Unsung Heroes of the set: dancers.
I’ve been shooting Mandy’s latest video which is for her single from an upcoming movie Center Stage. The film tells the story of a new selection of young dancers arriving at a fictitious dance school (The American Ballet Company) and their trials and tribulations on the road to success. For our video we hired 13 dancers to prance around in leotards and Pointe shoes for two days…at least that’s the way it looks to the uneducated eye.
Reality: We had a casting session last week to which maybe 60 people turned up. Within 15 minutes they’d all learned a basic routine choreographed by Travis Payne and ten minutes later we’d sent the bulk of them back out into the cold night air in the knowledge that they’d lost the gig.
The lucky troupe then rehearsed solidly for two days. Travis, and his assistant Bart, made them do a series of gravity defying, muscle ripping moves over and over again until they were sinew perfect…then I arrived on the scene. Yesterday I made them hang around for hours before thrusting them into the routine over and over and over until I’d shot what I wanted. Despite their cries for rest and water I pressed on till I was sated.
This morning I watched them all arrive, slip through make-up and warm up in the big room, lost in the anonymity that being a “crowd member” gives them. I marvelled from across the room as they pulled their legs up level with their faces, stood up on their toes and pulled themselves across the floor as their bodies screamed silently against the impossible shapes they were being forced to assume. And this is just the warm up – the necessary limbering they must do to prevent serious injury when dancing commences. And a careless slip or twist can put you on the breadline in no time. Somebody mentioned that our star dancer (Sascha Redetsky – he’s in the movie) has had two operations on his ankles because of his dancing and he’s only just in his 20’s.
For a dancer the pay is nothing to write home about, the work is sporadic and injury is a fact of life. Yet nothing can displace the passion they all have for this wonderful art – the throwing of their bodies through the air and the turning of their heads and torsos gently that way or this to put a lump in one’s throat as 26 arms flutter in glorious, choreographed harmony. It is a wonderful sight to behold as 13 humans take their collective years of training, subjugate themselves to one man’s vision and intricately ape each others moves so that we can all experience a moment of beauty.