Posted by Rebecca King on 05.21.2014
I am pleased to introduce former Miami City Ballet Dancer, Ezra Hurwitz as a continued part of my series, “Dancer’s Career Transition.” After retiring from ballet last year, Mr. Hurwitz is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree at Columbia University. As part of his higher education, he has been taking a film production course at the New School. I would like to introduce you to his first film, “The Dancer” featuring Gonzalo Garcia. This short film follows Garcia through his morning routine as a Principal Dancer with New York City Ballet. I spoke with Mr. Hurwitz about his studies, inspirations, and what’s next.
Rebecca King: Tell us a little bit about how you decided to pursue film.
Ezra Hurwitz: In many ways, filmmaking felt like a natural progression of my interests. While dancing with the Miami City Ballet, I worked alongside the company’s photographer on a book series. The projects highlighted several of Miami City Ballet’s greatest works from the studio to the stage. With world premieres by Alexei Ratmansky and Liam Scarlett, we were actually able to document their entire creative processes from conception. All of the books tell a story in a creative and visually captivating way, and I think that’s what I really fell in love with. Moreover, for me, the medium of photography felt incredibly rewarding in a more tangible way than dancing had. Since, retiring from the Miami City Ballet, I’ve begun working with the New York City Ballet on their video content, namely, small documentary pieces on the company’s repertory. While the projects and processes are remarkably similar to the work I did Miami, the medium of film has been a whole new experience. To me, each frame of a film has the potential to be a great photograph. However, the result of those frames coming together to create a moving picture somehow has the potential to be so much more. In film, the possibilities feel endless. The only limitations for me have been that I don’t possess enough technique or knowledge of the art form. Right now I’m pursuing a BA at Columbia University. I did, however, just take my first film production course at the New School this spring. It was an amazing class and it gave me the confidence and tools to attempt my own first film, “The Dancer”, featuring Gonzalo Garcia.
RK: What inspired you to create this video?
EH: I’ve been a dancer my entire life. It’s something that defines me even now that I’m no longer dancing professionally. When I thought about what kind of story I wanted to tell I immediately gravitated towards that of dancer. It is what I know and love. I also knew that I didn’t want to tackle the challenge of recording audio, so the story would have to be told strictly visually; and visually speaking, dance is incredibly captivating on film. I didn’t want to bite off more than I could chew, so I decided to focus on a small window in time, like a snapshot of a dancer’s everyday life without explanation. I liked the idea of watching a dancer in what feels to them like their mundane human routine, but to most looks incredibly beautiful.
RK: This was your first big project in school as I understand. What did you hope that viewers would take away from your piece?
EH: I honestly didn’t think much about what I wanted the viewer to take away from the piece. I think I just wanted them to observe. I really didn’t want to suggest anything or explain anything. The point was not to communicate that “the life of a dancer is so hard”, or “dancing takes so much dedication”. I just wanted to show a dancer in a way that felt “normal” and human. I guess, I also wanted to juxtapose something normal with something beautiful, in other words, show someone’s normal morning in a beautiful way. That being said, it didn’t have to be a dancer. Initially, I just wanted to show my mother on her morning subway commute to work, watching her put on her make up on the rattling train.
RK: What is the process for a project like this?
EH: The process behind a piece like this can be anywhere from nothing to incredibly intricate. In all honesty, there was no preparation for this piece. I settled on
the concept, got the camera and monopod and then had hours that day to shoot. Gonzalo was leaving for Spain later that evening. I hadn’t really thought through the sequence or what I wanted the final product to be like exactly. In terms of shooting, I literally just watched him and filmed him in real time. Very little was done in repetition or staged. We had the studio available to us for an hour after which a rehearsal was scheduled to start. That’s why, as the film progresses, people start trickling into the frame. The biggest challenge was making his final dance sequence feel like an actual sequence of choreography. I had really only filmed him in 5-10 second clips and most of the steps were not ones that actually linked together. The lack of foresight and planning made the editing challenging, but it proved to be a good exercise for me. I think the outcome still has a fluidity and ease to it that I’m happy with.
RK: What projects are you working on now?
EH: Currently, I’m working on my second film. It’s a project I’m really excited about and features New York City Ballet principal dancer, Sara Mearns. While it has similarities to my first piece, but it has proven far more complex. It was done in collaboration with some great artists including choreographer Andrea Schermoly, Composer Aaron Severini and Photographer Erin Baiano. I’m still putting the final pieces together but I think it’ll turn out well.
Make sure to follow Ezra on Vimeo and you will be the first to see his next work!