Singletrack: Choreographer Nadia Oussenko

Nadia Oussenko
On directing the dance-film "Nothing to See/Hear"

Nothing to See/Hear is a love story about two women and their unraveling relationship. As the estranged couple poses in a portrait studio, each reflects on their former intimacy. The story is set to the bittersweet track A True Story of a Story of True Love by The Books.

Movements of love, lust and anger are impulsive; I couldn’t choreograph that.

When I first began research for this piece, I was interested in presenting the feelings of falling in and out of love: the heightened awareness of physical touch, the rise of endorphins, and then the anxiety one feels trying to hold onto a relationship that is on its way out. I wanted to use realistic movement rather than choreographed dance phrases. Movements of love, lust and anger are impulsive; I couldn’t choreograph that. My dancers and I worked with contact improvisation techniques to build intimacy, momentum, playfulness and tension.

My dancers continually asked me how literal I wanted them to be. Coming from a contemporary dance-for-stage background, I had an allergy to the word "literal." However, the more we worked together, the less afraid I became of telling a “literal” story through film and movement. I began directing them as actors—something I have never done before. There was definitely a learning curve on my part; for a while I felt uncomfortable asking for such intimacy from my dancers.

I wanted my viewers to experience “intimacy” as if they were one of the characters. Jump cuts separated by camera flashes are analogous to flashes of memory. Close-up camera movement echoes the frenetic energy and tension that is often present in making love and arguing.  

My dance artistry comes together in the camera. I am fascinated with movement within the camera frame, and the relationship that a moving subject has with a moving camera. I am mesmerized by jump cuts in music videos, or how a fight scene in a movie is edited to heighten the impact of a punch. I aim to represent, on film, physical sensations—the twisting, reaching, falling, dropping, bouncing, swinging and flying of movements initiated by the breath—through light, movement and texture. I want to provide a visceral experience for the viewers—drawing them into closer proximity and greater intimacy with the dancing body.

Nadia Oussenko is a Chicago-based choreographer, filmmaker, photographer and dance educator. She holds an MFA in dance at the University of Illinois, and has been combining her training in choreography and interest in film since 2004. Oussenko has had her works featured in film festivals nationally and internationally, including New York's Dance On Camera Festival, San Francisco Dance Film Festival, American Dance Festival, Chicago International Movies and Music Festival, and the United Kingdom's Moves International Festival of Movement on Screen.

Oussenko has also collaborated with a number of Chicago dancemakers by making dance films, documentaries, and video installations. Currently her movement research lies in ballroom and swing dancing, where she is learning both lead and follow roles and challenging gender constructs within these age-old art forms.  

On this track:
Nadia Oussenko, Director, Editor
Daniel Kullman, Director of Photography
Rachel Damon, Dancer
Julia
Antonick, Dancer

Soundtrack by The Books

Screenings:
BreakOut! Museum of Contemporary Art: 2013
Dance On Camera 2013 Film Festival New York
Screen Dances: Films by Nadia Oussenko, Chicago Filmmakers: 2011
Michigan Womyn's Music Festival: 2012

Nothing to See/Hear is generously supported by the Richard H. Driehaus foundation and a Community Arts Assistance Program grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

"Singletrack" is CAR's Artist Story for Chicago performers in which songwriters, bands, playwrights, actors and writers discuss the creation of a recorded work alongside audio or video clips of the performance. To submit your song for consideration, please email our researchers.

Submitted by CAR_Dance on Fri, 02/21/2014 - 10:42am