The creative edge

SPAC commissions short dance films with NYC Ballet dancers who branch out to new forms of artistry

When Elizabeth Sobol first saw New York City Ballet dancer Emily Kikta’s short dance films, she was blown away.

As president and CEO of SPAC, Sobol’s supreme mission is to make ballet and other arts accessible, particularly to the younger generation. She’s always seeking fresh, inclusive ideas.

That means thinking creatively.

“One of my themes at the performing arts center is breaking down barriers,” she says. “Whether it is price barriers or perception barriers or barriers of formality, they must come down.”

She found what she was looking for in Kikta’s films.

“It seemed to me that they speak of the beauty and contemporaneous nature of dance — that dance and movement are a constant part of everyone’s lives,” Sobol says. “If we can get that message across, people will connect to all forms of dance.”

Now, thanks to a grant-funded film project, we’ll get to see Kikta’s vision. And it will be against a Saratoga backdrop.

The project involves a series of one-minute pieces by Kikta, who collaborated with fellow New York City Ballet dancer Peter Walker. The cast is made up of New York City Ballet dancers; settings are in Saratoga Springs/the Capital Region. The short films will be broadcast on local television leading up to and during the upcoming SPAC dance season.

“It was like magic how it all happened,” Sobol says. “This was one of those times when you think to yourself, ‘this was meant to be’.”

From their previous trips to SPAC with the ballet company, Kikta and Walker know Saratoga well. By using research resources from local historical groups, they pinpointed and scouted locations for their choreography.

“Elizabeth and her assistant Suzanne at SPAC were amazing and wonderful,” Kikta says. “The process flowed freely during the entire project.”

Kikta and Walker have been friends since they were teens. They have gone through school, ballet and now film together. Their creative coordination while working on location is dazzling.

Kikta uses a Canon 7D-DSLR camera with a Canon 18-55mm lens and a Magnus fluid-head tripod to capture images. Scenes are pre-choreographed and set using natural, available light. Walker stands near Kikta, using an iPhone and a Sony all-weather Bluetooth speaker to cue on-scene audio that guides dancers.

At times, Kikta will set the camera angles for another dancer to control while she and Walker dance to their own choreography in front of the lens.

Together they review footage and make adjustments in the moment. This process is vibrant and alive, yet disciplined and precise. The footage is edited with the soundtrack on a desktop unit with Adobe Premier software.

This means the project is under the total control of the filmmakers from beginning to end. And it’s all done on a very moderate dancer’s budget. S



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