The challenging months of the Covid-19 pandemic only placed a temporary pause in the creativity of artists and presenters around the world. Some have begun to present their work virtually, while others like Danielle Agami, have used this time to delve into passions that in normal times there might not have been the time or opportunity to do so. Agami is the Artistic Director and Choreographer of Ate9, a Los Angeles based dance company founded in 2012.

“With entire seasons at top venues cancelled in the wake of our current global environment, we have had to pivot,” Agami said.  “I am thankful we are extremely good at adapting to change and have always been open to new and meaningful ways to evolve our art. We have fully embraced filmmaking as an exciting new way to distribute our work and we’re eager to expand our artistic footprint through the camera lens.” – From press release, November 11, 2020

This past June, Agami premiered a short dance video titled Reboot, Camerawork by Selena Moshell and Danielle Agami, and Editing and Sound by Danielle Agami. Now she and Ate9 have two films in post-production with the hopes of building a robust library by the end of 2021 . Both films are based on original works created by Agami for Ate9: a blind LAdy which premiered at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Arts in February of 2019, and a brand-new work titled An Apology. This new work is Co-written by Collin Del Cuore and Nadav Heyman, and both films feature Ate9 dancers Agami, Paige Amicon, Christopher Hahn, Cacia LaCount, Jordan Lovestrand, Jobel Medina, Montay Romero, Evan Sagadencky, Issac Spector, and Santiago Villareal.

Ate9 - Danielle Agami on the set of "a blind LAdy" - Photo: Cheryl Mann Productions

Ate9 – Danielle Agami on the set of “a blind LAdy” – Photo: Cheryl Mann Productions

The film version of a blind LAdy, which investigates the insecurities and absurdities of living in Los Angeles, is directed and edited by Diego Hurtado De Mendoza whose films include “Branding Kosovo”, “Welcome to Beirut” and “The People’s Fighters”.  According to the press release, “the film explores the tensions that exist between genders and races, as well as the edges of beauty and effort.” The costumes for a blind LAdy are by the renowned Italian stylist Michela Muratori.  To read more about the stage production of a blind LAdy, click HERE.

An Apology is directed by Collin Del Cuore and actor/filmmaker Nadav Heyman takes on the role as The Narrator. This timely film investigates a society shattered by the pandemic. As Ate9 describes it: “The film delves into our collective isolation and the need for human contact. It will highlight the spiritual sacrifices due in part to COVID-19, while at the same time show how we cling to damaging ideals dictated by modern society. The soundtrack includes original score and cello performance by Isaiah Gage.”

I contacted Agami and she agreed to answer a few questions regarding this new foray into film. I will let her speak for herself.

Q. What was the genesis for you venturing into film? Was it the pandemic or had you plans to so before?

Agami: I have always admired filmmaking but avoided trying to do it myself because I knew it would take an investment in time, money and emotion. The pandemic allowed me to prioritize film as a new way for me to get my work in front of audiences and think about dance differently – through a different lens.

Ate9 - Filming of "a blind LAdy" - Photo: Cheryl Mann Productions

Ate9 – Filming of “a blind LAdy” – Photo: Cheryl Mann Productions

Q. Were you influenced to do more after the making of your video Reboot?

Agami: Reboot was the most immediate and relevant way for me to connect with audiences at the beginning of the pandemic. It was very eye-opening and encouraged me that I can still reach people with my art.

Q. What thoughts or decisions went into the selection of the dances for these two films?

Agami: I didn’t really choose; I created choreography for film, which is completely different than creating a piece for the stage. a blind LAdy, which Ate9 premiered at The Wallis, is actually quite different in its film form. We’ve never presented An Apology on stage, so it will debut on film.

Ate9 - filming of "An Apology" - Photo: Cheryl Mann Productions

Ate9 – filming of “An Apology” – Photo: Cheryl Mann Productions

Q. Had you worked with directors Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, Collin Del Cuore or Nadav Heyman prior to this project? If so, where and when?

Agami: I’d never worked with Diego. We were introduced by a friend and I thought he had the right touch for the vision of the project. We share a mutual passion for dance and I trusted our dialogue around filmmaking. I appreciated his background, which included work with the National Dance Company of Spain and choreographer Nacho Duato.

I met Collin through his wife Cheryl (Mann) who is Ate9’s photographer and former Executive Director. We’d never really worked together before but I knew he had a lot of production expertise. He’s never directed a dance film, but I knew with my help, he could give life to this spine I created.

Nadav and I have collaborated on various projects since 2012, including “Fishing” and “Sally Met Stu.” I read his writing and brought it to the stage for the first time.

It’s all been a leap of faith and giving opportunities to people who could help me create something that’s never been done before. These are not like any other dance films.

Ate9 - Filming of "An Apology" - Photo: Cheryl Mann Productions

Ate9 – Filming of “An Apology” – Photo: Cheryl Mann Productions

Q. In Ariel’s email, she stated that you had hopes of building a library of films by the end of 2021. Will any of these dances be created specifically for film or will all of them be based on works in your repertory?

Agami: It will be a mix. Good material can live on both stage and film; it won’t matter what medium it’s initially created for necessarily because these works can float in the repertory for whatever is needed or makes sense at the time.

Q. What, if any, are your plans for distributing and/or screening the films?

Agami: We plan to present the films at festivals and hope for a warm response!

Q. You have several new company members. When did this transition take place?  See the current company members HERE.

Agami: During the summer. New dancers make up more than half the Ate9 cast. I am so grateful for them and excited about what they each contribute. They are all fearless, visceral and passionate, which is what any arts institution needs. We are planning to officially introduce them and showcase their moves in a virtual event at the end of December.

Ate9 - On set of "An Apology" - Photo: Cheryl Mann Productions

Ate9 – On set of “An Apology” – Photo: Cheryl Mann Productions

About the collaborators:

Collin Del Cuore is a producer, director and creative director from Maine who currently resides in Los Angeles, Calif. In his 13-plus year career in television, he has worked in multiple facets of the business – production, development and marketing creative. In 2007, he joined Harpo Productions, working on The Oprah Winfrey Show in the creative services department. When Oprah ended in 2011, he moved into production for Harpo Studios as part of the team that produced more than 80 hours of Oprah’s Next Chapter, the flagship show for OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network. He also worked in development, creating and pitching new show concepts – and in 2016, moved to Los Angeles after taking a creative director position with the network. Currently, he works on the entire slate of scripted and unscripted titles for OWN.

Cellist, string arranger, and songwriter/composer Isaiah Gage has spent decades exploring the vast cosmos of the cello, pushing perceived boundaries and furthering the creative applications of what is stereotypically known as an orchestral string instrument. Gage is an in-demand L.A.-based session musician and performer who frequents the scores of hit shows and films such as “The Good Fight” (Soloist Credit—CBS), ”Evil” (Soloist Credit—CBS), “Seal Team” (Soloist Credit—FOX), “Arrested Development” (Netflix), and many more. Read his full bio HERE.

Nadav Heyman is a writer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. His written pieces have been seen on the stages of Juilliard, Boston Conservatory, and Cornish College of the Arts. His film work has screened in festivals around the world, including Miami, Chicago, Boulder, Australia, Romania, Spain, and the UK. In 2016, he was selected as one of ten international artists to participate in the Koumaria Residency in Greece. In 2018, he was invited for a three-month artist residency by Subhashok Art Center in Chiang Mai, Thailand. His goal is to observe life through story, movement, and film. To learn more about Heyman, click HERE.

Spanish-Swedish director and producer Diego Hurtado de Mendoza started his career at the prestigious FABRICA, the Research Center on Communications of Benetton in Italy. There he worked for Colors Magazine, helped communicate the launch of Youssou N’Dour’s micro-credit initiative in Senegal and directed his first documentary films including the award-winning Branding Kosovo — documenting the birth of a country in the XXI Century — and Welcome to Beirut — about the relationship between filmmaking and war in Lebanon. Previously he oversaw all visual communications for the Compañía Nacional de Danza (the National Dance Company of Spain) and worked with choreographer Nacho Duato. He’s worked for MTV, Vice, The Office of the Prime Minister of Dubai, Universal Music Group, Sony Music, Wells Fargo, Ford, and many other international clients, constantly alternating between his work as commercial and music video director and creative lead. In 2018 he produced and directed the documentary series Arriba Cuba! for the Olympic Channel, the global media platform of the International Olympic Committee, followed by the feature Teófilo Stevenson and the Legend of Cuban Boxing, co-directed with Peter Berg, which was awarded First Prize at the AIPS Awards in Switzerland. He’s currently overseeing production on five documentaries for Mandalay Sports Media, the production company behind current global mega-hit “The Last Dance” on Michael Jordan, and starting production on his next film, a Disney+ Original premiering in 2021.

Ate9 has plans to release a blind LAdy and An Apology sometime this winter, so keep an eye out.

To learn more about Ate9, click HERE.

Written and compiled by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: Ate9 during the filming of a blind LAdy – Photo: Cheryl Mann Productions