When the pandemic forced the cancellation of all live performances in 2020 Janet Roston, Artistic Director of Mixed eMotion Theatrix, was one of the first choreographers in Los Angeles to create video dance. Tag! A Quarantine Dance involved 15 seconds of movement performed by company dancers, a graphic designer, producers, composers, videographer, photographer, Social Media Director, Executive Director, and Roston. It was as indicated by the title, an enjoyable movement game of tag. Music Director David O and Roston co-directed, and Roston choreographed, the very entertaining and highly successful You Can’t Stop The Beat to help raise money for The Actors Fund. Roston has continued to create dance videos for the company, submitting a couple of them to international film festivals and receiving several awards.
In an email to me Roston stated that the mission of Mixed eMotion Theatrix is “to tell stories in live performance and film using dance, theater and music”. During this time of the pandemic, Roston has continued to provide work and involvement for her dancers and to fulfill the company’s mission by creating a series of videos inspired by the 1925 novel by American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, set in the Jazz Age and involving a mysterious millionaire and his unrequited love. And, in contrast, Roston created a virtual dance performance film titled Hallway for high school students; one that is in a completely different genre and environment.
The first performance of Gatsby Redux was performed in Disney Hall’s Blue Ribbon Garden as part of Moves After Dark at the Los Angeles Music Center. Limited to 15 minutes at Disney Hall, Roston is continuing to develop it into a full-length production. Filmed on location at The Muckenthaler Cultural Center in Fullerton, CA., the third video in the quarantine series Gatsby Redux, The Covid Sessions, is titled Gatsby Alone featuring wonderful dancers Dominique McDougal and Tiffany Wolff.
Despite his wealth and social status, Gatsby is feeling isolated – a feeling we all can definitely relate to following the past year of quarantine. Here, he is seen dressed in a beautifully made 1920s era suit created by Allison Dillard, roaming around his mansion. He has two dreams, one of confinement and the other of his love as she moves outside wearing a gorgeous flowing gown also by Dillard. Sadly, Gatsby awakens both times to his continued sense of isolation from the world.
Roston’s beautiful lyrical movement and staging, the haunting music box melody by Anthony Lucca and the familiar music score by Claude Debussy, Gatsby Alone paints a clear portrait of the loneliness felt by this reclusive millionaire. The stunning cinematography is by Ariel Benarroch and the Editor is Kate Coleman.
Gatsby Alone was Directed and Choreographed by Janet Roston; Cinematography: Ariel Benarroch; Editing: Kate Coleman; Digital Colorist: Ariel Benarroch; Costumes: Allison Dillard; Producer: Ryan Bergmann; Music: Claude Debussy; Dancers: Dominique McDougal, Tiffany Wolff.
“Two locations, the Brand Library in Glendale and The Muckenthaler Cultural Center booked the full length production for 2020. With Covid the productions were postponed,” Roston stated. “Now, in 2021 the Brand Library, has decided to film and stream the full length work. The stream will appear on June 26. The Muckenthaler Cultural Center in Fullerton will be presenting the work live, with an audience on June 24th.” Because this is an outside, site-specific work , Mixed eMotion Theatrix will be able to present the entire production at The Muckenthaler with the audience socially distanced as health guidelines require.
In her video Hallway, Roston has ventured into the completely different dance genre – horror. “Hallway is a film that uses movement to tell the story of a babysitter, kids in bed, killing time texting, who suddenly endures a frightening journey down a bizarre hallway. She is forced into rooms of enchantment and terror. Can she escape?” Roston says of the work. The high school where she is an annual guest choreographer presented its annual dance concert online and Roston says that she simply did not want to make another Zoom dance, so she created a film that made it possible for each dancer to perform inside their own location.
“Dancers were selected not only for their ability but also for locations in their houses which I viewed from photos,” Roston said. “I needed a specific hallway and interesting spaces. Luckily, the best hallway was submitted by a dancer who is a wonderful actress.” She went on to say that the costumes, editing and sound mixing for Hallway, were completed by her creative team at Mixed eMotion Theatrix. “One benefit of quarantine was that my designers had the time to work on this project,” Roston added.
The storyline for Hallway is familiar, but what gives the film its uniqueness is how Roston has managed to create several separate rooms off the hallway when in reality they are each in totally different areas of the city. The high school dance company members are wonderful and the ending, if you are a fan of horror films is expected yet appropriately creepy.
Roston stated that Hallway was totally created virtually in Fall 2020 and everyone worked within the strict restrictions of Los Angeles’ Covid-19 quarantine. There were no live interactions between performers, the director/choreographer or the production team. “Rehearsals were virtual, lighting was limited to a few lights transported from house to house, and all shooting was by family members following a shot list. In many ways this video reflects the isolation these high school students feel in quarantine. Trapped in their living space, buffeted by the difficult situation of the pandemic, they enter into strange and frightening worlds,” Roston said.
Hallway was Directed and Choreographed by Janet Roston; Editor and Virtual Director of Photography: Joe LaRue; Costumes: Allison Dillard; Sound Design: Joe LaRue; Virtual Production Design: Janet Roston; Producer: Ryan Bergmann; Performers: Noa Brenner, Georgia Evensen, Emma Maurer, Jasmine Singer, Ella Budhu, Ava Budhu; Camera: Sebastian Shamkovsky, Molly Cory, Christopher Maurer, Cameron Singer, Pam Singer, Lena Stephens.
To learn more about Janet Roston and Mixed eMotion Theatrix, click HERE.
Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Screenshot from Janet Roston/Mixed eMotion Theatrix’s HALLWAY – Courtesy of MeMT