Mariska Febriyani of Ballet.id (ID) and Marc Brew of Marc Brew Company (UK) collaborated in a digital arts residency for 8 weeks to explore the concept of space and restrictions, reflecting to the pandemic, and reflecting on various landscapes in both countries.
Every explorations were then recorded and edited to be presented as a dance video reflecting various perspectives from each of the individuals, their culture, and inclusion.
Through their collaboration, Ballet.id and Marc Brew Company, have produced two dance films titled "Logue" and "Renewable".
Choreography from both films were performed by Mariska Febriyani and Marc Brew in Indonesia and the UK, whereas the film production were done by production teams from Ballet.id and Marc Brew Company.
Once the project wrapped up, we had a discussion with Mariska about exciting moments, new insights as well as the challenges that she faced during its making.
How was the overall of your project?
I believe the project went swimmingly. I can conclude this based on the audience response. It was never about me or our collaborators; rather, it was always about the message that we wanted to deliver to people. We are very grateful that the film was well-received, especially since it was a new venture for us. We all are aware that dance can be displayed on video or digital platforms. However, to create a film or a video that delivers the right message and that people are able to enjoy was a major learning curve for us. We have not received any negative feedback thus far. Therefore, we hope for a wider screening of the film so we could gather more feedback.
Do you have a new insight to share?
The idea for this project came about after I had seen a dance film by Scottish Ballet. Ever since the pandemic hit, Scottish Ballet has diverted all of their activities to digital platforms by making films. One of these films is by Nutcracker entitled The Secret Theatre, which has also won awards. From this film, we were able to learn and take notes of how a foreign production company makes use of the digital platforms. At the onset of this project, our biggest goal was to reach as many people or art lovers as possible through the digital format, especially in Indonesia. In particular, after I was introduced to the link between arts and disabilities by British Council, our aim was to come up with projects that would encourage people to better facilitate disabled artists. Through this project, I think most or some of our audience members got to learn something from all these audio descriptions. We owe it to Marc for constantly reminding us to facilitate our disabled friends. This is one of the key insights I can share.
What has been the most exciting moment during your project?
The most interesting moment during this project was when we were brainstorming about how to make this project come alive and deliver it to the masses. This was the first time I had ever been granted with funds as an artist, so I thought we would need to come up with some sort of dance film, or something that could be showcased on digital platforms, not unlike Scottish Ballet’s work. This prompted us to seek collaborators from whom we could gain lessons.
"I told him that I was not used to working without music, that I needed music to come up with a piece. So he simply let me choose the perfect type of music for my dance, and I let him know how I was feeling and what I wanted to deliver to the audience through the film."
What were the changes or roadblocks as you go along with your grant?
As a dancer, I learned a lot about more than just creating stage choreography. Based on my past experiences, cinematography is an important aspect of a dance film. Thanks to the CTC program, I was given the opportunity to come up with a dance film and work with a composer named Bagas. I told him that I was not used to working without music, that I needed music to come up with a piece. So he simply let me choose the perfect type of music for my dance, and I let him know how I was feeling and what I wanted to deliver to the audience through the film. So the project is essentially a collaborative effort between Marc, Reynold as an editor, Bagas as a composer and I.
Take the MRT station scene, for instance. In this sequence, we do not only talk about travelling but also about how we long to go back to travelling normally. I wanted to convey acceptance of the current situation, in all of its uncertainty. More importantly, I wanted to deliver the message that it’s important to keep on walking. This is why I asked Marc to directly face the camera and smile, to convey a message of hope to the audience just as long as we keep on walking.
What are you looking forward to now?
Since 2014, our funds have been a series of one-offs. I sincerely hope for a more sustainable source of funding. In the past, we would typically finish a project then come up with a bigger one. There’s always room for improvement. A project needs not be large-scale, because it’s always possible to slot in more details and gain more lessons from a dance film production.
"We also decided to use projectors in our performance so the audience would be able to see my interactions with Marc. I did not want continuously alternating frames between Marc and I. It was technology that brought us together, so it couldn’t be just about the choreography but also how the choreography itself brought us together."
Is there any positive insights that you may not have gathered should the collaborative project was not held in an online format?
From the choreography standpoint, this piece proved to be less difficult compared to stage choreography. On stage, there’s no hiding from anything, and we would rely heavily on lighting. For this dance film, it was more about exploring the different possibilities of the cinematography. With this approach, we came to realize that we had not been paying close attention to Jakarta and its many fascinating facets that we could work with and showcase.
We also decided to use projectors in our performance so the audience would be able to see my interactions with Marc. I did not want continuously alternating frames between Marc and I. It was technology that brought us together, so it couldn’t be just about the choreography but also how the choreography itself brought us together.
Compared to a stage show, there’s a different feel to a dance film. A stage show only showcases one frame, and it’s not possible to adjust the angle; for instance, you can’t just show the dancer’s legs. This is one of the key takeaways from the experience that made me want to further explore the making of dance films.
About the Collaborators
Mariska Febriyani is a dancer, teacher, Founder & Executive Director of Ballet.id. She dedicated her life to dancing world in Indonesia. She created many collaborations and cultural exchange program between Indonesian and international dancers. She actively seeking for the support to create a program for Art and Disability.
Marc Brew an Australian/UK performer, director and choreographer. Based in Scotland, Marc’s work has been toured to critical acclaim across the world. He received a Centenary Medal for Outstanding Contribution as a dancer and choreographer and was nominated for an Isadora Duncan Award, Outstanding Achievement in Performance (Individual).