By Jennifer Stahl
5 November 2020
Now that most dance performances have migrated online, we’re seeing a lot of work that was never meant to be experienced through a laptop screen. Some are streamed in an attempt to capture that thrill of being “live.” Others are filmed from multiple angles so we get shots of the dancers up close. But most choreography that was created for the theater still feels like it would work best…in a theater.
Choreographer Andrea Miller is taking a different approach. Her company, Gallim, had long had an engagement planned at the University of Minnesota’s Northrop theater for this month, and director of programming Kristen Brogdon was committed to finding a way to make it happen. So they started brainstorming options. “I think Kristen was really quick to say, ‘I would love to see BOAT‘—one of the pieces scheduled to tour—’turned into a film,’ ” says Miller.
Miller first made BOAT in 2016 in response to forced migration, exploring the idea of searching for home. “One of the things we wanted our North to be was how having connection is so deeply fundamental to us, and how the loss of that is tragic. Losing someone, or being pulled apart is one of the biggest strains in life,” she says. “It seems like now is a time where that’s very clear to us all.”
There’s also a perpetual presence of a TV and static in the piece; Miller describes it as “having this constant weight of tragedy chewed into bite-size content.”
Although she’d taken part in a handful of film projects before COVID-19 hit, Miller had never before made her own video productions. Then she was commissioned to make a dance film with Ballet Hispánico, then for Works & Process Artists Virtual Commissions, both times working with filmmaker and director Ben Stamper, whom she’d met four years earlier at Grace Farms.
“When you have an opportunity to work with a filmmaker and a director, it’s entering a new creative space,” says Miller. “There’s so much interesting storytelling and perspective that Ben brings to his work that I wanted to open the door for BOAT to become its own work on film. It has connection of course to the original choreography, but isn’t trying to be a re-creation of it.”
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