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Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States

I am a dancer with Minneapolis based James Sewell Ballet, a small, contemporary ballet company. I also choreograph independently.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Editing while Maintaining (and Revealing) the Soul of a Piece

I am finally in the process of editing my concert of last fall, my first full evening of work. It was a long time coming and so has been this editing process.

This is a learning experience on many levels and is proving to be an unexpected gift. I am seeing my work in new ways, with new eyes. I am up close and personal with it in a way that I’ve never allowed myself to experience before. What do I mean by that…? I think I mean that when I usually view my work it in some ways is with that wince that we all experience when we hear our voices on our answering machines. Do I really sound like that? Ouch! And yet there is this weird fascination, once we get past our lack of objectivity.

One is probably never truly objective about one’s work and that’s probably a blessing. But in a way, given that I am only now, in March, editing work performed in September, I have a certain distance, a certain ability to stomach it.

So there we are, my amazing editor and me, sitting in the half-darkness of his crowded and technology covered studio. I am inches away from two different screens. One depicts what he’s doing, the final versions of what we are editing. The other screen is controlled by me and shows side-by-side images of my dances: one close-up and on an angle and one centered and wide. The recordings are from two different nights and therein lies the game we play: synching dance to dance, movement to movement, moment to moment, breath to breath.

Though endlessly frustrating and TIME CONSUMING, there is a certain beauty about this process and I find that I am touched in a way that is hard to express…

I am, I think, foremost moved by the earnest performances of the dancers. It’s true: they rallied for me. The five performances over the weekend of September 8-11 were without dysfunction. Seeing them all again now, on screens repeating moments again and again, I say a silent acknowledgement of thanks to each of them.

I am made aware of the true art of editing. It is viscerally satisfying to achieve a good edit, to take a passage from a piece and make it larger than life, to bring the audience with you, on a journey. I am editing to reveal what is fundamental about any given piece, not to preserve the choreography. This was a brick wall I traversed, with the help of my editor. After all, what’s the use of working with him if not to let him do what he does best? The choreography is safely preserved in my wide-shots. I am here to tell a bigger story.

I make choices like: showing Stephanie in the corner, smaller than anything, to offer context and express her vulnerability; like a cross-fade on myself, just as my head peers through my arms, creating intimacy and expressing shyness; and like sacrificing the group section in order to focus on the tense muscularity of a certain couple of dancers, creating depth of stage-picture as we watch the sinews at work.

In short, I am sold on this process, this experience of editing; I wouldn’t have missed it. It is the ultimate taking of responsibility of and for one’s work. The choreographic process continues and deepens and defies mediums. There, indeed, ain’t nothing like the real thing. But when live is not available, this, I’m coming to discover, can satisfy.


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