London’s performing arts house– Sadler’s Wells – recently granted me access to film the dancers performing at their Peacock Theatre. The experience not only gave me a renewed respect for the athleticism and dedication of the performers, but a chance to push my creative boundaries.
First, I met the dancers of Tango Fire, a company from Buenos Aires, as they were assembling their makeup and costumes before a performance. They spoke not a word of English and I don’t speak Portuguese, yet we agreed through glances and nods that we’d all just get on with our work. They quickly refocused on their tasks and became oblivious to my presence. For me, this was perfect. I could go where I needed to and was soon under the spell of their warm spontaneity and intimacy as they prepared for their public performance.
As attention moved to the stage and the action began, I saw how a bit of the stage’s brilliant illumination stole into the pitch-dark, narrow wings of the tiny London theatre. I knew it could be the perfect spot for capturing the dancers’ extraordinary concentration and beauty. However, those tiny wings are also places of intense action as some dancers position themselves to take the stage, while others fly towards the wing as they exit the limelight. It was a remarkable place from which to capture them, both at moments of complete stillness and in flight, but there was little room for an extra person draped in hard-edged metal equipment. I was well aware that my camera and I could do some serious damage to these elegant creatures if I was less than careful. Fortunately, we all got through it safely.
The confines of the space provided a perfect opportunity to test the cinematic quality of Canon’s new EOS-ID C, the new DSLR photo video camera which captures seriously high resolution (4k) still and moving imagery. Its size and sleek design gave me more agility than a traditional video camera, allowing me to be less intrusive to the performers’ space while still capturing all the action.
A few days later, I met another group of dancers – Ballet Revolucion from Cuba – who present their art with a twist – a bit of hip hop and modern, but grounded in classical ballet’s disciplined training.
When I arrived at the studio where they were warming up, I had the sense of walking into a stable of highly trained racehorses – the dancers were amazingly athletic and focused, and surprisingly playful with each other in preparations. This was a large troupe, too, and being in their midst as I filmed their dance was a constant contrast between control and being on the edge of chaos. In the midst of all this, there were also surprising moments of seeming to be perfectly alone with one dancers’ expression or movement.
Both dance troupes have very unique styles, each full of energy and a quiet power, which make for fascinating and, at times, challenging cinematic subjects.
The moments in the wings, where the light of the stage just lightly reached their faces, proved just as profound and visually stunning to me as their performances on stage. I hope you agree.
Editor’s Note: Chris Scott is an Output Producer for Getty Images Entertainment Video based in London. The music featured in each video is courtesy of Sadler’s Wells.