Shot on location in an abandoned barn in the northern California mountains, No Trespassing, features Daniel Gwirtzman in an extended solo, filmed in one take. The site-specific film shot by Stefanos Milkidis exploits the wide central space of the barn as well as its peripheral idiosyncratic elements, including a large pile of stones, holes in the barn’s exterior walls, beams, and ledges. No Trespassing stands as an antidote to the highly-edited films current in popular culture, relying on Gwirtzman’s craft and Milkidis’ carefully considered camera, which dances alongside.
LIVE CHAT held 11am-noon, Friday, February 28, 2014, transcript:
Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company (DGDC): Good morning! Welcome to the chat. Stefanos, Daniel are you with us?
Daniel Gwirtzman (DG): I’m here, a beautiful sunny day in New York!
Stefanos Milkidis (SM): Hello, hello! And I’m here from sunny Buffalo!
Elizabeth Zimmer (EZ): and here from sunny Chelsea…..
DGDC: Can you tell our readers about the location where No Trespassing was shot? Seems far from the snowy northeast. Elizabeth, welcome!
SM: Gladly! No Trespassing took place in an azing location in Santa Cruz mountains in Northern California.
SL: Hello Daniel, Stefanos, and Elizabeth! I just watched No Trespassing. Daniel, were sections of the choreography improvisation-based? How did you find the barn?
SM: It was an unexpected finding during our residency at Djerassi Resident Artist Progr.
DG: Yes, and what I was just reminiscing about: that we shot this during the winter! In January!
DGDC: SL:, welcome to our chat!
SM: Yeap, and it was 70 degrees. Loved it!
DG: Well, it was warm on some days that’s true. But it was also very cold some of the days in the barn if you remember. Especially wearing just a t-shirt and light sweatshirt.
SM: True. On our shooting at the barn wasn’t so bad though.
EZ: I watched the film. The combination of the moving dancer, the moving cera, and the light filtering in through the barn slats kept making me dizzy.
DG: Sarah, that’s an important question. There were a lot of variables to work with inside the barn, starting with an ungiving concrete floor. I realized early on that I would not be dancing barefoot on this cold and hard surface. There was a definite choreography, but I was allowed moments of improvisation if things went somewhat awry. Getting the shot in one take was parount to our idea.
SM: Elizabeth, I must say that I was engaged with Daniel in a dance with him, only you cannot see me because I was holding the cera.
SL: Stefanos, can you speak to this as the man behind the cera? What was it getting it all in one shot?
SM: I found this incredibly challenging as it was done all in one shot…Yes Sarah. I think of it as the one work that I had to engage with Daniel so actively. My purpose was not to lose him out of my frame. But I couldn’t anticipate his moves because I did not know his choreography beforehand. That required an extreme level of concentration.
SL: I loved that the cera moved as Daniel moved- it constantly changed my viewing experience and perception of the space, and gave the feeling that there was a duet happening, not just a solo, between you and Daniel and consequently the viewer (me!) and Daniel.
DG: Hopefully the takeaway sensation is not of dizziness, yet there was a deliberate intentionality on our part to have the cera “dancing” with me. Stefanos proved to be incredibly agile in this respect.
SM: Sarah, I glad you are feeling this way. At the time, I was not even sure how many times we had to reshoot the film because I was afraid that during this one long shot something might go wrong. I’m glad that it didn’t. So yes, I dance with Daniel in this piece, trying to capture the whole space.
DG: By the final shoots however, which occurred over multiple days, Stefanos and I had mapped out the choreography and the order in which we revealed the barn. So there were certain understandings of how we were fring the action, even if the specifics of the action changed slightly from take to take, i.e. how I interacted with the gravel. It bece largely consistent after a few takes.
SL: Daniel, there’s a child wonder to the choreography and your performance throughout- upon what were you drawing for inspiration during your performance? It was clear that the architecture of the barn influenced you, but did it elicit any memories?
SM: It did indeed. The unexpectedness, however, was big part of it during the process.
DG: Well, to come upon the barn is a wondrous event. We were living on hundreds of acres of private property. It tapped into that adventurous spirit we experience as children, exploring for the sake of that quest, getting lost, maybe getting into a little mischief!
DG: We had shot a lot of footage of me approaching the barn, discovering it, running into it, etc…but ultimately we decided against using this as we were editing….So yes, I was drawing upon the type of site-specific interactions I always enjoyed growing up. Looking back I can see these were the beginnings of an affair with site-specific dance.
SM: In addition to what Daniel is saying, for me it was definitely reminiscent of childhood feelings, just discovering an unknown place in which anything was possible.
DG: Playtime in the barn!
SM: Big playtime! Magical place!
DGDC: Stefanos, there is a strong shot at the end as Daniel prepares to leave and exits the barn, yet the cera keeps him well in the fre. Was that difficult to achieve?
SM: Thanks DGDC for the great question. I must say that it was more responding to the challenge of the moment. I didn’t think about it hard back then. I was so focused in what I was doing so anything that seemed to be difficult had to be captured as best as possible.
SL: All, I must depart, sadly. Thank you for your beautiful work. I’m off to explore what the day has in store!
DGDC: Thank you for joining us this morning Sarah.
SM: Nice talking to you Sarah. I’ll be happy to answer any more questions by email
DG: I remember the close proximity to one another while shooting. So even if I wasn’t looking at the cera, I could sense where it was, certainly in this confined space, and play to that in a way too, as one would play into the light of a special on stage.
SM: I think the proximity, but more the intensity of this active engagement, was what lies beneath the film. It was an integral part of making it.
DG: Yes, a cera recording your movements, Stefanos, would have been an interesting take wouldn’t it? It was very active. We decided early on to lose the tripod, which you recall we started with.
EZ: Wish I could find a perch to follow the discussion, without having to jump back and forth between FB and my e-mail….
SM: Yes! And I must admit that I wasn’t so happy to leave the tripod behind initially. I felt I could not do without it.
SM: You must keep refreshing DGDC page Elizabeth. Facebook belongs to the future
EZ: How do I refresh? (I’m a technotard!)
DGDC: Elizabeth, yes, we are aware that we are piloting a use for Facebook that it was not exactly designed for. In your address bar at the top, click the circular arrow icon to refresh.
SM: Go to your browser, select and enter, then you’ll keep up-to-date
SM: Thanks DGDC for the suggestion. That is even better!
EZ: let’s see…OK, that works….I liked the sound score. Tell me about it.
SM: Daniel discovered it!
DG: It’s a very well-known composition, as recorded by the popular Alarm Will Sound (who just performed live at The Met a few weeks ago). What is notable, however, is that the dance was shot entirely in silence.
EZ: Was there natural sound in the environment? Crickets, etc.?
SM: And what a match, right? Yes! Not so much crickets as all kinds of sounds one can get in the woods, plus some of the creaking of the structure itself.
DG: Yes, we were excited about how well-matched the music was, not only in the tone, and its propulsion, but in its length. You can hear the scraping of the sneakers and of course the sounds of the gravel. I don’t remember too much bient noise once I started dancing. It required a lot of focus to make it through the piece without stopping. Different than dancing for seven or more minutes on stage. There was a lot of room for error! Lighting was more of a concern than the sound.
SM: I agree. By the time we started filming this dance bece the absolute focus!
DG: The natural lighting was only what ce in through the open slats. Finding the right time of day to maximize the light was crucial.
Kimberly Giannelli(KG): good morning! This is my favorite film yet! I love the contrast between the stark and empty space– the sunshine pouring in–the light fluid quality of the movement. It had a certain joy and exploration about it. You were able to maintain this quality both with two feet on the ground and during the section where you are experimenting with the ladder and the suspension and various shapes that could be made that way! thank you for bringing some sunshine to my morning
DGDC: Welcome KG: to the chat!
SM: Oh yes. Lighting! We couldn’t do it in the morning, neither later afternoon. We had to be there right at noon to maximize the results.
EZ: Yes, the lighting was part of the problem I was having. It kept going from dark to light, from one person moving to two simultaneous motions…
DG: Thanks Kim. This film is not concerned with going too deep. It is what it is. And the joy of being able to dance needed to stay front and center. It is about this rebellious act of leaving the world to have a private moment with oneself. Of course, being captured, now it lives as something to be shared. But the character in the dance, he is unconcerned with the world in this moment, he dances for him.
SM: I guess Elizabeth these conflicts that you describe: dark to light, simultaneous motions etc. make this film so not ordinary. They’re all elements that added to the experimental attitude we had from the beginning.
KG: why else should we dance!
EZ: To communicate clearly with an audience….
DG: To share the potential of the human body and spirit in each of us. Dance is simply a metaphor for what is possible in life. Effort yields results.
SM: Dance doesn’t exist without space. Dance for cera as a genre can propagate the experience in time.
EZ: Gotta go. Can’t sit any longer….
SM: Nice chatting to you Elizabeth! And see you soon
DGDC: Thank you EZ: for joining us today and for your great comments and questions!We have just received [via another post] some lovely comments from UP Theater Company. Wanting to know if we have ever considered doing this with an audience…and also whether we were truly trespassing. Great question. Artists?
DG: Hello UP Theater Company, Manhattan! Ha! Well, in truth we were not trespassing. The private property of which we speak is the Djerassi Resident Artists Progr. We were in residence for most of January last year and were allowed access to the barn! It’s a terrific idea to consider doing this dance for an audience, or something similar. Certainly many artists are using site-specific dance in this way, for select audiences, such as Jody Oberfelder in her current 4Chbers show. For us, it was a working period, designed to create. We did have a small showing in the studio of other work developed at Djerassi Resident Artists Progr.
SM: To answer UP Theater. There was a No Trespassing sign outside the barn, which made the title of the film. It was a private property after all. I guess the title more wraps up to a universal idea of these kind of spaces, that they remain abandon but still not open to a larger public.
DGDC: Thank you SM: and DG: and all who have joined for the chat. We will see you again next week, when another collaboration between the two, Sisyphus, premieres.
UP Theater Company: Manhattan Could be fun. UP is in Inwood. Venues hard to come by. Perhaps we should sneak in somewhere and do the play in the dark. Bravo guys.
SM: Thanks UP Theater Company, Manhattan. That is a great suggestion and I would be happy to do something similar in the Heights. And thanks DGDC for this great opportunity to talk about this work!