These College Dancers Worked With Solange on the Project of A Lifetime

April 23, 2018

While Solange was busy helping big sis Beyoncé give Coachella its best performances of all time, an equally compelling project was quietly circulating on Instagram:

Solange directed this stunning interdisciplinary film, called Metatronia (Metatron’s Cube), which features choreography by Gerard & Kelly and was created with Los Angeles’ Hammer Museum as well as the clothing brand Uniqlo.

But of the almost 70 dancers in the film, the vast majority of them are college students. How’d they get so lucky?

Most of the students attend California Institute of the Arts and worked with the choreographers for a workshop earlier in the semester. Students from University of Southern California, Loyola Marymount University, University of California Los Angeles and the Alonzo King LINES Ballet program at Dominican University of California were also hired through an audition, along with some professional dancers.

We talked to Kevin Zambrano, a CalArts student who took part in the project, about the experience:

On the audition process:

The CalArts dancers were initially shocked that Gerard & Kelly were choreographing for such a high-profile artist—and even more shocked that they were being invited to participate. “To even be able to attend the audition was really special,” says Zambrano.

Though the students were already familiar with the choreographers’ work, Zambrano says the audition wasn’t about getting phrases exactly right or being adept at any particular style. “They weren’t looking for if you had technique, but dancers who were driven and had the ability to perform their truth,” he says.

On working with Solange:

Zambrano says that Solange was involved every step of the way—from helping select the dancers to choreographing them spatially after Gerard & Kelly taught them phrases. “Her eye for dance and architecture is kinda ridiculous,” he says.

She also cultivated a relaxed, down-to-earth vibe in rehearsals. “There were ups and downs in trying to complete the video, but having Solange treat you as if you’re one of her own made it not stressful,” Zambrano says.

On the final product:

Many of the reactions to the film have been about how calming and peaceful it is, says Zambrano. That was no accident: “Uniqlo is about inner peace, and we had to practice that as we performed because we sometimes we looked too angry or too happy,” he says.

But the film makes an implicit political statement, too. “The immense amount of bodies, especially people of color and different sexual orientations and ages, speaks to the now,” says Zambrano. “Solange spoke about how minimalism is dominated by the heterosexual white male and how her doing this was truly historical. What can we say with our bodies within this space that is not seen as ours?”