Some of the dancers featured in “Kreatur” come from backgrounds like Cirque du Soleil, while others have performed together for the past 20 years.
“Kreatur,” a dance production captured on film over the period of four live performances, made its American debut in The Theatre at Ace Hotel on Monday. Presented by the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA, the film features members of dance company Sasha Waltz & Guests, but does not have a stereotypically straightforward, linear plot like those found in Greek theater, said the film’s co-director Jochen Sandig. Instead, the production revolves around human interaction and society – it depicts a creature that attacks a group of characters, forcing individuals to unite and defeat a common enemy. Sandig said the team adapted the performance into a recorded film that uses specific shots and angles to mirror the full-stage feeling viewers might experience at live shows.
“In this piece with 14 dancers, there’s no hierarchy,” he said. “They’re all on the same level of importance and we tried to (capture) them (all for) as much time as possible.”
Sandig said both he and his co-director, Bettina Borgfeld, decided on close-ups of the performers during the recording process and while editing later on. Due to the film’s intense action, he said facial expressions and the occasional focus on specific characters added to the depth of emotion and tension on stage, creating a form of intimacy. Within the dystopian society, one woman gets caught in a web of manipulation woven by another woman, and the scene utilizes varying zoomed-in shots of both women’s faces as the drama of the piece unfolds and one woman begins to yell at the other.
Cláudia de Serpa Soares, a dancer in Sasha Waltz & Guests, said each individual in the company has a different background and style, which affects the improvised movements they carry out in the performance. She said the performers dance with different styles and interpretations of each idea captured in the film. When shots focus on single characters, Sandig said he chose to focus on their specialized bodily movements and emotions. De Serpa Soares said some of the company dancers have backgrounds in shows like Cirque du Soleil, while others have been with the group for around 20 years – their varied experiences bring a diverse set of individual performances to the table.
“Different cultures bring different personalities,” de Serpa Soares said. “If you have the same task of improvisation, I think every culture answers the same question in a different way.”
Though individual dancers seem important, Sasha Waltz, the leader and founder of Sasha Waltz & Guests, said their collective actions are the intended focus, as they build upon each shape and concept together. Close-up shots are only used in moderation, as the choreography often involves simultaneous moves and actions among dancers, said Waltz. Sandig said there are very few solo dances, and often there is no leader in each number, so he had to capture wider takes to involve the full show in film form.
De Serpa Soares said there is a scene in “Kreatur,” which involves each dancer coming together, uniting in tempo and proximity. Though she said not all the dancers perform the same movements, they work together as a collective. Sandig said the scene involves defeating the creature terrorizing the group, so the film does not focus in on a single dancer in the scene, but rather captures them all in the shot working together against a common enemy.
“The people are not united, but one day unite and when they resist together they are stronger than the monster,” Sandig said. “We shouldn’t lose the choreography and as much as possible show the entirety of the stage.”
Borgfeld said though the goal of the “Kreatur” film was to capture the essence of the dance performance, she and Sandig had to record both close-ups and wide takes to translate it to a 2D version. Some aspects of the character interaction were lost by close-ups, but she said a film made solely of wide shots would not represent the dance well.
“We wanted the film to not be a stage piece,” Borgfeld said. “It’s a different medium and we have to use editing to keep the strength of the piece.”