This week we have guest contributor Michelle Thompson! She is the amazing choreographer behind Ballet Zaida films Nesoi and Rem. She is also behind our newest film Replay. You can learn more about her on our Choreographers Page. To follow her career check out her website and Instagram. To see her previous Ballet Zaida Films check out our Films Page.
Replay has been a really wonderful project to work on. One of the reasons it has been so great is because Nicole is such an easy artist to work with. She always works with a willingness to grow and expand, and I find her beauty inspiring. Adding Erin Crall, Alice Cao, and Imana Gunawan to our cast was also a treat. These talented dancers watched videos I created in my New York apartment and then absorbed the final touches of the choreography the day before we filmed in Seattle. Finally working with Oliver is so enjoyable, efficient, and fun. He understands and appreciates my choreography and the dancers, and uses his own artistic lens to add even more meaning to each piece we work on together.
Initially Replay was a challenging piece for me, because the music displays more of a modern and pop style than the music I usually work with. At the same time, it was a wonderful challenge that pushed me to make different movement choices. After much personal reflection and speaking with Oliver, we decided to lean into the music rather than resist it. I allowed myself to make new choices especially once we arrived in the film space. It’s definitely not a music video, but if I were to make a music video it would have some similar elements.
The other interesting part of Replay is that there are elements in the lyrics that already gave me a direction to go in. Many times when I am creating, I choose music that relates to a theme or tone I am interested in exploring, but it is not always explicit. With Replay, the words encouraged me to look at the dancers, the space, and the environment of the piece as a journey through repetitious behaviors. In history and in personal lives, we see patterns that can sometimes cause pain or a lack of freedom. This is a universal idea. I can remember studying history in school and seeing entire nations repeating behaviors that cause great disagreement and pain. I myself have repeated poor behaviors. These behaviors can replay over and over until there is a shift.
The music helped me decide what I wanted the tone and theme to be, and it told me where to go with the movements and the spatial architecture of the piece. Initially when we started the piece two years ago, Nicole’s journey was not as clear to me, and we all decided that we needed to add more dancers to amplify the piece. With the reincarnation of the piece in Seattle, we see Nicole being pulled back to the three women and we can start to see a relationship form between her movements and their movements. The three women help construct a world and feeling that swarms around Nicole. At the end of the piece the three dancers are clasping her and symbolically cementing her to this environment, and she makes a decision to break free. She runs out of the frame and out of this world, which she created. This is this most important moment in the piece for me, because she decides to change the pattern of her life for better. We cannot forget the patterns of history, but we can choose to learn and then let go.
Read previous posts from Affinity Nicole Voris and composer Joey Contreras to learn more about the piece. Check back in to learn more and find out the release date!