MA Dance students use Looking Boxes, designed by course leader Chris Lewis-Smith, to create short screendance films
Students from our MA Dance course recently worked over a sunny autumn weekend to create six new short screendance (or dance film) works. The event sets the foundation for the more extensive study that follows over the first trimester of the year.
The weekend started with studio exercises designed to promote a different way of looking at dance. The exercises used ‘Looking Boxes’, a device designed by MA Dance course director Christopher Lewis-Smith to support awareness of composition and framing the body on camera. The boxes are designed to replicate the experience of viewing images through a camera eyepiece (as opposed to an LCD viewfinder screen) and allow the user to view a limited area without any peripheral visual information (i.e. architecture, landscape, other dancers, studio space, clutter, etc).
The Looking Boxes, made of black card, are light and easy to manipulate, enabling dancers to move around freely, finding different viewing angles, levels, and positions. They are low cost, easily replaceable, and easily transportable. The box covers both eyes and the sides of the face, completely isolating the viewed images.
After exploring with the Looking Boxes, students planned, choreographed, filmed and edited, and the resultant short dance films were shown in the university viewing theatre during the following week.
Chris Lewis Smith notes:
“This rapid process means that students must make quick decisions, one after another, and the results suggest that an intuitive process kicks in, a sort of instant creativity. While the films lack the polish that a longer process might allow, but they have a vibrancy about them and they provide a valuable learning process”.
Training in the use of Sony PXW X70 cameras and Premier Pro editing software prior to the event allowed students to complete the process early for a screening the following week.
The diverse nature of the course gave an exciting element of international dance to the project, allowing students from different cultures to work together, and to bring different creative perspectives and dance knowledge into a shared environment.
Dancer Megan Ashton, reflecting on the weekend;
“The experience was extremely rich due to being with so many dancers from different cultures. By imitating their movements I began to see my own movement adapt and change. This moment made me feel like a chameleon changing to my surroundings and learning from everyone around me”.
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