It's like a reality game show crossed with an MFA program -- to put it crassly.
Dances Made to Order, a pay-to-watch, curated, online, dance film festival, is the brainchild of Los Angeles choreographer Kingsley Irons and filmmaker Bryan Koch. The site, going national this year, features movies created by choreographers from 11 different cities, beginning with L.A. The site will post three original, five-minute movies each month.
The filmmakers gave Irons a list of inspirational creative topics, but then the audience (i.e., subscribers to www.dancesmadetoorder.com, paying $10 a month or $50 for the season) voted for their favorites. The top three themes must be used in each dance, no matter how wacky a combination. This rare interaction between audience and filmmakers is what distinguishes the site -- and makes it fun, Irons said.
The three subjects/themes/adjectives/ for the L.A. films were:
(1) Sugary/salty. (2) A film within a film. (3) Would you be better off if you hadn't...
Of course, it's up to each choreographer to interpret those themes and no two are alike, by a long shot. Here is a sneak peak at the trailers, along with synopses of the films, from Irons:
"orange thursday" moves inside a world of high heels, low falls, rolling, crushing, standing, crawling and crumbling.
NESTING is a surreal anecdote in which a pregnant woman slips between insecurity and serenity.
Two lovers battle unseen forces to keep the flame alive. Only one may survive...
The choreographers said the process was stimulating, and led them to make unexpected choices. "Without the audience, we might have made the film, but, really, the challenge is, they [the audience] have asked for this and what are we going to do?" said Carmela Hermann.
There was more than one way to insert a theme into a movie. Hassan Christopher put "sugary" into his title -- "Hey Sugar..." -- and salt made him think of popcorn, which he said ended up becoming almost a third character.
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"It [the subject] didn't really feel that imposed," said Christopher, who performed with Marissa Labog. "These are the parameters. There's a certain amount of freedom that comes with that because you're not so responsible for the idea."
Irons said she was inspired to create Dances Made to Order because she wanted dance, as an art form, to be a player in the digital landscape. Plus, the easy availability of technology has made it simple and affordable for anyone to make their own movie.
"I wanted to find a way of bringing dance to people in a more accessible way. This is a way we can investigate what's going on and create a conversation around a dance."