With all the turmoil, sadness, fear, and unrest brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and social injustices around the world, it was glorious to be reminded of the beauty still thriving within so many while viewing the world premiere of Blinding Lights, a collaboration between Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Company (LACDC) and Vitamin String Quartet (VSQ). Both LACDC Artistic Director Genevieve Carson and Nathan Kim acted as Co-Directors for Blinding Lights, Carson was Movement Director, Kim was Director of Photography and Editor, and Tom Bird was the Creative Director. Shot in black and white, their second film The Box is more of a showcase for VSQ and reflects a sense of claustrophobia brought on by our Stay-at-Home existence. This article will focus on Blinding Lights, but I have provided links to view both films.
Blinding Lights is also the title of the music, an originally song by The Weeknd and covered here by VSQ. It is a rich, lively and often celebratory score that released in the performers a freedom from restraint that is residing in the majority of us during the shutdown.
Carson explained that the dancers were provided with specific sections of the song and asked to create their own movement. She and Kim then directed the performers in their movement who later adapted as needed. “We filmed everything in one day,” Carson wrote in an email. “each dancer shot for 45 minutes with a 15-20 minute break in between to allow for airflow and sanitizing.” She and everyone involved strictly followed the CDC guidelines throughout the shoot. “It was quite an endeavor!” Carson added.
The film was shot at LACDC’s new home Stomping Ground L.A. owned and operated by former Artistic Director Kate Hutter. The studio is still under construction and Carson beautifully incorporated scaffolding, tall ladders, and hanging plastic with wood shavings covering the floor – all products of the construction.
Though the dancers were never actually performing in the studio at the same time, near the end of Blinding Lights one could almost image that they were. This welcomed illusion is due to Carson’s guidance and Kim’s extraordinary editing. The movement flows uninterrupted with the music and for a brief, delicious span of time the viewer can actually feel the joy and energy of these wonderful dancers. Never performing in unison, the dancers all but touch one another through the magic of technology. Though I knew it was a temporary dream, for a few minutes I found myself believing it true.
Blinking Lights is not a statement on the pandemic or a protest piece. It is a film to celebrate the joy of dancing and for a brief moment, give the viewer a sense of normalcy.
The dancers and choreographers for Blinding Lights were Christian Beasley, Hyosun Choi, Jamila Glass, Nicole Hagen, Tess Hewlett, Malachi Middleton, JM Rodriguez, Ryan Ruiz, and Angel Tyson. Each one of their unique movement gifts shone through in this film, and each vibrated with the freedom of moving in a space larger than their living room or bedroom like we have recently seen is so many dances presented on Zoom, Facebook and Instagram.
The production crew for Blinding Lights included Lighting Designer: David Patrick; Lighting Consultant: Ric Zimmerman; Stylist: Kelsey Vidic; Assistant Stylist: Daniel Miramontes; Set Designers: Genevieve Carson & Nathan Kim; and Production: Aron Silverstein, Marlene Nichols, and Nicco Marcantonio. Blinding Lights was filmed at Stomping Ground L.A. with Special Thanks to Kate Hutter, and the Executive Producers were James Curtiss and Leo Flynn.
To view Blinding Lights, click HERE.
To view The Box (also filmed while adhering to CDC guidelines), click HERE.
To visit the Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Company website, click HERE.
To learn more about Vitamin String Quartet, click HERE.
To visit the Stomping Ground L.A. website, click HERE.
Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Nicole Hagen in Blinding Lights – a film by Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Company and Vitamin String Quartet – Photo still courtesy of LACDC