Eve McConnachie: 'Dance films can add something to the movement because you can isolate moments and play with time'
c. Mihaela Bodlovic
Scottish Ballet's in-house filmmaker discusses her new short film for the company's Digital Season
After the success of its inaugural digital season in 2017, Scottish Ballet is back with another exciting programme of short films and live streams. We talk to Eve McConnachie, Scottish Ballet's in-house filmmaker about Frontiers, her new short film choreographed by San Francisco Ballet dancer, Myles Thatcher.
This is the second digital season that Scottish Ballet has created – what did you learn from last time and the films you've worked on?
I think I'm evolving a visual language that's very distinct to me, I'm learning what works for me and what doesn't, and I've been taking my filmmaking to the next level.
Watching dance on film is never as good as watching it live on stage – but the short films in Scottish Ballet's Digital Season aren't 'filmed performances', they're works of art in their own right.
I think that's true – dance on film is never going to replace dance on stage, it's a different artform, they're two separate things. And I think if you just try to recreate what you see on stage through the camera, then you're missing a trick. Dance films, when they're done well, can add something to the movement, because you can isolate moments and play with time. Rather than trying to recreate something, it's important to add a twist to make it worthwhile.
You didn't know choreographer Myles Thatcher before making Frontiers – how did you get on?
Christopher Hampson, Scottish Ballet's artistic director, suggested Myles to me and I had a look at his work online, as he'd made some dance films already. Then we had a good long chat on the phone, just getting to know each other.
We talked about themes we were interested in, and I mentioned a few visual things I'd been thinking about – and luckily, we were very much on the same page. I wanted to contrast the dancers' bodies against very heavy, brutalist architecture, which Glasgow has quite a lot of, and straight away Myles was up for that.
Were you involved with the choreographic process?
Myles came to Glasgow for a couple of weeks to choreograph the work, and I sat in on that. I didn't dictate to him the kind of choreography I wanted, it was very much his vision – but I just sat in on the process, so I knew what I would be working with. And it was so exciting, just seeing it taking form – the movement that he has come up with is so interesting and fresh.
Frontiers plays with ideas of gender and identity – how does that come across in the choreography?
Myles is very interested in gender-neutral casting, so his idea was that every dancer, every couple could perform every bit – so there isn't anything that's only for the girls or only for the boys, it's very fluid. And I found that quite exciting because it's a motif we can really play with on film, we can push that idea and get some interesting contrasts in there.
It was Myles' first visit to Glasgow and you took him to some of the city's less enchanting areas during your hunt for locations – how did that influence the work?
Yeah, I took him on a tour of some of the ugliest bits of Glasgow! But he was staying in the Merchant City and spent some time in the West End, so he'd also seen some nice bits.
We used three locations in the end – under the M8 near Cowcaddens, the space outside Anderston railway station and the car park underneath the Kingston Bridge. So there were practical considerations, and Myles didn't put a lot of floor work in the piece, because he knew it would be danced outside on uneven surfaces.
Tell us about the finished piece.
It's 3 minutes long. It was a very intense shoot, and we packed a lot into a very short space of time. It's a very fast-paced, energetic piece with six dancers – three couples – interchanging all the time. There's a lot going on!
Frontiers will be available to watch from Wed 22 May. View it, and the rest of Scottish Ballet's Digital Season at scottishballet.co.uk/event/digital-season-19