The Creative Process

How Dancer-Turned-Filmmaker Ezra Hurwitz Makes Dance Go Viral

Ezra Hurwitz has created a successful second career in film. Photo by Erin Baiano, courtesy Hurwitz.

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."

The Conversation
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