Illinois State University’s School of Theatre and Dance in collaboration with the Creative Technologies program will present the Spring Dance Concert: Pivot on April 29, 30, and May 1 at 7:30 p.m. via Zoom Webinar.

Pivot is a compilation of four dance films, choreographed by School of Theatre and Dance faculty members Laina Reese Carney, Darby Wilde, Kaley Pruitt, and Gregory Merriman.  

The spring dance concert, normally scheduled in the intimate Westhoff Theatre space, pivots to a pre-recorded dance concert with an innovative twist: the incorporation of motion graphics over film. Artistic director Laina Reese Carney wanted a new and creative way to engage both audiences and dancers this season and proposed a dance film: a type of project never-before-produced by the School of Theatre and Dance.  

person leaping into the air
Laina Reese Carney

“Dance for film is a huge industry,” Carney explains. “Since we are battling a pandemic, this was a great opportunity to utilize the dance camera, shoot a film professionally, and work with edits. Dance can be drama and cinematic. This dance film exhibits our potential and speaks to the culture of the School of Theatre and Dance. It is a great way to highlight the strengths of both the School of Theatre and Dance and Creative Technologies.” 

Carney was inspired to collaborate with the Creative Technologies program after conversations with Creative Technologies Assistant Professor Kristin Carlson and Director Rose Marshack. After discussing possibilities for a dance film, Marshack connected Carney with Assistant Professor of Creative Technologies and Graphic Design Annie Sungkajun. Students in Sungkajun’s class, CTK 377: Motion Graphics, took edits from the dance film and applied motion graphics to the dancers. This introduced a fresh experience for design students as well.  

“I think the students are finding it interesting to better understand how to view motion – with the clear reference of the dancers–but also to understand how to complement motion graphics to the dancers’ footage,” Sungkajun shares. “They’re learning to use the graphics as more of an accent to emphasize movement, rather than to create something as a central piece.” 

Firozeh Irannezhad, a graduate student in Creative Technologies, filmed and edited the piece. Carney explains that the editing itself is a bit of its own choreography. “We’re filming one section multiple times and finding ways to layer the piece, resulting in a viewing experience completely different than what has been seen before.”  

Filming with a high-end dance camera allows for immersive shots and the manipulation of camera angles to show a wider scope of a featured dance. “It gives the audience the experience we want them to have as opposed to what they would see in person. We choose the angles to film, and the audience can see multiple dynamics of the choreography and even a full 360-degree view.” 

 “The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us to give ourselves a different creative experience than ever before. This opportunity has brought flowers out of the concrete.” 

Laina Reese Carney, Artistic Director

Another noteworthy distinction between the dance film and an in-person dance concert is the performance space. The theatre has been a consistent setting of dance concerts pre-COVID-19. However, the pandemic has taken the spring dance choreographers out of their comfort zone and into locations outside of Illinois State University: like the top floor of an uptown Normal parking garage, outside in front of a local mural, or into a parking lot with car headlights as a substitute for spotlights. Carney highlights, “The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us to give ourselves a different creative experience than ever before. This opportunity has brought flowers out of the concrete.” 

The Spring Dance Concert is free to view, although preregistration is required. Registration information is available on the School of Theatre and Dance Production Page or at MyRedbirdLifePIVOT is made available at no cost due to the generosity of donors who regularly support the School of Theatre and Dance. Please consider making a gift to help support future programs.