Lights! Camera! Kinesis!

New Trier’s modern dance company professionally records and edits their 2021 performance to make Kinesis The Movie


Christopher Rutt

On stage, cameraman Guy Rhodes navigates through a dance choreographed by senior Madeline Brown offering viewers an up-close perspective unique to that of a typical dance performance.

Under normal circumstances, Kinesis would hold a large live performance with a large audience. However, this year, the group was only allowed to have a condensed performance with about 20 guests. So, to reach those who could not attend, the group decided to film its show and put it on the internet.

The performance features a variety of student-choreographed contemporary dances with jazz and ballet elements as well as a dance from guest-choreographer and New Trier alumni Stephen Blood.

Kinesis artistic director Johannah Wininsky made sure the choreography at this year’s performance would not have any physical contact between dancers due to COVID.

“Usually, our dance performances, especially Kinesis, involve a lot of dancers weight-sharing, partnering, and being very close to one another,” said Wininsky, “We did not do any of that so that changed how the choreographers approached creating their work.”

Senior and choreographer Bridget Hogan explained how she achieved connection in her choreography without physical contact.

It was really fun to be able to experiment with connecting the dancers through eye-contact or like similar movements on opposite ends of the stage,”

— Hogan

“It was really fun to be able to experiment with connecting the dancers through eye-contact or like similar movements on opposite ends of the stage,” said Hogan.

In her choreography, senior and fellow choreographer Allison O’Bara went a step further and embraced the fact that her dance was going to be filmed.

“The way I choreographed it kind of made it so that the dance could be viewed from any different angle…and there wasn’t necessarily a front for each section of the dance,” said O’Bara.

Despite the unprecedented circumstances, the choreographers really stepped up.

“[The choreographers] thought outside of the box in this new realm of working together in a pandemic, just such creative problem solvers,” said Wininsky.

Junior Lauren Van Neck described the intensive filming process in which each dance was performed four times across two days.

“The first day we filmed wide shots of the dance with a camera in the audience. So, we did the dance twice in a row to get one farther away and one closer shot. Then, the next day, we also did each dance twice in a row and had the camera walking around the stage,” said Van Neck.

There was also a GoPro camera hanging above the stage for an aerial view of the dances.

Kinesis artistic director Christopher Rutt felt that cameraman Guy Rhodes really rose to the occasion with how he went about recording the performance.

“He walked along the stage and among the dancers and created a really unique experience for the audience,” said Rutt.

In fact, Wininsky explained how he even attended rehearsals of the show.

“He studied the dances so when he came in to shoot it he knew exactly what he wanted to do and how to not be in the way of the dancers,” said Wininsky. 

The variety of perspectives employed by Rhodes created a distinctive dance performance.

“It kind of gave us more options in terms of how we showcased the show because normally if it’s an in-person show the audience would just be seeing straight on a frontal view,” said O’Bara.

Yet, filming the performance rather than a live show brought its own new difficulties

“The dancers weren’t going to be getting the energy from a large house, the energy that any performer knows when you feel that kind of audience in attendance, and giving back energy,” said Rutt.

Under these unique circumstances, dancers felt they had to dance expressively and forge a connection with the camera, both of which are unfamiliar territory.

“We were really able to focus more so on what was happening on stage and connecting with each other and making that very clear through a video,” said Hogan, “It almost motivated us to show our connection in a bigger way.”

Throughout the entirety of the season with all COVID-related obstacles, the character and work ethic of the group was really put on display.

“We were in-person rehearsals, then we had to do a couple Zoom rehearsals, just changing so rapidly, and they came in every single day with an attitude of let’s get down to business,” said Wininsky.

“We all looked at Kinesis as a way to escape from the realities of the outside world and just have like a safe spot to go after school and just really have fun and let go,” said O’Bara.

Group members said the season was a fulfilling and enjoyable experience.

“I’m really proud of how the film turned out,” said Van Neck, “I don’t think any of us were expecting the quality…and for it to look as good as it did.”

Kinesis The Movie can be found on the school website on the Dance Division section of the Kinetic Wellness page.