panta rei dans lullaby

Video - Panta Rei Danseteater 'Lullaby'

Norwegian dance company Panta Rei Danseteater, late last year, conducted a little experiment whereby three dance makers created two pieces with the same name based on the same idea, featuring three male dancers and two musicians, to see what the outcome was.

June 2nd, 2016

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by Neil Nisbet

Over the last 10 years I have filmed thousands of hours of dance in all kinds of situations. Hundreds of live performances, rehearsals, events, indoors and outdoors, from the most experienced professional companies to the greenest of beginners.

I've used all kinds of equipment, been squeezed into the smallest of spaces to get a good shot and felt the intense pain most cameras operators know only to well from a long day of hand held filming. I've pulled a rabbit out of a hat more than once to make something with minimal material with no time to do it.

Over the last 12 months, via Article19's various, for want of a better word, channels our dear readers have watched more than 50,000 hours worth of dance material.

I tell you this only to let you know that I speak from a position of experience and because
I have a request, I want the people getting in my way to get out of my way.

Now, I don't mean you're blocking my shot or I want to film everything, no.

What I mean is this. As someone who wants to watch dance both in the the theatre and, more importantly for this piece, on screen I need whomever is responsible to stop making it really difficult for me to do that.

I don't want your jump cut, whip panned, dutch tilted, craned, hyper edited, close up, blackout, pull quoted, one minute, meaningless "trailer". I want to see the work, I want to see the movement, that thing we call dance.

From my personal point of view I think the filming of a dance performance should be approached with the same diligence a journalist uses when telling the truth in a piece of writing. Your work is what it is, stop trying to make us think it's something that it's not.

I bring this up because a lot of the older videos on Article19 are being upgraded to a better quality format. Just yesterday we published the upgraded version of 'Riff' by Matthias Sperling, a work from three years ago (you can watch it above).

From a filming perspective it's the dream shoot because it's a solo, it's doesn't get any simpler than that.

Mr Sperling is an accomplished dance maker and an experienced, highly skilled professional dancer. He doesn't need my help or any camera trickery to make the work look good. He just needs me to get out of his way and film the movement. Do you think your ability to watch and enjoy (or not) this piece of dance would be enhanced by unnecessary cutting, close ups or on screen pull quotes?


Look at it from another perspective. Do you think the iPad would be the commercial success it is today if the thing was complicated to use and kept getting in your way every time you tried to do something with it? Of course not, it's successful because it's simple. The iPad is the KISS principle writ large.

What about movies? One of the best cinematographers in the world is a guy called Tom Stern, you've probably never heard of him but he's the guy that shot 'Million Dollar Baby' (among many other movies), Clint Eastwood's Oscar winning boxing film. Every shot is designed to let the actors and the writing, the real strengths of any film, shine through. It's understated, simple and staggeringly effective because we don't want to see the camera work, we want to watch the movie.


There's a worrying trend right now in dance that seems to be restricting more and more of what we can watch online. Dance seems to be following the model, perhaps unwittingly, of the music, television and film industries. That model is "Sharing is bad, control is good".

With the possible exception of Siobhan Davies Dance Company you would be hard pressed to find substantive examples of any dance companies work anywhere online, not even on their own websites.

I get that dance companies want people to come to the theatre and see their work, of course they do, but dance is, and always has been, struggling to get people through the door. The answer does not lie in control and meaningless trailers, the answers lie in sharing and substance. The more material that's put out there the more chances people have to get to know the companies, the work and the art-form in general.

Dance is a complex and thoughtful art form. It requires you to pay attention to fully grasp what's going on. As Tero Saarinen said, it's not "fast food", and as I say, it's not So You Think You Can Dance, it's better than that, so how about we start showing it to people as often as we can?

[ Riff on Article19 ]
[ Trailer Park ]

  • Nkwe16

    But people don't want to watch a really long video online they get bored. Thats why I always liked trailers because they are short and snappy and you can show the work enough to get people interested and wanting more and then thats when they buy tickets to go see the show.... That was how I thought about it. Agree about letting the work speak for itself and not playing too much with close ups and camera trickery. But putting the entire work for free online (unless its an archive) surely will not help us get people into the theatre to see the live show

  • it's doesn't need to be an entire work, it's amazing what you can fit in to 10 minutes. With trailers, if the intention is to get people interested, you might just be doing the opposite and putting them off because they think your work is not what it is.

    video services from major broadcasters (such as the BBC and Hulu in the United States) run full length video (even feature films) online, it's becoming a normal thing. Old works, as you mention, and those no longer on tour could be made available for very little cost, we've done it many times for companies and in HD. There's a lot to work out in terms of copyright, etc but it can be done.

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