Tuesday, November 19, 2013

John Heino Part II: On Zenith City Lines

EN: What is Zenith City Lines about? What will people experience from this show?

JH: Zenith City Lines is our take on Ballerina Projects done in cities around the world. The idea is to photograph dancers in the city's iconic locations. We took it a step further, creating a dance performance that incorporates the photographs.

The dance performance and photo exhibition blend the lines of the city and the lines of the dancers (hence the title). Our audience will get a multi-faceted look at the visual delights of our area. With this iconic beauty as a backdrop, choreographer Megan Abel Schmitt and our dancers, Nicole Sippola, Lindsey Wittkop, Jesse Davis and Sze Leung created stunning poses and dance numbers that highlight the human form. When that all works together, it's pretty powerful.

EN: Zenith City Lines was two years in development. Where did the idea originate?

JH: I had done a photo exhibition in collaboration with Megan's "Radiance" show at the Playground. I really enjoyed that experience it jacked my appetite to do more with dancers. Megan and Nicole introduced me to the Ballerina Projects and I immediately saw the potential for a similar take on Duluth. Really, who has a more scenic venue that we do? It was frighteningly easy to talk each other into this mega project.

EN: What have been some of the challenges of sticking with it and seeing it through?

JH: Speaking for myself, I totally underestimated the time commitment--shooting, processing, editing, writing and recording music and putting it all together. Don't get me wrong, I love this project, but I also have an innate drive to get out and shoot--often. I've been spending way more time at the computer than I normally would, so I'm looking forward to reclaiming some shooting time.

For all of us, it was gut-check time when we were turned down for grants--twice. We adjusted by cutting back on some planned costs, self-funding the rest and hoping we sell enough tickets to at least cover our out-of-pocket investment. I don't know if that will happen, but I'm proud of the tenacity of my comrades and excited to see it all come together November 22.

Also, midway through the project, Megan moved to Florida. So that required some ingenuity, video technology and social media. I've been fascinated by the way Megan and Nicole have used video segments to put the show together with the dancers.

What follows here is the press release announcing this weekend's event:

Duluth, MN—From a frigid March morning at Canal Park to the autumn glow of Enger Park, the intrepid dancers of Phoenix Productions and photographer John Heino conducted photo shoots across Duluth over two years. The fruits of their labor will be presented November 22-24 at the Underground in a dance and photography show blending lines of the city and the dancers.

"Zenith City Lines is our take on ballerina projects done in cities around the world,” says Heino. "The idea is to photograph dancers in the city's iconic locations. We took it a step further, creating a dance performance that incorporates the photographs."

Duluth dancers Nicole Sippola, Lindsey Wittkop, Jesse Davis and Sze Leung are featured in the dance performance and the photo exhibition.

"Some shoots were extremely challenging," said Sippola. "We would get so cold. We'd pose until our bodies couldn't take it anymore, then rush back to our snow pants and winter jackets, ripping off our pointe shoes in exchange for winter boots and wool socks. We'd each take our turn in front of the camera, then undo our layers and go at it again."

Midway through the collaboration, choreographer Megan Abel Schmitt moved to Florida, requiring some ingenuity, video technology and social media.

"Being sent the music and then choreographing while imagining the dancers and performance space was probably my biggest challenge ever," says Schmitt. "I've never been more excited to unveil a project. I hope the audience enjoys experiencing it as much as we enjoyed creating it."

In addition to the photography, Heino wrote and recorded twelve songs for the show and edited the images in music videos that will be projected on a large screen behind the dancers.

The photo exhibition and reception start at 6:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, with the dance performance starting at 7:30 p.m. For Sunday's matinee performance, the photo exhibition and reception begin at 2 p.m. and the dance performance at 3 p.m.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. Advance tickets are available through the Duluth Playhouse, (218) 733-7555.

Here's a link to a foretaste of this week's performance.

And a few more images through the lens of John Heino....

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