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Live Chat with Encounter performers Chloë Campbell and Jim Fletcher and Director/Choreographer Daniel Gwirtzman

February 14, 2014, 10:00 am
On a chilly Friday morning Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company took to Facebook to discuss the making of Encounter, a playful yet contemplative short dance film that had premiered that very morning. Encounter is the first film of the first three-week series of dance films that DGDC will launch over the course of the next 14 weeks leading up to the May 30-June 1 premiere of Gwirtzman’s new evening length work, The Oracle, at the BAM Fisher.

Daniel Gwirtzman (DG): Good morning DGDC supporters! I’m here with Chloë Campbell and we’re ready to chat about the process of filming Encounter. Chloë, I’d like to start the conversation off by asking you your impressions of the film! It should be interesting for everyone to know that you haven’t seen it until today either!

Chloë Campbell (CC): Well, that’s very true, I just saw it about an hour ago! The first thing that struck me was the music as we didn’t hear any music while rehearsing or filming. It added a whole other dimension and made it very cheeky/joyful/fun. It was also great to see how the vocabulary of movement we used looked so normal and not out of place when we were submerged with the commuters of Grand central Station. The editing, of course, has taken the concept to another level and it’s so beautiful to watch this chance encounter and where it will take you.

DG: Yes, the music certainly adds a lot. I am remembering now that there was music playing in the background throughout the shooting. Did anything surprise you in the film?

CC: One thing I liked… not necessarily surprised me, but I had not expected, was the repetition of showing the same parts from different angles and with me with the coat and without the coat. What made you decide to edit that way and with and without my coat?

DG: Yes, these multiple shots of the same moment, even when disturbing the continuity of the scene (i.e. change of clothes) was very intentional. You will remember from the beginning, before we even went into the studio, I spoke about this idea of multiple encounters and how selective our memories can be. Did I have a coat on at that moment? Also, the idea that we’re not sure whose viewpoint we are seeing this through—that your remembrances of the encounter are different than Jim’s, and different than that of an observer. It was also a cinematic/choreographic choice, to use repetition for form’s sake, not only to further the narrative.

CC: Really like that idea of how we remember things. It’s so true. In the moment, one person will remember something very differently to how another may interpret the same scenario.

Sarah Lass (SL): Hi everyone! I just watched Encounter this morning. What a lovely Valentine’s Day treat. I was also drawn in by the multi-angled shots. It captured the energy of Grand Central so accurately- fragmented, sometimes chaotic, little pockets of activity/intimacy in the fray… It made me think of how many individual and personally important encounters like this happen around us every day, often without our noticing! Chloë, how did dancing around Grand Central amongst the commuters and tourists affect your performance? How do you feel it influenced your dancing?

CC: That’s a great question!! At first, I was really self-conscious. I felt all eyes were on me. That’s where Jim was a great help. Coming from an acting background, he really was just in the moment and so I had to learn to let go of the worries and just act. Really be that woman who has got off a train and is discovering NYC. Also, Jim made me realize, not many people even noticed we were dancing! Everyone is so busy on their own path that they fail to be aware of their surroundings! Jim also said that if we take the energy from those around us and equal our energy to that we’ll just blend in, and honestly, that’s what happened!!

DG: At the same time, when watching the film closely, upon a repeated viewing, one does see bystanders observing you and Jim, engrossed, concerned, surprised, etc… Especially during the part where you are pushed into his arms!

CC: And I was definitely aware of people watching, but it wasn’t as many as I would have expected and so it didn’t make me feel really self-conscious about doing a piece in a huge public area.

SL: I noticed that moment as well!

Jim Fletcher (JF): Is this the live chat?

DG: Yes, welcome, Jim, to the live chat! Jim, what was going through your head watching the film this morning, for the first time!?

Kimberly Giannelli (KG): What was the rehearsal process like for this film? Or wasn’t there? Was most of this improvised—playing off the people and the architecture of the station?

SL: I’ll add a question here as well, Jim. As an actor, what was it like being in a “dance film?” That said, of course, I agree with Chloë’s earlier comment that some of the movements (especially around the clock) blended in so well with the movements of the passersby, it didn’t even seem like dance steps (which I loved!) Did it feel like a “dance film” to you?

JF: Happy Valentine’s Day. Yes, that’s true—people were not oblivious, but they allowed us to be amongst them. It was kind of magical to be doing this in that great energy… it reminds me of when I went among a herd of cows out in a field as a kid… they didn’t ignore me but they definitely let me in, if my energy was okay. The rehearsal process was pretty intense, though only for three days… The main thing is that Chloë and I were asked by Danny not to speak in each other’s presence. He didn’t want either of us to hear the sound of the other’s voice. I loved that! It made everything with Chloë and myself so huge, effortlessly.

CC: Kimberly… great question!! It was really difficult for me, as I always talk A LOT and it helps me to get a better relationship with whomever I’m dancing. It was great to be in silence and just learn the material and go off each other’s energy and reactions through our body, facial expressions, etc.

DG: Yes, Jim and Chloë were not allowed to speak during the rehearsal process. Even when shooting, it wasn’t until nearly the end of the day, all speech was withheld.

JF: And when I finally did get to indulge in the sound of her voice, which moment is in the film, it was a real encounter. I couldn’t believe my ears, actually.

DG: This lent an authenticity to the encounter, and allowed vulnerability and mystery to be on hand.

SL: SL: So interesting! Daniel, can you elaborate on that? Why no speaking?

DG: In essence, Jim and Chloë had never really met, their encounter was made real in front of the camera.

JF: It also was great to rehearse, knowing that it wasn’t about talking and asking questions… and giving feedback etc. All we had was what we were doing. Of course Danny was speaking, but he wasn’t performing—the performers were in a different world.

CC: It definitely helped with the whole “encounter,” as we were meant to never have met before, so the less we knew about each other, the better!

DG: Hi Sarah, thanks for joining us this morning! Part of the inspiration for creating Encounter was the experience of missed opportunities, missed connections, that can occur so easily in the City. Someone you see in passing, on the train, across the street. That world lives in silence and fantasy. When we don’t have verbal language, there is space for the encounter to breathe as we’d like. It was important for me to try to channel this through our process. To let there be an expansiveness, a freedom. Chloë will be leaving us now. Thank you, Chloë!

SL: Yes- thank you, Chloë!

CC: It was so lovely to discuss this film and get more in depth responses on some things I hadn’t thought about. It was such a fun experience and I am so happy with the outcome! Thank you, Jim and Danny, and thank you Sarah and Kimberly for your questions!

JF: Also, I had been working for several weeks sitting at my table, trying to finish writing something, so my body was pulled out of this, like out of an oyster shell, into this Encounter. Close encounters…. for me it was intense. And by not speaking, my experience of Chloë went far, just by seeing other things, the way her eyes speak, the way energy runs through her, these things I wouldn’t experience so much if I had been speaking. Bye, Chloë!

DG: Yes, as we inhibit one sense, the others take over with greater emphasis.

SL: The film does speak to the many different ways in which we communicate with one another, how we interact day-to-day with our bodies. And speaks to how strong these other forms of communication can be, how personal and intimate.

DG: Great point Sarah. Jim, I wonder if you can comment about your awareness of you body as an actor and how that perception changed, or didn’t change when filming Encounter?

JF: About Sarah’s question of being in a “dance film:” there was a spirit in this work that was articulated by Danny when we started, and by his notes throughout, that I didn’t have to try to look like a dancer. Nor did Chloë, for that matter. So yes, we were doing choreography, but we would not try to be “dancers”

Courtney Baron (CB): Chloë and Jim, beautiful work! You never know what a simple encounter between two people can lead to, and it was beautiful to see how yours developed.

JF: Thank you!

SL: Another quick question from me: Jim, did you have a favorite or most memorable moment in the film? Either while you were doing it or in watching it?

JF: I mean, the grand hall of Grand Central—full of people, with Christmas music playing… and really, the camera was often so far away from us, and all we had was the form of what we were doing to hold us together in this great chaos, to tune into the dynamic and the hush and the color of that room… it was really something unforgettable. Human music. On a grand scale and beautifully framed. Grand Central is incredible. But in terms of watching the film… I love the train platform scenes! Just like in a movie… but a style I’ve never seen before. Pedestrian, but still lyrical. Romantic!

SL: I’ll certainly experience it differently having seen this encounter!

DG: Hi Courtney. Thanks for joining us live! We never know how any chance encounter will develop, that’s the optimism inherent in the encounter, in any encounter, the possibility of…the lure of the unknown. And when there hasn’t been a verbal exchange, each person is free to color in their idea of the other as they choose/desire.

DG: I would like to add that for me I was interested in an ambiguity staying throughout in terms of their relationship. Had they met before? Was this their first encounter, series of encounters, or was this a planned rendez-vous?

SL: And I liked that we never got a concrete answer.

DG: Thanks Jim. It’s true: the history of cinema is rife with the love at the tracks scenes. The arrival, the goodbye. In Encounter, we kind of stripped the drama out and just let it exist in this pedestrian world of the everyday, little moments unseen by others that are potentially life-changing.

SL: The stripped-down nature makes it easy to connect and relate to the film, I think. I find myself reminiscing on my own hellos, goodbyes, missed connections, etc. We live in the ambiguity the film gives us.

DG: Jim, any other impressions that struck you in watching the finished work?

JF: I was struck by the style of it. It really has a swerve to it. I was surprised by how well that happened. I think this is because the form we developed was always serving the encounter. It wasn’t trying to be the star. It was the vehicle.

DG: Swerve as in pacing, rhythm?

JF: Swerve as in verve. Swing.

DG: Well, it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that… I’d like to thank everyone for supporting the launch of the film and to Jim and Chloë for joining us live today!

JF: Valentine’s Day is my favorite holiday. And this film really rises to the occasion. How sweet it is in NYC today. A bright dripping thaw!

DG: You never mentioned that about Valentine’s. How perfect. And what a great note to finish our chat. Goodbye and enjoy!

SL: Here’s to a day of delightful encounters!

JF: Goodbye, Danny and Sarah and everyone. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Michol C. Sherman: I have to say how incredibly universal I believed the relationship to be: anyone, anywhere, anytime… I fell in love.

DG: Michol, thanks for this beautiful comment. At the end of the day, all of our love encounters revolve around this universal essence: attraction!

KG: Looking forward to the next film! Always nice to get some beautiful inspiration on a Friday.

JF: One last comment: I can’t stop looking at the people (extras?) Somehow what we’re doing frames all the other stuff, rather than vice versa, and puts it in an unfamiliar light… so seeing someone’s face, their bag, what they’re doing, the time of day… can’t stop looking at these things… what normally passes unseen.