SIMON TE

SIMON TE: ON EMBRACING THE DIALOGUES BETWEEN DANCE AND FILM

BY MARIE ALBERTO

HOW’S YOUR EMOTIONAL STATE AT THE MOMENT?
        I am really grateful to be able to dance in a safe space under this circumstance. I am in the final year at Rambert school of ballet and contemporary dance, so I am trying to get most out of my last training period. Being away from home and not being able to see my family for two years has been really tough, but knowing that they are always supporting me is making me stable in this country.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY OF DANCE?
        Dance has always posed itself as a hurdle to get over. It was an idea that I had to reach for. I’ve always wanted to perform, but my parents never really saw it as a viable career. So I had to fight to find dance in other outlets. Not having it handed to me turned out to be formative because I learned to treasure dance and other forms of art; and doing so taught me to defy anyone who prevented my exploration or expression.

FILM CAN BRING ANOTHER DIMENSION TO WHAT WE VISUALISE; ANOTHER EYE ADDED THROUGH THE CAMERA. IN THIS SENSE, WHAT CAN FILM ARTICULATE THAT DANCE CAN’T? HOW CAN FILM ELEVATE DANCE?
        There are pieces made for the scene, and others for the screen. Live or digital. I believe that not all pieces are made for the camera. The homogeneity of the elements of movement and platform is what makes the actual magic. Movement that takes advantage of it’s platform evokes stronger emotion than stage pieces recorded for screen.

Film is an assertive medium. It forces on the viewer multiple elements: time, composition, perspective, camera movement, and even structure through edit. Which means that it can show movement differently. It can focus on specific aspects of the movement, manipulate how the movement is seen, and create parallels for what the movement can relate to. It takes dance presents it not as the message or the meat of the material, but uses it as a tool that works cohesively telling stories that otherwise may not be possible on stage.

HOW DOES CHOREOGRAPHY INFLUENCE THE DIRECTION OF THE CAMERA IN YOUR WORK?
        During the times that I don’t have the luxury of a cinematographer on set, the capturing process for these pieces are usually a byproduct of the social and non-verbal energy given to me by the talents. Pieces that feature static framing i.e. CJC films resort to a discussion on what we feel the movement should be for specific scenes. It’s verbal planning and a whole lot of trust that the talent can work in the guidelines that are set for them. On the other hand, pieces that feature dynamic framing i.e. Nude Floor films require me to either have an idea of where the piece moves, or see rehearsals of how it can be framed and sometimes make adjustments to find better ways of conveying the movement. In a way, it’s a dance of different crafts.

CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE CURRENT INDEPENDENT FILM SCENE IN THE PHILIPPINES?
        I’m no authority on this subject matter. In my opinion, it’s alive but it needs to grow. A majority of dance films being produced are “video recordings of dance.” There is nothing wrong with this but there is surely another world to explore that embraces film and dance equally. I’m a firm believer in products that are greater than the sum of its parts and I think that that’s what films can do. They can take a craft, not just dance, and extrapolate what it is. A deeper understanding of basic film language and equal dialogue between choreographers/dancers and filmmakers would surely create work that beautifully compliments each other.

Lighting is an important element for the set of a film, and it seems to play a big part in both your photographs and films. How does lighting affect the outcomes of your work?

LIGHTING SEEMS TO BE AN IMPORTANT ELEMENT IN YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS AND FILMS. HOW DOES LIGHTING AFFECT THE OUTCOMES OF YOUR WORK?
        As mentioned in the previous paragraphs, the end film should be greater than the sum of its parts. All the elements in (and out) of the frame should work together to tell one thing -- and lighting is an important element for me.

        Lighting conveys motif, environment, emotion, and so much more. Light can be a character.
I’m inspired by places where the use of light is thoughtful. It generates ideas from the emotions that I feel being in a space.

        In films where we have full control of the light, it can assert itself to be more than just a fixture in the frame. It can have it’s own life or have it’s own intentions.

MAThere is a strong interest in movements in your work. How do you keep your visual language between your commercial and personal work? Do you have a sort of signature?


DO YOU HAVE A SIGNATURE IN YOUR WORK?
        Movement has been the signature in my work. My inner school of thought (or the voices inside my head haha) makes sure that the films feel like they’re dancing. I try to imbibe the work with a certain ebb and flow in cuts, in the movements of actors, sound design, and cinematography.
I love rewatching the work again and again and that’s where I know if I “dance” with what I’m watching; even on pieces that have no “dance” at all.
I like to keep it subtle as having a signature that screams “me” wouldn’t also lend itself well to branded work.

IMAGINE THIS. IF YOU HAD TO INVITE THREE DREAM GUESTS FOR BREAKFAST, LUNCH AND DINNER AND ASK QUESTIONS ON THE SUBJECTS OF DANCE OR FILMMAKING TECHNIQUES, WHO WOULD THEY BE?
        This is a hard toss-up. But in no particular order: Gaspar Noe - Climax and Enter The Void were stunners and I’d love to know what goes on in his head. Thought process, creative decisions, and his take on what movement in film should be.
        Jerome Robbins - There was something magical at how West Side Story was shot and it’s bugged me ever since I’ve seen it. The pacing in that film is something that I’d love to get a grasp on!
        Keone & Mari Madrid - I believe their use of movement is a perfect balance of technicalities in dance and it’s empathic abilities.
I’d love to know their thoughts on how they use movement to convey emotion for both stage and screen, and how they create with these in mind.
P.S. Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire too. Cause why the heck not?!

DOES EMOTION OUTWEIGH THE BEUTY OF A FILM?
        Achieving one and failing in the other is not a crime nor is succeeding in both the greatest triumph. Beauty can be conveyed in emotion, and emotion in beauty.

I think it makes better sense to question intention. It’s definitely okay to prioritize one over the other with or without knowing so because the intention of the film will make itself known when all is said and done.

And judging anything solely on aesthetic merits can be quite shallow. It’s not important to find out whether something is right or wrong but rather if something is worth making or not at all.