS Graduate Shannon Dray and Leanne Kinnear, a young dancer studying Biology at Edinburgh Uni…

 

I was interested in exploring movements we suppress, moves I suppress, trying not to boogie out loud in a public place or trying to earn a living by sitting very still, thinking then typing a lot… What happens when I let the movement out? Right out... ? Well, it wasn't to be..

dawnhartley_1.jpg

Covid-19 struck and all the live work I was booked for was postponed or cancelled on 16 March and the U.K Prime Minister announced Lockdown on 23 March.

I asked the dancers if they would be up for taking the project online.

I knew it was a bit of an ask as some dancers might not have much space or equipment or, let’s face it, the energy and motivation as the draining terror of immediately spreading a terrifying disease to our loved ones slowly, slowly morphed into the realisation that not only the next 3 months work was cancelled but potentially all work.. Forever… Until a vaccine was developed.. Or maybe that was just me?

All the dancers replied to say they were up for it and I duly emailed two tasks, designed with the camera in mind. I also extended an invite to Ellis Shirkey, a young dancer I’d worked with before in T.I.M Company who had approached me about being involved in a different online project.

Everyone sent me their contributions to the tasks and I began looking for common threads and standout moves. I searched for moments that piqued my curiosity and began blocking them into an I Movie project and tried out different orders.

I quickly became interested in the passing

of energy from one dancer to another,

becoming absorbed by the attention to detail

needed to ensure the movement flowed

from one another. I began to recognise the micro

movements the dancers made before committing

to the next move. Probably imperceptible in real live life, on screen it was possible to see the flicker of a finger, a micro blink, eyelid twitch, a minute head move, a tiny shift of weight .... and then they're off! 

Aware of my tendency to over analyse and unhelpfully self critique, I decided from the start to do exactly what I wanted and if I didn't find the final result interesting, I wouldn't share with anyone but the creative team. I let myself off the hook. I recommend this approach. I was able to relax into the process, allowing myself to follow what interested me. Immersed in the editing, hours flew by and I only stopped when my hands got cramped from endless clicking. Or I noticed my stomach rumbling..

Once I’d achieved a full edit, I talked with Quee about the strangeness of Lockdown. We'll probably be talking about that forever.

We talked about the idea of the sound being brash, inhuman, stark, uncomfortable and unmusical. Not words usually attributed to Quee's compositions!

I told him my rationale, sort of narrative, vague ideas of landmark references, of where I thought there was space in the short film and where I imagined more driving, pushing through, energetic flow.

 

Quee came up with the idea of using reverb & delay

as an analogy to the distance of the camera. 

He wanted a slightly manic vibe, echoing the edit,

and programmed underlying beats using

a moving low pass filter.

 

 

 

We talked about introducing real instruments and he used audio from the dancers’ films which he processed.

I pushed for more bass. He is a bass player....

We held an online preview on Monday 6 July with 5 of the dancers. It was so lovely seeing everyone, albeit on Zoom and Shannon was unable to get online as she was working in France with little wifi access.

 

Thank you to the dancers for their wholehearted and beautiful contributions to the project

and to Quee MacArthur for the music.

 

A huge thank you also to Dancebase for honouring our contract.

Watch the film via link below with Password: Dancebase

https://vimeo.com/435471129