The making of experimental Music & Dance films

by Mariana Palacios

Mariana Palacios focuses her work on the fusion of music with other forms of art. She has composed music and performed in plays and with different ensembles, from classical to contemporary music. Her other great passion, dance, has led her to collaborate with international dance companies and dance institutions and undertake the making of, as creator, producer and performer, a trilogy about experimental dance & music short films.

I have always felt a very strong sense of right when I see artistic works in which music and dance are in perfect symbiosis. Maybe it’s because I grew up studying both music and dance and that gave me a sense of what both disciplines share. From my first ballet classes, when I was a child, I paid a lot of attention to the music involved, to the point of asking the teacher to play a specific piano recording. 

After finishing my superior studies of piano, I started to accompany ballet classes. From the first moment I was aware of how much music can influence the dancers. I also started to understand more and more the connections between my music and the movements, and this made me develop this feeling of union and symbiosis between dance and music even more. When you play for the dancers training, you spend hours and hours observing them, listening to the teachers’ indications about the dynamics, the musicality, the accents, the quality of the movements.  While I’m playing either in ballet classes or in modern dance classes, I feel not only motivated by all of the common qualities in both fields, but also just by a single movement, or by an aesthetic idea that inspires me.

Between 2014 and 2016 I studied the post-graduate programme “Musical accompaniment for dance” in Copenhagen, Denmark. For my final project I decided to challenge myself and to direct, produce, and compose the music for a dance & music short experimental film called “SERES”.  Following my guts, I started to define my thoughts about what the symbiosis and the interplay between music & dance mean to me. It was a big challenge, but it proved to be the best way for me to develop my own ideas with no limitations. The creative process, the result, and the feedback that I got from colleagues and teachers, motivated me to continue working in this direction. So, when I finished “SERES”, I decided to carry on with the project and complete it in the form of a films trilogy where I could continue researching and experimenting. In this trilogy I am set to build three types of symbiosis between music & dance: the instinctive in “SERES”, the physical in “4”, and the mental in “the third one”.

At the time of writing, my second film, “4”, just premiered and is available on my YouTube channel (as well as “SERES”). It is due to be sent to numerous film festivals interested in dance, music, and experimental short films. At the same time, I’m already working on the next and final film of the trilogy: building up the team, applying for grants and sponsors, creating the artistic idea, to hopefully complete the movie by next year.

My creative process often starts with concrete words that reflect certain feelings (from emotions to physical sensations). These words guide me throughout the rest of the process and connect me with the original idea whenever I feel lost. Then, music appears as a defining element from where I build the rest of the elements: dance, location, cinematography, lighting, costumes, make-up, etc. By carrying out several roles in my works – director, producer, composer, performer – I am able to fuse ideas between fields and interconnect them all the time. In my films I want to show the performer’s physiological and psychological reaction, both in the musicians and the dancers, and the camera allows the audience to perceive all these. I want to show the effort, the physical vibration, after every organic movement, after every gesture of both the dancer and the musician.

The first thread of my trilogy is the interplay between music and dance in a taking-and-giving equalitarian way. The second thread is to decontextualize the piano as a concert instrument and to see how it can be presented in different contexts and how this affects its projection. In order to achieve that, I place the piano in very different contexts, and use extended piano techniques. These techniques require often larger and more noticeable movements and external tools that extend beyond the keyboard to which we are all accustomed. Through modifying the piano’s sound, striking it, clamping it, filming it, and having different physical experiences with it, the instrument suddenly multiplies its expressive and aesthetic possibilities. Just standing and playing the inside of the piano gives you another attitude towards the instrument that fascinates me.

As I understand art, the fusion among disciplines and interconnections in time and space brings to me now, and I hope to many others,  a great pleasure and a better understanding of life.

Mariana Palacios’ 4
Mariana Palacios’ SERES