While many Concord Academy students are involved in the arts, it is rare for disparate art disciplines to collaborate on an interdisciplinary project. When the opportunity does arise, it is a great learning experience of which students are able to take advantage. On Saturday, April 29, students in Rika Okamoto’s Choreographer’s Workshop and Dance 3 class, as well as Justin Bull’s Feature Film classes, traveled to Boston and filmed the dancers at Windy Films, a film studio co-founded and owned by Tripp Clemens ’09 and Harvey Burell ’09. This was not only a collaboration between the Dance and Film departments; the project’s featured music was also created by CA students in Nate Tucker’s Digital Music Production class.
During their time at CA, Clemens and Burell were both involved in the Film Department—they were taught by Bull himself in their years as upperclassmen. Bull mentioned, “The extra exciting layer of this is that Tripp was also a very long standing member of the Dance Program.” Clemens participated in what was then called the Dance Company during his time at CA, so it is great to see that he is still involved and actively supporting CA’s dance programs. “[He was] working very heavily in the Dance Program and Film Program, so it was very poetic that he was supporting this,” Bull remarked.
This was an unique and meaningful experience for the dancers, filmmakers and musicians alike. Okamoto believes that, from a dance perspective, dancing in front of a camera is very different from dancing on stage as the focal point is different. On stage, the viewer’s focus is placed on the full body, whereas film takes on a more cinematic perspective and will direct the viewer to focus on specific body parts or props. This collaborative experience made for a great learning experience for all students involved, and pushed them to step out of their comfort zone. Okamoto noted, “It was different but the dancers definitely stepped up to the challenge.”
While the students collaborated well and understood each other’s perspectives, this creative endeavor did not come without its challenges. The choreographers, musicians, and filmmakers all had different ideas for what they hoped the film would be like, but they all communicated well with each other. Bull said, “I was very impressed with what could have been a lot of butting of heads and strong-willed opinions, there was a lot of openness to suggestion and a lot of collaboration on the day of.” The choreographers wanted to make sure that the film was able to honor the dance and didn’t obscure the movement of the entire body through individual shots, but to a filmmaker, sometimes it is exciting to enhance certain moments. Bull described the open-mindedness of students on set: “there were very healthy conversations of discovery between choreographers and filmmakers.” Bull believes that this experience really demonstrated our love of learning as a community.
While the filming is now finished, this project has not come to an end: the musicians are continuing to improve their music, and the filmmakers are editing the footage, while the choreographers are supervising the entire process to make sure their opinions on the concept are also heard. A great benefit to interdisciplinary projects is the exposure to insightful new perspectives. Even though the musicians created the music, what the choreographers did with it was new to them. Even though the dancers and choreographers have practiced countless times, seeing what the filmmakers produce will offer a whole new perspective. In the Spring Film Assembly, the project will once again be seen in a different light, with the CA community as its audience.