I did a lot of dancing in front of the camera the past two weeks.

The project is a new screendance work by Katrina McPherson and Simon Fildes ( and the other two dancers were Rosalind Masson (Scottish artist based in Berlin) and Dai Jian (Chinese artist based in New York).

We talked a lot about our experiences improvising dance in front of the camera: the problems, possibilities, tensions and potentials.

Although the screendance-making process (usually) involves dancing, it seems to be fundamentally different from choreographic processes that result in a performance work. The difference might be thought of as one of separation or isolation.

As a dancer rehearsing for a staged performance you are intimately tied to the production and presentation of that work. Your presence in rehearsal, on stage, and in the creative team remains vital (even in hierarchically organised company structures) and that vitality is experienced through responsibility, time, commitment and care.

These last two weeks, I’ve danced and danced. I’ve looked for newness, welcomed my habits, and attempted to somehow tune my attention inwards whilst remaining aware of – and open to – the way the environment influenced my experience and choices. I felt responsible for my actions, and I cared about how these actions might be viewed and experienced by others (including the camera).

But, after we completed the shoot, my involvement in the project effectively stopped. In this respect, the process of dancing  in a screendance project resembles more closely an actor in a film shoot than it does being a dancer in a traditional choreographic process.

We discussed the dancer’s degrees of separation from the outcome: the dancing we are doing is framed by the camera and operator; the footage is re-framed and processed by the editor; the post-produced video is framed by the screening environment, and then an audience is responsible for attending to this work.

The attention of the audience (whenever and wherever that might be) seems extraordinarily remote from the dancing work we were doing up in Scotland.


One thought on “separation

  1. Hi Simon
    There is an other extreme – or a very other process – that could be considered within the realm of screendance and that is work which takes place somewhere, is filmed for whatever reason and has an afterlife on screen and on the web.
    I have just had such an experience as audience, first seeing live the performance of HandsFree, a composition performed by the The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain at the BBC Proms 2012, at the Royal Albert Hall, London, on the 4th August 2012. It was a composition by Ana Meredith and was filmed, or documented, by the BBC. Now it lives on the web and for those who did not see the performance the clip on the web is ‘it’. Perhaps it is worth adding that the filming of PROMS concerts by the BBC crew is a meticulous operation with detailed scrips and live editing.
    Spending more and more time in the digital territory of the web I see this online video as part of work, particularly if we take a fluid concept of event and authorship, which meanders, somewhat like a river, through the contemporary landscape and finds different shapes in different sites. All of these events form part of the same river, so to speak, and add to it in its course.

    In this sense your dancing in Scotland is still part of the water that flows in the work, no matter how much further down from the ‘source’. Could this concept-image mediate the notion of distance or remoteness which you propose in your comment?

    PROM 29:
    Youtube site for PROMS 29, Ana Meredith:


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