A dancer’s voice is their body. So when the pandemic hit, dancers were amongst the first worldwide to figure out how to navigate in this strange and constricted new land. Already experts on platforms like Instagram and TikTok, individual dancers, companies, and choreographers with their gigs or season tours cancelled, and their annual income reduced to pennies turned to the next frontier – Zoom. Zoom classes from living rooms, Zoom stage and site premieres, Zoom talkbacks, and Zoom dance films began popping up daily. With Zoom as their platform, artists aimed to keep dancers moving and to keep the community feeling connected and vital amidst the lockdown.
At first the dance films were clever and interesting, using the constriction of mostly self-filmed dancers, seen in multiple small vertical boxes (from a viewer’s perspective) as integral design elements. Stage premieres were reimagined and often intricately designed for the Zoom-sphere, allowing dancers to interact from within their vertical constructs, and of course the overriding visual concept was mostly in line with the context: how we all felt in isolation. After a while however a collective groan could be heard, a longing for live dance in all its forms – a craving to be in a studio for class, to be in theater for performance, to be on set filming together.
One film I saw in particular both exploits and transcends the constraints of its creative circumstances to excel. “Alone Together,” presented by Cubique, opens with text introducing three dancers, from three different cities in Europe who did not know each other previously, “processing their isolation into a common choreography with only the help of their mobile phones.” Roki Lionel Tanaka of Germany, Venance Gwladys of Switzerland, and Gee aka Lil Sniper from France are seen – each alone, and each dancing from within the confines of their own homes. What helps set this apart from other similar dance films is the apparent advance planning, production design and uniformity of the overall vision.
Each of the three dance in an area visually outlined by white lights on wood floors and against white walls. Each dancer wears a white tee shirt and jeans. While the camera is still, the dancers’ incredibly visceral and emotive movement works beautifully with the haunting score and the film. It never feels stagnant. The editing emphasizes the theme of their isolation from one another, in particular with hard cuts on specific beats introducing each subsequent dancer in their own separate space. The editor’s sensitivity to the movement is clear, and the introduction of slow motion speed ramps at a perfect juncture hits home.
It seems clear that the creative(s) who generated “Alone Together” might have sent a set of simple instructions to each participant, and astute pre-planning and a strong vision lends to its success. But another strength of this film is the use of negative space. Introducing one dancer at a time in their singular square permitted us to actually feel and recognize each dancer’s aloneness – our own aloneness – while simultaneously often allowing whole parts of the screen to stay unoccupied by movement, and creating a less is more feel and graphic. Finally we aren’t seeing dancers in a million simultaneous cubicles.
“Alone Together” allows viewers a clear experience of the raw beauty of each dancer – alone and together in compliment to one another – with haunting music, simple production design, and strong editing, to create a powerful elegy to our times.