Dancing with the Stars – Alvin Ailey Dance Company | Edinburgh International Festival
Chocolate films was commissioned by the Edinburgh International Festival to create a film following three young dancers as they prepare to perform with the Alvin Ailey Dance Company.
Edinburgh and Alvin Ailey
The Edinburgh International Festival is a three week long festival of the arts that has been running since 1947. The festival has curated classical music, opera and ballet for most of its lifetime, plus contemporary dance like Alvin Ailey performs.
The Alvin Ailey Dance Company, founded in 1958, is one of the most prestigious names in contemporary dance, and has performed for over 25 million people across 71 countries.
The festival wanted to portray its connection to Edinburgh and the city’s youth. They commissioned Chocolate Films to create a captivating dance documentary, showcasing emerging Scottish dancers aged 18-25 and their journey as they train and perform with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Three dancers at the beginning of their careers were chosen – a Scottish dancer, who grew up, trained and stayed in Scotland, a Scottish talent who left Scotland to pursue a dance career, and an international talent, who came to Scotland to train and work.
From audition to performance we documented their hopes, anxieties and successes to create an intimate portrait of our three subjects, and portray the experience of performing with one of the most prestigious Dance Companies in the world.
The initial brief was fairly loose, requiring us to simply capture the process of the young dancers’ audition, rehearsal and performance, but that was developed after conversations with some of the dancers.
Eventually, three dancers were chosen to be the focus of the film, and the script was developed around them. Initial interviews with these dancers provided the backbone for the more personal moments of the film.
Stylistically, the decision was made to use a handheld camera and wide angle lenses for interviews, to give the film a more intimate, casual feel and let the audience connect with the subjects.
Some of the challenges we faced with were capturing the right moments and creating an atmosphere for our subjects in which they felt comfortable and able to share their thoughts and feelings about the process. We tackled this by using smaller crews, and chatting colloquially with our subjects to make shoots feel less like interviews and more like friendly chats.
Getting to the Pointe
Over the course of six shoots, Chocolate Films captured the dancers audition, get selected, begin their rehearsal process, and learn and evolve until they were on the Edinburgh Festival Theatre stage performing in front of almost 2,000 people.
We leaned into the fantastic backdrop of Edinburgh as a location, and asked some of our contributors to show us around their favourite parts of the city, which led to some unexpected moments and breathtaking visuals.
In post-production, there was a large amount of footage to go through, but our script and extensive pre-production, as well as regular discussions throughout production about the direction the film was going in, helped the film take shape naturally in the editing process.
Documentaries - stories based on real-life people
At Chocolate films, we have a lot of experience creating documentaries about complex subjects, often over long shooting periods, while keeping a strong, continuous vision throughout.
Our experience in these kinds of projects ranges from a series of three documentaries with the V&A on their photographic archive, to work with the Sony World Photography Awards.
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