One Last Dance - Part 3

Post date: Jun 12, 2014 3:53:06 AM

As mentioned in One Last Dance - Part 1 and Part 2 - I'm looking forward to the release this short film directed by Luke Losey about lost love reconnecting an old man with his past, reigniting his passion for life in one last tango dance. 

Here Luke discusses the cinematographic issues and challenges of filming tango dancing...

'I’ve watched hours of Tango, Tango films (check out the Tango lesson by Sally Potter or Naked Tango by Leonard Schrader) and tried to figure how to capture this amazing dance of life, death (and just about everything in between) in camera. 

A scene from Naked Tango

In an ideal world we would rehearse for days and allow the unfolding dance to inform how we shoot. In my real world we haven’t really got much time or money so we have to be crafty. Firstly in the real world Tango is improvised…(heres a bit of an explanation by Stephen and Susan Brown in italics ). 

Fluent improvisation requires a considerable mastery of tango’s vocabulary. As the dancer develops a greater knowledge of tango’s vocabulary, the ability to improvise may come naturally or it may need to developed. Improvisation does require a bit of magic, but to a great extent improvisation is explainable, analysable, and doable.

No single approach to improvisation is the truth, however. The truth is in the dancing itself. Jazz great Charlie Parker once said, “Learn the changes and then forget them.” In dancing Argentine tango, the goal is to get beyond the steps, figures, patterns, and theory to pure dancing expression.

Great improvisational tango dancers are not thinking ocho, ocho cortado, molinete with a swirl close, or sixth step of the Pugliese turn. Nor are they thinking parallel foot, double time, cross foot. The great dancers have internalised the information to the point they no longer have to think about much at all. They have learned how the steps, figures, patterns and structural elements feel on a crowded dance floor. 

Heady stuff indeed…but of course in our case, as film makers, we cant spend days improvising. we have to choreograph, we have to know the music in advance - in essence make something that happens in unreal environment into an emotional and truthful experience for the viewer and capture that in camera. We wont have much time for shooting or rehearsals - our is a small film with a low budget and even with the greatest will in the world, time is a precious commodity.

So how will we film it? 

Stedicam is the favoured method, the feeling is that the stedicam operator will be able to move around the couple as they move and start to repeat and develop looks and moves in camera through repetition - thus the camera becomes very much part of the dance and emotional interaction between dancers. It also frees us up from using track and legs, hopefully creating more useable footage to cut with and spending less time between set ups. Stedicam gives a big nod to the dreamlike quality of this scene in the way the camera floats. Im certainly considering shooting this at 33FPS which will create an almost invisible sense of softness and heightened reality. 

A scene from Carlos Saura's Tango

This brings us neatly back to choreography - this as in any film will need multiple takes, so being able to repeat motion both in camera and in the Tango itself is essential to be able to capture the performances of our two wonderful actors, for whom the experience will be physically demanding. 

                                    Herne Bay, Kent

Our goal is to devote a whole day to shooting the Tango scene (an absolute luxury) and tow for the rest of the film including a day on location in Herne Bay, where we will using much available light due to time considerations and the fact i really like it. In conclusion i think the emotional language of the dance & the intimacy of the dancers will be really well served with an organic approach to our camera movement.'

If you enjoyed this article you may enjoy: 

Tango-History and Music/Tango on the Silver Screen

Source: excerpts from Film Makerblog 4 How to Film a Tango