As you know, French artist JR collaborated with New York City Ballet on 2014's Les Bosquets, a dance that combined ballet and jookin'. It was inspired by a housing project in Montfermeil on the outskirts of Paris—the epicenter of social and political protest in 2005.
I love JR's work. I'm totally obsessed with his Instagram and am consistently intrigued by his politically charged art works, which are often executed on an epic scale. That's why I'm so curious to see what his latest film is all about. Les Bosquets is inspired by the stage production of the same name, and it will premiere at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival on April 18.
So far, I can only tell you that it includes Lauren Lovette in a white tutu and pointe shoes, a ballet corps dressed in mod-ish pop art unitards (looking more like a scary army than a flock of swans), Lil Buck jookin' up a storm and buildings being demolished. How will all these elements be combined in a narrative that tackles racial inequality, poverty and the status of an immigrant in today's world? Who knows? But I'm excited to find out!
Of course, it's no surprise that super-cool Kenzo designers Humberto Leon and Carol Lim dreamed up this video to launch Kenzo's new perfume. Leon worked with New York City Ballet resident choreographer Justin Peck on the costumes for his ballet New Blood and Peck choreographed for Leon and Lim's other design project, Opening Ceremony, during its New York Fashion Week runway show in September 2015. Clearly the Kenzo/OC designers have the dance bug.
For this project, they tapped legendary film director Spike Jonze, Leftovers actress Margaret Qualley and choreographer Ryan Heffington (of Sia fame). As you can imagine, the result is awfully strange and extremely awesome. As you might not imagine, Qualley can really move. You go girl! We had no idea, and now we can't wait to see her in some music videos or other dance-y projects.
Check out the Kenzo video below:
Want more Dance Spirit?
Hey dance family. How are you doing? The world has seemed like an especially tough and scary place over the past few weeks, and it's okay to feel rattled. Fortunately, we're lucky enough to have dance—it sees us through good times and bad.
So, for your #FridayFeels, please enjoy this beautiful video of Kent Boyd and Will Jonhston, choreographed by Tyce Diorio. It shows two men in a relationship, maybe on the brink of breaking up. As they dance to X Ambassadors' "Unsteady," it becomes clear that the couple is going through a lot right now.
Grab your tissues, give this a watch and then go hug someone you love.
Have you ever played exquisite corpse? It's a drawing and writing game where each participant adds a sentence and image to a story, based only off of what was drawn or written immediately before. The end result is usually as wacky as it is interesting.
Now stretch your mind a little bit, and imagine the same process as a dance. Filmmaker Mitchell Rose did just that in his film Exquisite Corps (taking the "e" off the end makes it a ballet pun, get it?), and the result is nothing short of spectacular. Many of the most important choreographers of the last thirty-ish years are featured, like Elizabeth Streb, Bebe Miller and Doug Varone, along with newer faces like Sidra Bell, Zoe Scofield, Faye Driscoll and Kyle Abraham. Check it out:
(Photo by Joe Toreno)
Choreographer Kyle Hanagami rarely holds casting calls: He’s already got an awesome crew of seven dancers who star in his frequently viral dance videos. This spring, five of those dancers—Whitney Bezzant, Guero Charles, Brandon Dumlao, Haley Fitzgerald and Ashley Gonzales—gathered at L.A.’s Movement Lifestyle dance studio to shoot a new video, set to the song “Youth,” by Daughter. (The missing two had good excuses: They were off shooting VH1’s “Hit the Floor” and touring with Taylor Swift!)
(All photos by Joe Toreno)
Though Hanagami often shoots straight choreography vids—his most popular being “Yoncé,” an ode to Queen Bey that’s gotten more than 9 million views—this shoot was for one of his high-concept pieces, which are more like short films. “It was based around the idea of how frustrating life can be,” Hanagami says. “I walked in knowing some of the camera shots, the lighting I wanted and the feel of the song, but I had zero choreography. We just got in the studio and did what felt natural.”
(Photo by Joe Toreno)
The outcome? An emotional, intense exploration of relationships, which Bezzant calls “darker and more personal” than anything Hanagami has done before. The look of the video fits the mood: Most of the shots were filmed against the black walls of the studio, and the lighting was minimal. “We wanted a candid, Blair Witch-meets-American Apparel feel,” Hanagami says.
(Photo by Joe Toreno)
The dancers went to a pretty dark place, too. One scene required them to yell and scream at each other, which was a challenge for the close-knit bunch. “It took us a while to get it,” Bezzant admits. But the resulting footage is powerful.
(Photo by Joe Toreno)
What’s the secret to Hanagami’s YouTube success? Passion. “Many people don’t realize that most of the dancers who are popular on YouTube don’t do it to become famous,” Hanagami says. “They have a vision they want to share with people.”
Click here to watch "Youth."
Ah, late summer. When family vacations make a mockery of your last few days of freedom. When every moment you share at the pool with your friends feels tinged with tragedy because you'll soon be stuck in a classroom. When you'd settle for endless stifling humidity if it meant never hearing your alarm go off at 6am, ever again.
Are you stressed yet? Well, you shouldn't be. Back-to-school doesn't have to be #theworst—think of all the ways you'll improve as a dancer this year! In honor of a little Friday zen chillout/back-to-school de-stressor, check out these two videos produced by Pacific Northwest Ballet.
Gabrielle and Jimena are two students who attended the PNB summer program this year. In true PNB fashion, the videos are dreamy and inspiring, and the dancers are beyond gorgeous.
Are you relaxed yet? Good.
Here’s a recipe for a delicious dance movie mash-up: Gather a gaggle of gorgeous ballerinas and a few top-notch hip-hop crews. Mix in a bunch of talented classical musicians. Add killer choreography by Dave Scott. Shake well.
What’s this magical cinematic concoction called? High Strung—and it’s coming to theaters this summer.
(From left) Rik (Ian Eastwood) and Johnnie (Nicholas Galitzine) break it down in High Strung (photo courtesy Riviera Films)
The film’s story goes like this: Johnnie (Nicholas Galitzine) is a brilliant violinist fresh off the boat from Britain who’s desperate to get a green card. In the meantime, he’s making ends meet by busking in the NYC subways. Luckily, his new friend Ruby (Mariinsky Ballet alum Keenan Kampa), a ballet student at a prestigious performing arts school, has the inside scoop on a strings-and-dance competition that could land him $25,000 and a student visa to stay in the U.S. To wow the judges, Johnnie’s going to need not only Ruby’s help, but also an assist from his neighbors: the SwitchSteps hip-hop crew.
Per the usual dance movie formula, romance, drama and awesome dancing ensue. But this one just feels different from other dance films. “Having the classical music component really adds a lot,” Kampa says. “And the diversity of the dancing makes the movie special, too. It’s got everything from ballet dancers to b-boys to tango pros to tappers.”
Ruby performing her ballet solo (photo courtesy Riviera Films)
To find all of those accomplished artists, director Michael Damian, writer/producer Janeen Damian (Michael’s wife and a former dancer herself) and Scott had to cast a wide net. They held open auditions in L.A., NYC, Paris, London and Bucharest, Romania, and Scott personally recruited many of the dancers, including “So You Think You Can Dance” standout Comfort Fedoke and “America’s Best Dance Crew” alum Ian Eastwood.
The High Strung shoot, which took place in both NYC and Bucharest, was full of long, grueling days. But the stream of photos and videos on the film’s social media pages prove it definitely wasn’t all work and no play. “Imagine taking 60 great dancers to work every day and letting them loose,” Scott says. “It was just fun from
beginning to end.”
Johnnie romancing Ruby (Keenan Kampa) in NYC (photo courtesy Riviera Films)
High Strung’s Best Dance Scenes
The subway showdown: Two underground hip-hop crews throw down in this high-octane, in-your-face dance sequence filmed in a Romanian train station—
a stand-in for NYC’s subway. (Look for a cameo from Mr. Dave Scott himself!)
The ballet solo: Keenan Kampa gets the spotlight all to herself in a solo so extraordinary, you’ll end up applauding in the movie theater.
The gala: Dueling violins set the soundtrack as the SwitchSteps crew wreaks playful havoc on a formal fundraiser.
The finale: A creative combo of hip hop and classical ballet pulls out all the stops in an over-the-top grand finish.
High Strung's Stars
In a cast packed with dance talent, Keenan Kampa and Ian Eastwood shine especially bright.
Ian Eastwood (photo by Erin Baiano)
America’s Mos Wanted
Maybe you know him from Mos Wanted Crew, which snagged third place on “America’s Best Dance Crew” Season 7. Maybe you’ve watched some of his virtuosic dance videos on YouTube. Or maybe you’ve caught one of his always-packed classes at The PULSE. Basically, Ian Eastwood is everywhere—including, these days, in movie theaters.
Eastwood’s leap into the acting world started with a call from Dave Scott, whom Eastwood has known since the age of 11, when they met at a Monsters of Hip Hop convention in Chicago. “He said he’d gotten an audition for me, and really wanted me to come,” Eastwood says. “I love Dave and was starting to get into film on the directing end, so I was open to the idea of doing some acting.”
Eastwood landed the role of Rik, the freestyling king of the SwitchSteps crew. It was familiar territory for the innovative hip-hop dancer, who’s trained in a variety of styles. “I drew on real-life experiences I’ve had being in a crew,” he says. “The character felt like a fun, hyped-up version of myself.”
Even though the acting came naturally, Eastwood put a lot of pressure on himself to deliver dance-wise—especially in the intense finale. “I knew this was going to live on camera forever,” he says, “so I had to make it dope for every take.”
Now that the movie has wrapped, Eastwood’s setting his sights on his next ambitious project: a “dance mix-tape” he hopes to debut this summer. “It’s like a fusion of a dance short film and a music mix-tape,” he says of the 25-minute movie, which features a 10-song soundtrack. As the writer, choreographer, director and editor, Eastwood’s the main creative force behind the project, and he credits a lot of his newfound moviemaking skills to his High Strung experience. “I learned a ton about the technical side of things on the film,” he says. “Now I’m taking that knowledge and using it to make something else great.”
From the Mariinsky to the Movies
Ballerina Keenan Kampa was feeling pretty low in January 2014. Though she’d been the first American to join Russia’s prestigious Mariinsky Ballet two years earlier, her stellar career with the company was cut short by injury. She’d returned to the U.S. to undergo surgery to repair several labral tears in her left hip. But shortly after her operation, she received a tweet from High Strung director Michael Damian. “He’d seen me in a story NBC did on the 2014 Olympic ceremonies in Russia, which featured the Mariinsky,” Kampa says. “I wrote back and said that I’d always wanted to act—and was definitely interested in hearing more details.”
Keenan Kampa (photo by Erin Baiano)
Before Kampa could audition, she had to get well. She spent two months at a rehabilitation center in Vail, reclaiming her ballerina body. “I accelerated my recovery as much as I could,” she says. It was hard work, but it paid off: She read for the lead role of Ruby and nailed it, partly because she could relate to the character. “She reminded me of myself when I first started dancing,” Kampa says. “There’s a maturity and seriousness that comes with time, but Ruby’s still in the phase where she’s very wide-eyed and optimistic.”
Though—unlike Ruby—Kampa is a seasoned professional, she still had a thing or two to learn on set. Dancing for the camera rather than a live audience was an adjustment, as was working with a hip-hop choreographer. “I was a little nervous going in, because Dave and I come from such different backgrounds. But he couldn’t have been more fun to work with,” Kampa says. “He’d tell me, ‘I want this feeling,’ and then he’d show me a hip-hop move and ask how I’d translate it to ballet.”
Kampa also picked up a few things from the SwitchSteps dancers, who taught her everything from popping and locking to headspins. “It was like a party,” she says, laughing. “As ballet dancers, we tend to get lost in aesthetics and the quest for perfection. It was really eye-opening for me to see how much they just loved moving.”
Kampa’s acting career is now in full force: She recently signed with the company that manages Keira Knightley and Sienna Miller. Her original plan of returning to Russia after healing is now on hold, and she’s totally OK with that. “I’m going to take a break from the ballet company and see what happens with acting,” she says. “I’m in a very happy place right now!”
There are countless dance documentaries out there, covering everything from Elizabeth Streb's daredevilry to Justin Peck's work as a ballet choreographer to the global hip-hop community. We're lucky that there are so many filmmakers who want to capture dance—and so many dancers who take up the camera themselves!
Now, we can add another amazing film to the list: Tap World. The documentary features interviews with tap masters like Chloe Arnold (who, along with her sister Maude, is the producer. #unstoppable) and Michelle Dorrance, but it also has a special twist. In preparation, the producers asked people all over the world to share why tap is important to them—and some of their personal stories were included in the film! What an amazing way to show how tap, which is an American dance form, has become a global phenomenon. And to remind us that all dancers are connected through rhythm and music.
The film will be released in NYC on July 10, and will be rolled out nation-wide after that. Click here for the deets and watch the trailer below!