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“I don’t know what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
Into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed.”
- Mary Oliver

Choosing What Matters

The still above is my favorite from our August 2020 shoot. We’d found a lush green grass valley surrounded by dense treeline. The sun was rising, the morning fog just lifting, everything had a newborn feel. My collaborator Jack turned to me, “Let’s sink the dancer completely into the landscape.” He captured this image to show me.

Being strict with how much the camera could see equalized a ratio of emphasis between human and natural form, creating an austerity that came to define our film, Landfall. Looking back, it was this early-morning moment that shifted the landscape from background to omnipresence, opening our eyes to nature as a full character in Landfall.

PLACING THE EYE

Working with film, one of the hardest adjustments has been to tear my eyes from my dancers’ living bodies to their tiny image in a camera. As a dancemaker I instinctively track energy and seek meaning in movement, like an animal does. Looking at movement through a lens requires me to consider composition (big picture) at all times. For this reason, filming initially felt remote to me; a fearful act of distancing.

But the issue of choice - of deciding exactly what gets to exist within the frame, in the eye - that is exciting! No matter how well I design a dance, I can’t control my audience’s eye. A viewer watching a live performance retains instinct and choice. Witnessing live dance can be akin to wildlife; catch what you can as something tenses, strikes and disappears into thin air.

I work hard to fix my audience’s eye/mind on certain moments in my choreography. My practice involves luring the eye, and counting on our innate, hyper-intelligent decoding of motion: fast, slow, high, low, coiled, soft, staccato, smooth; as well as our unending fascination with facial expression.

Yet film offers me a whole new dimension of control. It feels closer as a medium to the visual art objects I grew up surrounded by: paintings, prints, photographs. Playing in film feels like coming close to home, closer to my visual artist parents, closer to the earliest ways they formed my eye. It’s opening up a whole new realm of meaning-making for me.

Share your thoughts

We’d like this to be an exchange of ideas, rather than a one way message, so we genuinely encourage you to reach out with your thoughts, observations and questions. Kate will personally respond to as many messages as possible!

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