Tuesday, June 23, 2009

glitter and be gay!

"Glitter and be gay" is one of the songs from Candide, an operetta I have always loved. No title could be more fitting for Wednesday's shoot. Besides being an apt description of the day's shooting sequence, it struck a note close to home. Moze and I have a dear childhood friend whom we lost a few years ago. His birthday was Wednesday. It was a perfect day therefore, to be doing a wonderful glittering sequence in which Nureyev is seen figuratively encountering the great artists and celebrities of his time. John would have loved it! As Nico/Nureyev partnered and pirouetted the likes of Jackie Kennedy, Twiggy, Martha Graham, Andy Warhol and the ever-present Fonteyn, I could just see John grinning wherever he is. In this picture at right, Nureyev twirls Fonteyn, while Twiggy (Kristy Kennedy) , Warhol (Derek Sangster) and Jackie Kennedy (Lindsay Sutton) look on.

As one of the largest and most complex sequences, featuring a dozen ensemble members, the celebrities dance sequence breaks out into many small vignette phrases in which Nureyev is matched with one of the notables he knew during the time of his early fame. As steadicam operator, Jason (see Tuesday's post) had to weave in and among them, again, like the jimmyjib, looking for all the world like a dancer himself.

I was sorry to have missed the morning session that included some more of the trio work between Bruhn (Etienne Lavigne), Nureyev and Fonteyn. I have seen so little of Greta on this shoot, a sad result of my own scheduling challenges. It was a family day on set, however, as my own mother, and Moze's mother and other family friends sat in on the action. My mother later wrote me that the trio work in the morning had been "lovely - lovely dancing, lovely people". A sad casualty of my living an hour and a half away!

Luckily, the afternoon session I did attend proved to be equally absorbing. And speaking of Greta, I caught a bit of the interview she did onset with ETalk Daily, who had visited during rehearsal and were now back to see how the shoot was going. Greta is a wonderfully articulate spokesperson for this film - I wished I was writing down what she said! She captured the spirit of it perfectly.

During the time between set changes (to allow once again for the in-the-round experience) I had a chance to talk more closely with some of the technical people surrounding me. One of these was Ramona Diaconescu, who is doing Continuity for the film. Shyly, she confessed to me that she had never worked on a dance film before. However, now she is intrigued - and says she would probably go to see a dance concernt now whereas before she might not have. The continuity person keeps track of how each take went, which ones contained problems (something on camera that shouldn't be for instance), and which takes were in fact keepers. Like me, she was constantly running around taking pictures - though hers were at much closer range. I am hoping to get some of her shots to put up here and on the Facebook page.

It was also lovely to have some conversation with designer Astrid Janson. Astrid has just returned from walking the famous pilgrimage route El Camino in Spain. By coincidence, visiting the set that day was a friend of Moze who is also planning to make the same trip sometime in the near future. Before they chatted, Astrid told me some of her own incredible stories of having worked at the Paris Opera Ballet in the 90s, just after Nureyev (who had been its last Artistic Director) had died. The impact on the company was still being felt even then, and even then the stories about him were long and legendary. Astrid (assisted by Sarah Armstrong) has done some gorgeous work on this project, allowing for the evocation of worlds geographically as far apart as Paris and New York!

Every day on the call sheet, as I survey the list of people on set, "99" appears in every slot - the code for Matjash Mrozewski, Nureyev's indefatiguable choreographer. Mat has had to create dance that is both narrative and expressive, bursting with life and colour, and quietly intimate. He has a gift for bringing out the small gesture or flourish that represents a character well. In today's sequence, as the various glitterati swirled and twirled around Nureyev, each appeared to have his or her own signature move, whether it was the overhead whirling dervish Warhol (with a camera) or the deep modern moves of Martha Graham. In the middle of it all, Nureyev and Fonteyn shared a seemingly coy snap of fingers followed by an embrace and lift that was both playful and romantic at the same time. As a brief piece of business in a parade of characters, it catches the eye. Thanks to Matjash for such memorable work!

By Wednesday evening, the shoot involving the dancers will have come to an end and there remains only one more day of "interview" sequences which will help to anchor and frame the dance narrative aspect of the movie. I felt sad, knowing I would not be able to attend on Wednesday, looking around and already saying goodbye to them in my mind. As I was taking stock of the group, I noticed that Nico's beautiful fiance, Wynn had slid on to the set and taken a seat in the back to watch. I was reminded of a moment earlier in the day when, strolling to the craft room in the dark of the set, I passed a shadow that turned out to be Nico, taking a well-earned break, lying on a pile of dancers' mats. Completely unobserved. Far from the constant spotlight that Nureyev found himself in, being a young celebrity these days is perhaps more of a quiet thing. I hope so.

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