Untitled Lake Dance Film

Leah O’Donnell, School of Music, Theatre & Dance

This project explores themes of nature, mythology and the movement of water in correspondence with dance. The screenings will bring attention to the Great Lakes, the world’s largest body of fresh water and a sacred pillar of our community. This film will reach beyond the confines of a documented dance, fully interacting with the landscape and exploring the reaction of various materials to water sand and sun…what sinks, what floats, what becomes sheer, what illusions may be created, what metaphors emerge, what stories can be told. Despite being led by movement, I want the film to feel like a moving painting intertwined with surrealist stories about humans and the natural world.

I have been collaborating with Robert Platt, a professor in STAMPS who works in art and design as well as film. Coming from different departments, we share a passion for art in reaction to the natural world. Through many shared brainstorms, documents, and meetings, Robert’s expertise with color and fabrics has helped me to deepen the intention of costumes and props beyond simply decoration for dancers. We delved into the associations of fabrics both natural and synthetic in ways that the dance industry does not train one to do. Robert’s cinematic expertise helped me envision the work from above and below water, and close-up, in addition to the familiar zoomed out “stage” perspective. This opened my choreographic options. Underwater came to represent the subconscious, the shore became a meeting place for characters of different species, and we were able to track a dancer wearing a head lamp as she descends from the top of a ladder, into the lake, like the setting sun.

In mid-summer, I began rehearsals with three dancers while Robert strategized film techniques. We then tested concepts, dances, and materials at Silver Lake, before filming at LakeHuron for five days with the dancers. We now have an abundance of beautiful footage.The next steps are editing the footage, working with a composer on a sound score, and submitting the completed work to festivals and community showings. The plan is to edit this semester, work with a composer in Winter, and begin submitting the film in late Spring.