An essay I wrote about the short video, Hallberg At Work
Music composer Ólafur Arnald and dancer David Hallberg create a dreamlike landscape in Hallberg At Work, directed by Erik K. Yue and choreographed by Marcelo Gomes. Bustling urban music plays in a plain high-rise studio as the world famous dancer shares this intimate experience – someone who is used to being on a stage with others in a vast theater filled with people; now solitary in front of a camera taking a closer look. Through the dance between Hallberg and the lens, we are instantly magnetized and can only watch the photography follow his lead, like how a fumbling, yet talented novice would follow a master.
The camera starts at a distance and in a sweeping motion that seems almost like a dance move itself, it comes close and lingers, hanging on Hallberg’s every move. With slippery, shifting angles Hallberg’s joints seem highly lubricated, and the camera appears tentative, nearly insecure, in contrast to the dancer's smooth agility and confidence as it attempts to keep up, capture and understand this coryphée.
There appears to be natural light pouring in from outside, filling the studio with quiet dusk, which lends to the picture an affected lonesome quality and makes the dancer seem more isolated. The studio is deserted and Hallberg strives mightily to trip the light fantastic by filling the void with his body.
As the dancer relishes in his introversion, forgetting the camera in general, the energy shifts from somber and melancholy to a kind of determined force, the music and dance expressing a sense of exhaustion with the motivation to overcome.
This may be why the framing appears careless in places. I find it hard to understand why the photographer would shoot allHallberg with such sincere interest, taking the time to idle in the dancer’s pause, it’s focus suspended on the tip of a finger, or the distant look in the eyes, and yet cut off his feet. I must assume that there is intent and not dismissal; that we should see that the camera just cannot keep up with the master dancer; that in its desperate attempts to preserve a sense of complimentary pacing, it loses track altogether.
Nevertheless, I want to fall on the tip of the toes and follow a kick and the swoop of a heel, but the movements are cut off from the inattentive lens. On the other end there is seemingly endless headspace, filling the void between our dancer and the ceiling. The oddly placed negative space is distracting, as would a neophyte dancer be in the midst of an expert.
The spinning blur is effective as Hallberg is lost in the circular gesture, his arms raised in release; the loss of focus expresses this discharge of energy. As if we are caught up in the dancers relief, the camera snaps to attention when he rushes from his spot; and in a whirlwind of continuous motion the dancer unwinds, almost unsure himself of what to do next; lost in a momentary distraction, a thought we are not invited to see. The camera seems to reflect that disorientation, and in respect for Hallberg’s privacy, the lens turns away with no particular interest in anything else.
As the dancer becomes adrift, absent-minded of its partner, the camera, too, loses itself in deliverance from motion. The two separate after the climax, like intertwined bodies no longer clinging to each other; leaving the dance and lengthening the space between; the camera now in the afterglow of this captivating experience.