Dancing Parallel, on location…

Following the premiere of Dancing Parallel and Dance GB at Theatre Royal, Glasgow, our Dance is the Word writers share their experience from behind the scenes on location for the filming of Dancing Parallel…

“I’ve never been to Wales or Scotland, but having been at English National Ballet’s studios in early April, I feel like I have.

This spring, Markova House played host to 60 young dancers from London, Aberdeen and Cardiff, participating in Dancing Parallel – a collaboration on an unprecedented scale between English National Ballet, Scottish Ballet and National Dance Company Wales to create a dance film directed by internationally acclaimed filmaker Nic Sandiland. The film will be screened prior to performances by the trio of aforementioned national dance companies at Dance GB.

The Dancing Parallel film puts these talented young dancers in the spotlight and gives a foretaste of the symbolic unity of the British team assembling for this summer’s Olympic Games.

The project took the form of choreographic residencies in each of the three locations, finishing with an intensive week at Markova House learning dance technique, sharing and creating choreography, and rehearsing for the film shoot. Even the more experienced dancers were not familiar with the particular demands of performing for film; close-up shots are not an issue when dancing in a large theatre. The dancers were coached to be aware every movement, even their eyes. A great deal of energy and concentration was required to master these skills.

Arguments over how to pronounce ‘Parkour’ were soon forgotten as Parkour artist Chris Grant, summoned the class to a start in the resplendent Upper Studio at Markova House. After gritting their teeth through some tough warm-up exercises, the young dancers fearlessly dove into forward rolls, shifting across the studio with agility. Even though they’d only met in workshops twice before, the group worked extremely well, incorporating each dancer’s qualities in the movement they generated. Encouraged to be inventive, they created dynamic movement sequences in which they weaved in and out of intricate formations – choreographers in the making, I’m certain! Despite the fatigue showing on some faces at the end of the final day, the joyful tears and hugs said it had all been worthwhile.

The week at Markova House culminated in two days of filming in London for the dancers mentored by English National Ballet. Subsequently, filming followed in Cardiff and Aberdeen for the young dancers under the wing of National Dance Company Wales and Scottish Ballet.

Arriving at Islington Canal on a blustery Wednesday evening, I was met by a third of the lively group, but with no less exuberance and energy. As director Nic Sandiland and his crew set up their camera equipment, the 20 young dancers made similar preparations, endlessly musing on new haircuts and indigo jeans. On set, they showed a different side of themselves – ardently focused as they surmounted the obstacles of being on location, adeptly maneuvering chairs and leaping over benches. Not even the rain could dampen this parade.”

Germaine Cheng and Elizabeth McLean

To see the Dancing Parallel film, screened before each performance of Dance GB in the Big Top Tent, Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, click here