Experimental modern dance and film have always stood side by side in recent decades, and choreographers are now more than ever using it as a medium for their creative endeavours. Many can say that film is the direction that dance has been headed for a long time.
In New York City, the place where artists meet to collaborate is where you will find the heartbeat of such projects. It’s a unique place in that it is a downright hardcore lifestyle, and a struggling artist is one with many inspirations. Many move to this city from other places and are ejected into the chaotic, loud, smelly, thriving, and beautiful center of the universe feeling like their life before could have been a thousand years ago.
Time goes by a bit differently here, and amidst the chaos in quiet moments to oneself when waiting for a train, on a train, or walking past a familiar smell, we are transcended to that moment in time, normally when you’re already thinking of a million other things in a New York day.
This concept is explored beautifully and simply by Emma Colton’s latest film project “Nostalgia” in collaboration with artist, Paige Werman.
Tell us who Emma Colton is.
Emma Colton is a freelance dancer and videographer based in New York City. Originally from South Florida, she graduated from Bucknell University in 2015 with a BA in psychology and dance minor. She has had the opportunity to train with Alvin Ailey, Mark Morris, Jennifer Muller the Works and Broadway Dance Center. She has worked with eSKay Arts Collective, Patmon Dance Project, Azul Dance Theater, BAVA Dance, Nijawwon Matthews and Mike Esperanza where she had the opportunity to perform at Bryant Park Picnic Performances, JCAL Friday First Series, The Tank- Launch V, RAW Artists Showcase, Triskelion Summer Festival, Small Plates Festival and NYCDOE Dance Educators Collective Concert.
Tell us about your journey as a dancer and filmmaker.
I graduated a semester early to get a head start on my dance career in New York City. Over the past four years of performing and constant auditioning, I realized that filmmaking/directing was my true passion. Although I am not pursuing dance as a professional career, I am still working and collaborating with dance companies and choreographers on dance film related projects. I have filmed for Alison Cook Beatty Dance Company, JKing Dance, Jennifer Muller the Works, Artists by Any Other Name and multiple professional artists in the NYC dance community. Every month I am connected to new artists by friends who are still dancing professionally, and it’s really exciting to see my identity as not just a dancer unfold.
Where did the inspiration for this project originate?
I have been learning the ins and outs of editing, filming and directing over the past 2 years as a PA for a video production company, unrelated to dance, in the city. I have used my dance network to connect with other artists and help spread my work and brand myself as a videographer in the NYC dance community. It wasn’t until this past summer at the Dance On Camera Festival, Lincoln Center’s Dance Film Association program, that I had realized creating dance films, that were internationally shown, was what I wanted to do. Specifically, I hope to bring change to our world by using the beauty of dance and cinematography to spread awareness on issues I think are important. Most of my previous work relates to social justice issues or situations that portray human connection. When I was thinking of creating a short film like N O S T A L G I A, I felt like a lot of the work being shown, within the NYC dance community, was mostly about mental illness, abusive relationships, women’s rights and overall controversial, deep concepts. I wanted to create something playful and simple which started out with the concept of feeling nostalgic, certain emotions that just spring up on us by surprise, which then lead the idea about triggers. Everyone is triggered by something especially here in the city. Whether that means getting cut in line, smelling a certain scent or hearing a song on the radio. We can all relate to this and that’s what I hope my work can obtain. It was such a simple idea and that’s what I think is so refreshing about N O S T A L G I A. There doesn’t always have to be a deep underlying message to art.
Tell us about the choreography and its process.
All of the dancing is improvised, nothing is choreographed which I think is different from most dance films. I wanted to play with the idea of our emotions and how we can feel differently depending on the day. We had three separate shoots and each day I would I would ask her how she felt that day and we would go off that, as well as a prompt I gave her. I would say something like “you’re pissed off and if you have this entire space to express that ” or “you feel confused but focus more on gestures and facial expressions”. The video is about a reaction to when you receive a text from your ex so I was hoping to take the audience through an emotional roller coaster!
Tell us about the artist being filmed.
Paige Werman, is a good friend of mine from high school. She is a freelance performance artist, teaching artist, and environmentalist based in NYC. She graduated from the Ailey School/Fordham B.F.A. program double-majoring in dance and environmental policy. Her training includes BODYTRAFFICLA, The Art of Classical Ballet, Russian Ballet Orlando, Mark Morris Dance Group, and Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Paige has danced with Neville Dance Theatre, JP Dance Group, Universal Studios and currently dances for Dolly Sfeir & Dancers. She has also worked with Ray Mercer, Destini Rogers, Troy Powell, Christopher Rudd, Yin Yue and Renee Robinson. This past year she performed in music videos for Warner Bros Japan, Jack Tracy Music, and EBY Promo Video. She not only dances, but is also a teaching Artist for Alvin Ailey Arts In Education & Community Programs, Marquis Studios, and LEAP, and has been teaching dance for 9 years in studios, public schools, community centers. Paige loves collaborating with various artists to explore many facets of human existence through art especially here in NYC.
How many dance films have you directed?
N O S T A L G I A is the first dance film I have filmed, edited and directed. Prior to this project, I had been assisting on set for music videos, a YouTube series, corporate film projects and editing and filming for various dance companies and artists.
Do you have a target audience?
Currently, my audience is heavily watched by dance communities, but I hope my work can be shown within both dance and film communities. I am still mostly focused on working within the dance industry but hope to eventually branch out into TV and Film.
Anymore upcoming film projects we should look out for?
I am currently producing and directing a dance short film that will hopefully premiere in the summer of 2020. It is a dance film about gun violence in our country. I am also co-producing a dance film with a choreographer named Marissa Graham. She is a dancer for a company called Vissi Dance Theater. I will also be directing/filming a few more smaller dance film projects this fall.