The Dance Diaries Narrandera movie is in the making. In the meantime we’ve done a short 1 minute teaser!
Check it out:
Overall, Martin and I came to Narrandera four times in June, August and September. The first visit was a ‘meet n greet’ session, then two separate weekend workshops, and then the final workshop and filming week in September. This final week we filmed every day for 6 days (see below for daily diary of our filming process).
Martin and I outlined a loose story arc for the film based on the two themes we originally proposed, HOME and DANCING:
1. the individual in their home giving a dance;
2. the collective walking in and around their town;
3. the collective culminating for a ‘gathering’ or party and doing a dance.
In the mornings, we’d set up shots in each of the participants houses and film their individual ‘hand’ dances that we had developed in the workshop and fine tuned on the day of the shoot. We also did exterior shots of their houses. Most afternoons we filmed with the whole group involved, whereby the cast mostly performed a series of walks in different locations around Narrandera. Some of the walks were ‘normal’ walks and some walks were ‘a little strange’. These walks came out of exploring various bird movements in the workshop process. The third and final section was the ‘party’ scene.
The story arc grew out of the discussions from the workshop where we felt, with these particular six people, it was the community and the whole of Nerrandera that was their home rather than just their individual homes. And the metaphor of the nest came up in discussions, so we decided to use the nest as a metaphor to underscore the film. For us, the nest exemplifies that sometimes our homes are full, sometimes they are empty; at certain times in our lives the nest expands to become the whole town we live in and the community becomes part of this larger ‘nest’. I feel the nest symbolises something of comfort, nurturance and security, but the nest also hints at an underlying feeling of fragility… and that anything unexpected can happen at any time – and that nothing on this planet is permanent. As one enters later life, I’m sure this sense of fragility is magnified. So when we truly understand this, we can perhaps deeply appreciate each and every moment.
ABOUT THE PROCESS
It has been an interesting process for all of us – myself, Martin and the participants – getting to know each other and understand what the process is. It made me think a lot about trust and how trust simply takes time. It also made me think of everybody’s different perceptions of the reality that we are all sharing in the same moment. How affected we are by our upbringing and the generation we’ve each grown up with. I also noticed how much we all want to find connection and joy. Both Martin and I felt these six people were so courageous to enter the project which wasn’t a dance film as one might imagine a dance film to be, and to take a leap of faith and surrender to a process regardless of the outcome. I think many would consider the way we approached making this film to be quite unconventional. We didn’t enter with a pre-conceived idea of what the film would look like. We did enter with a few fimling ideas we are interested to try and a loose theme about ‘home and dancing’ but mostly it was unknown. The film essentially grows out of the process of meeting, spending time, sharing stories and listening to each other as well as what comes from the movement / dance workshops. For me, the process is just as important and the end result, perhaps even more important.
Day 6 – pm
And now we have come to the final shot – the ‘party scene’. We all piled into the old Narrandera train station of which one of the spaces is now the new Arts Hub for the community. We didn’t have much time as Betty needed to get away to head to Canberra with her daughter. But we did the shoot in good time and just before the afternoon light fell (we were relying on some of the sunlight through the windows for the shoot). So it was all perfect.
Afterwards we had our wrap party, with cake, nibbles and a good laugh.
Gwen’s house was our last house visit. We raced over to Gwen’s quite frazzled after spending the morning setting up the space at the old train station room for the afternoon’s ‘party scene’ shoot which will be the final shot for the project. Gwen did a beautiful hand dance for the filming and then, just when we were starving, and realized we hadn’t factored a lunch break into our schedule, she whipped out a home made quiche from her pantry! It was delicious! Gwen has lived in her house with her dear husband Tom for 46 years.
Day 5 – afternoon
On Thursday afternoon we went to Lake Coolah to do some filming with the whole group. I was extra excited as this was my favourite location. Lake Coolah hasn’t really filled up since the 70s until the recent floods in March this year. It’s a spectacular and expansive view – a perfect and accessible location for the Dance Diaires.
Day 5 – morning
On Thursday we visited dear Marj at her big white house. We filmed several shots of Marj – outside, we did the ‘holding your house’ shot where you line up the shot so that your hands look like you’re holding your house. We then did the ‘twirling into the sky’ shot. Then the hand dance in her lounge-room with a painting of her grandmother’s house in England. Then a final shot in her kitchen where she had to stand on bricks to be the right height to look out her kitchen window.
Marj received a OBE (Order of the British Empire) for her extensive community work. I realised her diary was always full. Amongst her endless community duties, my personal favorite was that she reads bedtime stories at 7:55pm every night on the radio. Marj’s husband passed away just shy of one year ago – there’s a lovely picture of him on the sideboard in her lounge. Marj has lived in her house for 47 years.
Day 4 – morning
On Wednesday we went to Doreen’s house. We did several shots indoors and outdoors. Doreen is a passionate lady, who, in her late 60’s wrote her first novel and got it published. It took four years to write. Quite an achievement we thought. Her grandmother settled close to Nerrandera in the 1850s, clearly showing that Doreen has deep roots into this part of the country. She and her husband Jeff have lived in their current house for 11 years.
Day 3 – morning
The second ‘house visit’ was on Tuesday morning and we went to Betty’s house. She has the most beautiful garden you can imagine and we all agreed it would be good to film her outside in her garden which gives her so much joy. Betty didn’t want to be directly featured in the film and so we shot ‘over her shoulder’ with her hands dancing amongst the flowers. There is so much colour in these shots!
Betty’s late husband started building their house in 1951 and she says its ‘still not finished’… That was 61 years ago! But to Martin and my eyes, the house looked beautiful and very ‘finished’. 🙂
Our first ‘house visit’ was to Bev and Chas Cornell. We filmed their first hand dance in their lounge. It’s a kind of deadpan formal shot of Chas standing and Bev sitting in front of these full body length paintings painted by Bev.Our second shot was of the two of them sitting opposite each other by their large window doing a hand mirror dance to Cry Me a River sung by Julie London. It was sooooo romantic!
Bev and Chas are an amazing couple who are truly adventurous. They have travelled all over the shop, often in the outback, camping out for months on end. Bev is a prolific and beautiful visual artist and Chas is a accomplished poet. They have combined their art practices for various projects, including producing a booklet of drawings and poetry of the Great Camel Race for the Bicentenary in 1988 as well as a permanent collection of the combined work at the War Museum commemorating the Korean war. Of all the participants, Bev and Chas are the only ones who haven’t lived ‘a long time’ in Narrandera, but they’ve always lived southern NSW or Northern Victoria, except when they’re travelling on one of their sojourns!
In the afternoon, we met as a whole group down at the wetlands where we filmed quite a number of shots. Alas! we were so focussed on the task(s) at hand; from managing everybody’s energy levels, to setting up the shots with both cameras, rehearsing little bits of dance – that we didn’t take any photos! except this one…
We got off to a good start on day 1. Everybody met at 9am this fine sunny Sunday morning outside the Narrandera Memorial Park in the main street. This is where we decided to do – as Marj suggested, “the Beatles walk” across the zebra crossing.
“My home is a house that wraps around you”, Marj Anslow – participant
Our second workshop kicked off on the last day of Winter and the first day of Spring – a turning point in the seasons and also for our process as a group. In Workshop no 2 (over 2 days) we did a lot of talking! And a lot of moving! It was important for all of us to discuss the project together in much more detail and for me to share some of my thoughts on what i think dance is about – philosophically speaking. Who IS dance for? And importantly what IS dance? We all have personal ideas about what dance is; from the 3 year old dancing for her family to pop music to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, to ballerinas in ‘Swan Lake’; to a Greek Australian dancing the ‘Zorba’. There are dances we watch and dances we participate in with others, as a community. And, a little on the ‘arty’ side, there is dance that tries to catch the poetics of the everyday and celebrate these moments – something I am personally interested in exploring. The group decided that ‘A ‘Visual Poem’ would be the best way to describe what the Dance Diaries film will be. A visual poem about these 6 people from Narrandera reflecting on what is home in an arc of a lifetime; a lifetime full with children, grand children, great grand children (for some!); celebrations, tragedies, community, friendship, spouses and all that is dear to us.
Participants: Doreen Angove , Marj Anslow, Betty Bradney, Bev Cornell, Chas Cornell and Gwen Lee.<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/49497560″>DanceDiariesWS2</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user3011984″>linda luke</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
We had the very first workshop for DANCE DIARIES: NARRANDERA kick off on August 24th.
Six wonderful and brave folk turned up to the workshop and we started with a cup of tea and a long talk. You know ~ about this and about that, and that, and that. A ‘getting to know you’ kind of chat. A few teas and bikkies later, we launched into a workout to the tunes of jazz and mo-town classics. Then some exercises with… cotton! I call these kinds of exercises sensitivity exercises. I reckon this was a little obscure for everyone but seemed to be fun anyway. Then we did the ‘hand mirror’ activity. There’s a whole world of dance that just lies in the expression of our hands and i wanted to explore this.
I say the participants are brave as its no easy thing to step into a workshop room with complete strangers (Video Artist Martin Fox and myself), no matter what age one is, and be open to come what may. In my book this already shows amazing spirit!
So I want to welcome you to the DANCE DIARIES cast: Doreen Angove, Betty Bradney; Marj Anslow; Gwen Lee and Chas and Bev Cornell!
I’m excited to say the Dance Diaries project was launched on June 22nd with a Meet n Greet morning tea, inviting the senior folks of Narrandera to join myself, video artist Martin Fox and composer Vic McEwan. We had a cup of tea and discussed the ideas for the project and then had a mini movement workshop so everybody could experience a taste of what will come.
The Dance Diaries project is an initiative to create a short dance film with the senior folks about two important things in life: home and dancing. Through a series of workhsops I will present some movement and choreographic ideas in which to make a dance for our film. In the workshops, we will also discuss ideas around home. What is the value of having a home and the different thoughts and feelings of what home is to each of us over an arc of a lifetime.
The project will run in three stages throughout 2012; in June, August and September. A screening of the film will be shown in November 2012.