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To Create Beautiful Moments

by Mandie Kolkman/ Dancer, Choreographer and FWDC guest blogger

This past spring, I participated as a choreographer in the Fort Wayne Dance Collective’s annual Choreographer’s Lab. I love creating pieces and am asked to create several throughout the year as a dancer in the Fort Wayne arts community. The lab was another way for me to express my art and it granted me the opportunity to take my time and dissect my piece. Time is a typical constraint when choreographing for a performance. With ample time and the guidance of my artistic director, I created a piece that was truly “me.” It isn’t my best work, but it is work I feel that I connect with.

As we drew nearer to the Choreographer’s Lab performance, I realized that the show wasn’t going to be enough for the piece. I was in love with the dancers who performed it and wanted their version of my movements to live on. I decided I needed to capture their artistry on video. I had never filmed any of my work before and figured it was time to create something I could keep.

I knew I wanted to work with Jeffrey Crane with BFA Commercial Photography to film the dance. I have had the pleasure of working with him through other Fort Wayne Dance Collective projects. I knew he would understand my vision and do a great job making it come to life. It wasn’t long before we had a location, date, and time allotted to create a video of my work.

We picked Friday, at sunset, in the upstairs of a building in downtown Fort Wayne. Our hope was to find a space where we could capture the warmth of the sun setting. As luck would have it, that Friday evening was completely overcast! To my great surprise, Jeff was able to create his own sunlight. He is a wizard behind a camera.

BFA set up their equipment while the dancers dressed in the costumes I had picked out for them. I then set up some flowers on a ladder that was going to be in the shot. Meanwhile, the dancers applied the appropriate makeup and put their hair in the braids I had requested. Every detail had to be well thought out and align with the overall aesthetic of the video. I was going for a soft and dreamy look to contrast the sharp and dynamic movements of the dance. We used a fog machine to help us create a beautiful haze around the dancers. After a few minutes of running the fog machine, the set was looking magical and we were ready to film. The first take was going so well until the fire alarm went off due to the haze.

Once the fire department left, we were able to continue filming. We took several takes and shot the dance from multiple angles. The dancers were tired, but enthusiastic. They knew the outcome of the video depended on their precise execution of the movements coupled with high energy. Even after several takes, the dancers persisted with grace and good attitudes. As we say in the performance industry, they were workin’ it! After about three hours total, the project was a wrap.

The final step was to edit the piece. We had to look at timing, consistency, quality of movement, spacing, and lighting. This took a few tries, but we finally got it! I am very pleased with the final product and am thrilled to share this video with my Fort Wayne Dance Collective family. It is titled “Inhale, Exhale, and Reset.” The title comes from the lyrics of the song I chose to choreograph to. I hope that the video is a reminder that we have the ability to create beautiful moments if we just take the time to breath and imagine.

Mandie Kolkman teaches Ballet and Modern at FWDC.  To enroll in one of her classes, please CLICK HERE.