Choreographer Meryl Murman's Ways of Forgetting had a successful run in Los Angeles in 2014, and she's halfway through making it into a feature film. The original piece had dancers play seven people trying to make personal connections in a society whose workings tend to leave people feeling lonely. The film combines the poetic abstract movement of the original piece with Murman's inspirations from graphic novels and martial arts.
While working on the film with cinematographer Nick Shamblott, they discovered something in still photos. As they examined screen grabs from the film, they noticed frozen moments of action, marked by photographic motion blur and captured poses by the dancers.
"We're used to seeing motion in a certain way, but the photos revealed this aspect of the motion or action that's lost to the human eye," Murman says. "From a choreographic perspective, there is all this labor that goes into a movement, but it's rendered invisible. To be able to trace that is fascinating — to trace the tempos of the body in motion."
Those photos became the inspiration for Light Moving Through Time, the name of a dance piece and a book of photos that debut Feb. 17 at Art Klub. The performance also includes choreographer Ann Glaviano's Known Mass: St. Maurice, a dance installation.
Shamblott moved to New Orleans to work in the film industry and has served as a cinematographer for independent films, music videos and commercials. Much of his work involves technical controls, such as measuring and adjusting light exposure. As he and Murman explored movement on film, they experimented with time exposures and looked at individual variables they could control. Using film instead of a digital camera also required precision as they filmed movement in exposures lasting a half-second to eight seconds. They identified terms that accounted for both dance and photography.
"We needed a language because we were trying to change one variable at a time," Shamblott says. "We might alter a movement or one of the camera settings. You can go back and see the cause and effect."
Those terms are the basis of Light Moving Through Time, which features 10 short pieces by a single dancer, Doron Perk, accompanied by percussionist Roy Yosef Timinaker. The opening piece is built around the concept of flatness and what it means in terms of flat camera angles, flat notes and flat planes for the dancer to adhere to or break. Dances explore acceleration, inversion and other concepts Murman and Shamblott focused on while photographing movement.
Shamblott's book includes 30 black-and-white photographs capturing a dancer's motion. He will have a limited number of copies for sale at the show, and it will be available in a few local bookstores.
Glaviano's piece is inspired by the 2008 closure of her family's church following Hurricane Katrina, when the Archdiocese of New Orleans chose not to repair and reopen it. She had former parishioners share their memories of the church, including her father's story of fainting at the altar during his wedding. Her piece features dancers positioned around Art Klub's space, recreating some of the memories of the community.
The work culminates Murman's project as an artist in residence at Art Klub. She has curated dance pieces, including Glaviano's, and held events and workshops for artists in different disciplines. Art Klub offers three-week to four-month residencies for local and visiting artists to devote to working (not necessarily finishing a final piece) and to give exposure to other artists and their artforms.