Adam Roberts

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pieces of the Quiet Dance 2006

18 mins, video, 16:9, colour

A re-working of The Quiet Dance by Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion.

I filmed the performance in an empty theatre without an audience, early in the life of the piece, which has since been extensively performed. Of course the dance piece has evolved, benefiting from the audience encounter, lessening something perhaps hard and frightening in the work. I supposed that the complexity of the patterns demanded incredible concentration and focus that seemed to result in a kind of disciplined hardness. I felt like I ought not look away from something so hard won. That made it hard to devise a film that would be shorter than the piece.

Seeing performances since the time of the shoot, I now see an ease and pleasure. Maybe I had not seen this to begin with because, of course, I too was gripped by a need to make a film that necessitated difficult camera movements with no real chance of re-takes. Many viewers of this film think it very light-hearted.

The first run allowed me to get the whole thing in wide shot, taking in the whole stage, with the camera locked off. For the second run, I followed the movement in a mid-shot favouring the lower halves of their bodies. I would start with one, and when they crossed, follow the other. No re-takes were made.

It was the physical rhythm that seemed to me to demand and reward the camera’s attention - the aural rhythms would of course be recorded whatever the camera was doing. Thus, although vocalisation features so strongly in the piece, it was the to and fro movement that fascinated me.

In edit I discarded the majority of the wide view and cut up the mid-shot assembling those passages that seemed to build filmic rhythm. To and fro was my guiding light.

One final thing: I added a background at the very end of the piece (as can be seen in the clip above), placing the dancers suddenly in a forest glade. This was to make concrete the suggestion that the occasional birdsong Matteo had provided by way of a soundtrack for the piece. I love this flowering of video technology and it serves well to change the mood at the end.

performed/choreographed: Jonathan Burrows / Matteo Fargion

director/camera/editing: Adam Roberts