Many choreographers use spoken word to enhance their dance performances. But the Campfire Poetry Movement video series has found success with a reverse scenario: Monticello Park Productions creates short art films that often use dance to illustrate iconic poems.
Producer Max Rothman says that Campfire Poetry Movement didn't initially begin with dance, but with original animation set to voiceovers of poetry."The project was intended to focus on animated pieces that adapted and interpreted classic poetry through a more contemporary lens," he says. But Rothman soon was encouraged to incorporate dancers, whose willingness to work experimentally and intuitively lent itself to the process. And just like animation, dance was able to reflect poetry's often non-narrative themes.
When Rothman was looking for collaborators, he gravitated towards dancers who weren't bound to one particular style, those who were "passionate about the crossover between them." For instance, Amanda Castro blends abstract contemporary movement with tap in her interpretation of Robert Frost's "In White."
For Aldous Huxley's poem "Stanzas," co-producer and performer Du'Bois A'Keen, explores a vast abandoned building, propelled by his body's undulations which echo the evolving thought process of the poem's narrator.
"The performances are ultimately based on their improvised, in-the-moment reaction," says Rothman. When a dancer arrives on set, they listen to an original composition (also based on the poem) that includes the text read by a voiceover artist. "We allow them to intuitively work through the piece, and then observe them going through their initial response in order to come up with how we are going to best capture that on camera," says Rothman.
To date, the series has four dance videos—featuring Castro, A'Keen, Mikaila Ware and Paul Vickers—with plans to release new ones monthly. Be on the lookout for performances featuring artists from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, A.I.M and more. Until then, you can "watch" your poetry, penned by giants like Robert Frost and Edgar Allan Poe and reimagined in these gorgeous moving meditations.