When it became clear that the current health crisis would prevent OZ Arts Nashville from hosting live performances, artist Jana Harper got creative by reimagining her piece, This Holding: Traces of Contact, as a video project filmed in locations around Nashville.
Now, the timely and unique dance film is set to premiere on May 29 at 8 p.m. across its website and social platforms.
“Reframing the project has allowed us to address the impact of the pandemic on the fabric of all our lives,” Harper says.
The subtitle, Traces of Contact, reflects the person-to-person tracking method made necessary by the Covid-19 pandemic, the transition from live performance to film, and the effect of physical contact limitations on movement-based work.
“As you can imagine, the initial news about cancelling the live performance was quite devastating,” she says, “but I am truly grateful to OZ Arts and our funders for both allowing and encouraging us to pivot towards film.”
The piece examines individual and collective burdens and what it means to feel connected to something larger than ourselves—especially when apart. All videos were shot at outdoor locations in Nashville during isolation and with requisite space between dancers. So, if at any point the dancers touch, they are performers who have been quarantined together.
“The conditions were challenging, but the restrictions of social and physical distance also became tremendous sources of creativity and insight,” Harper says.
Harper conceived and directed he resulting multi-disciplinary performance film in collaboration with choreographer Rebecca Steinberg, composer/musician Moksha Sommer, and filmmaker Sam Boyette, using physical movement to explore personal empathy and the shared human experience. It also features dancers associated with contemporary dance company New Dialect.
More than a year in the making, Harper worked with dozens of participants in a series of workshops and improvisations about themes that are even more relevant during a pandemic — timely issues about the relationship of an individual to the larger community and the responsibilities and burdens we share during difficult times.
“The work has taken on new meaning post-tornado and with the physical, social, and work restrictions in place for many of us,” says Mark Murphy, OZ Arts Executive and Artistic Director. “I hope it inspires viewers and reminds us of our shared values, and the resilience and spirit of community and humanity that carries people through difficult times. I’m thrilled by the innovative approach and beautiful vision these Nashville-based artists have implemented to make this performance film accessible to audiences around the globe.”
The film is free to view with an optional “pay-what-you-can” donation, and viewers are encouraged to RSVP in advance to receive exclusive behind-the-scenes content and event reminders. Viewers who watch the film premiere will have the opportunity to participate in a live Q&A with the artists.