How Dancer-Turned-Filmmaker Ezra Hurwitz Makes Dance Go Viral
Ezra Hurwitz's dance trailers are tailor-made for going viral. His fast-moving shorts highlight not only the glamour of dance but also the grit, with a stylish Millennial sensibility.
The former Miami City Ballet corps member has been tapped by everyone from San Francisco Ballet to The Kennedy Center to Broadway's Chicago. He's also done commercials for non-dance companies like WeWork and Opening Ceremony, and collaborated on a music video for The National with Justin Peck. But no matter who's in front of the camera, his dancer's eye is always behind it.
He recently spoke to Dance Magazine about his unique creative process.
He Starts Each Project By Asking, Why Is This On Film?
"When I'm filming dance, the question for me is always, How can video add a new dimension to this dance as opposed to just holding a lens up to it?"
Storytelling is Key For Grabbing Viewers
"In concert dance, we're used to the luxury of viewers already being in seats and engaged. But when you're putting video on the internet, the attention span is very different. You have to find ways to keep engaging the viewer."
"Even if it's 30 seconds long, I'm always trying to figure out what the narrative hook is. Everyone likes to invest in a story, even subconsciously.
"With my upbringing at the School of American Ballet, and my fluency with Balanchine and Robbins, I naturally take a sort of neoclassical approach to storytelling. It doesn't need to be a classic narrative to have a story."
"Because I'm so used to dance, as a filmmaker I can easily engage in physically driven narrative. I don't need dialogue."
He Does His Own Kind Of Choreography Behind The Camera
"I work with a choreographer on things like how a phrase should be framed, what vantage point would be most unpredictable, whether we want to accentuate the movement by moving the camera or is that actually going to take away from the excitement of the movement."
He Can Stretch A Budget Like A Dancer
"I put 99 percent of my budget into one or two days of production. Which means I can't lean on a ton of other resources. So for now it's me and Google figuring out effects like how to make it rain inside of a theater."
He Still Aspires To Be Peter Boal
"All my work—whether dance or non-dance content—feels fluid in a way. I was like that as a dancer, too. I always tried to be Peter Boal."
Being a Dancer Can Be Handy—And a Handicap
"My familiarity with dance allows me to make sure the content is enjoyed both by laymen who might not know if the positions are right and the dancers who'll cringe if they're not. But like any perfectionist, sometimes that's too narrow a perspective to have; technique is not always as important as you think it is."
So, What's Next?
"I have a twofold dream: I want to do a feature film, but first, a Target commercial."
- Ezra Hurwitz - Producer & Director at Phase II Creative - Phase II ... ›
- Now More Than Ever: A Film by Ezra Hurwitz (Choreography by ... ›
- Ezra Hurwitz (@ezrahurwitz) • Instagram photos and videos ›
Thirty years ago, U.S. Joint Resolution 131, introduced by congressman John Conyers (D-MI) and Senator Alphonse D'Amato (R-NY), and signed into law by President G. W. Bush declared:
"Whereas the multifaceted art form of tap dancing is a manifestation of the cultural heritage of our Nation...
Whereas tap dancing is a joyful and powerful aesthetic force providing a source of enjoyment and an outlet for creativity and self-expression...
Whereas it is in the best interest of the people of our Nation to preserve, promote, and celebrate this uniquely American art form...
Whereas May 25, as the anniversary of the birth of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson is an appropriate day on which to refocus the attention of the Nation on American tap dancing: Now therefore, be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress that May 25, 1989, be designated "National Tap Dance Day."
Happy National Tap Dance Day!
The way we create and consume dance is changing every day. Now more than ever, the field demands that dancers not only be able to perform at the highest level, but also collaborate with choreographers to bring their artistic visions to life. Dancers who miss out on choreographic training may very well find themselves at a disadvantage as they try to launch their careers.
Over the past 15 years, Gesel Mason has asked 11 choreographers—including legends like Donald McKayle, David Roussève, Bebe Miller, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Rennie Harris and Kyle Abraham—to teach her a solo. She's performed up to seven of them in one evening for her project No Boundaries: Dancing the Visions of Contemporary Black Choreographers.
Now, Mason is repackaging the essence of this work into a digital archive. This online offering shares the knowledge of a few with many, and considers how dance can live on as those who create it get older.
When a musical prepares to make the transfer from a smaller, lesser-known venue to Broadway (where theaters hold 500-plus seats), often there's a collective intake of breath from all involved. After all, a bigger house means more tickets to sell in order to stay in the black, and sometimes shows with even the most tenacious fan bases can't quite navigate such a jump. But what about the transfer from stage…to screen? Is Broadway ready to be consumed from the comfort of your couch?
It's not often that a promising choreographer gets to stage work in a world-class theater, on a skillfully-curated program with professional dancers, and with the possibility of winning a substantial cash prize. But at the McCallum Theatre's Palm Desert Choreography Festival, that's been the status quo for over twenty years.
Since Shea New, the festival's artistic director, founded the festival in 1998, she's worked tirelessly with McCallum's director of education and festival producer, Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, and stage manager and festival production manager Joanna Fookes to build a festival that nurtures choreographers, highlights high quality work, powerfully engages the local community and cultivates an audience base for dance in the Coachella Valley. The trio is backed by a strong team of professionals at McCallum and the brilliant volunteers from the local and national level who serve as adjudicators.
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Daphne Lee was dancing with Collage Dance Collective in Memphis, Tennessee, when she received two difficult pieces of news: Her mother had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma cancer, and her father had Parkinson's disease, affecting his mobility and mental faculties.
The New Jersey native's reaction: "I really need to move home."
Summer is almost upon us, and whether you're a student about to go on break or a pro counting the days till layoff, don't forget that with warm weather comes a very serious responsibility: To maintain your cross-training routine on your own.
Those of us who've tried to craft our own cross-training routine know it's easier said than done. So we consulted the stars, and rounded up the best options for every zodiac sign. (TBH, you should probably consult an expert, too—we'd recommend a physical therapist, a personal trainer or your teacher.)
It's become second nature in dance studios: The instant anyone gets hurt, our immediate reaction is to run to the freezer to grab some ice (or, more realistically, a package of frozen peas).
But as routine as icing our injuries might be, the benefits are not actually backed up by scientific studies. And some experts now believe icing could even disrupt the healing process.
I'm a contemporary dancer, and I'm nervous about trying to get pregnant since I can't predict if it might happen during the middle of the season. We have a union contract that is supposed to protect us. But I'm scared because several of my colleagues' contracts weren't renewed for no particular reason. Having a big belly could be a big reason to get rid of me!
—Andrea, New York, NY
When the going gets tough, the tough start dancing: That's the premise behind "Dance of Urgency," a recently opened exhibit at MuseumsQuartier Vienna that features photos, video and other documentary material relating to the use of dance as political protest or social uprising.
The groups featured in the show, largely based around clubs and electronic dance music scenes, span the globe and respond to a variety of issues—from inequality and social stratification to racial divides to crackdowns on club culture itself.
Last night, longtime theater legends (including Chita Rivera herself!) as well as rising stars gathered to celebrate one of Broadway's danciest events: the third annual Chita Rivera Awards.
The evening paid tribute to this season's dancer standouts, fabulous ensembles, and jaw-dropping choreography—on- and off-Broadway and on film.
As usual, several of our faves made it into the mix. (With such a fabulous talent pool of nominees to choose from, we're glad that ties were allowed.) Here are the highlights from the winner's list:
When you're a foreign dancer, gaining legal rights to work in the U.S. is a challenging process. It's especially difficult if you're petitioning to work as a freelance dancer without an agent or company sponsorship.
The process requires professional muscle along with plenty of resources and heart. "There's a real misnomer that it's super easy," says Neena Dutta, immigration attorney and president of Dutta Law Firm. "People need to educate themselves and talk to a professional."
Here are four things every foreign dancer who wants to work in the U.S. needs to know to build a freelance dance career here.
What does it take to "make it" in dance? It's no secret that turning this passion into a profession can be a struggle. In such a competitive field, talent alone isn't enough to get you where you want to be.
So what kinds of steps can you take to become successful? Dance Magazine spoke to 33 people from all corners of the industry to get their advice on the lessons that could help us all, no matter where we are in our careers.