Bruce Wood Dance premieres new works — on film — choreographed by its dancers

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer

Bruce Wood Dance rolls out the first of three installments of new works choreographed by its own dancers this weekend. WOOD/SHOP is the result of the dance company offering its dancers the opportunity to create by offering studio space and dancers to any Bruce Wood company member interested in choreographing a new work.

“We encouraged them to play, explore and expand on any and every idea in which they were interested,” Artistic Director Joy Bollinger said.

On Sunday, Feb 28, the first round of dances on film premieres, with works by Gabriel Speiller, Megan Storey and Cole Vernon. Storey and Speiller worked with filmmakers The Digibees, while Vernon explored filmmaking on his own to create the five short dance pieces included in this first installment.

Bollinger explained why she loves the work of The Digibees so much, saying they’re helping define dance film. The works were shot in many takes and edited using lots of close-ups, including close-ups of dancers’ faces, something an audience can’t see in such detail in a theater.

Speiller’s work deals with grief, and Storey’s is about loss. But neither is particularly about loss as a result of the pandemic, Bollinger said. But after rethinking for a minute, she noted that the pandemic has had an effect on everything we’ve done for the past year.

“They’re stories of their own life, not COVID,” she said. Then again, modern dance that be interpreted however the viewer sees it, so that may be your take away. And a viewer might just get swept up in the dance.

Storey’s piece uses the entire ensemble and should be an exciting premiere. Vernon put together five short videos that will air and did the filming and editing himself.
“Cole had just dipped his toes into film last spring,” Bruce Wood Executive Director Gail Halperin said. “He used an iPhone.” She said his hi-tech gear included a magnet to attach his phone to his car as he filmed himself.

So when this opportunity came along, Vernon jumped at it, using the additional resources offered by Bruce Wood Dance to expand his work. He hopes to use his films to get grants to use toward even more ambitious dance film.

Halperin described Vernon’s videos as “absolutely hilarious” pieces done in vaudevillian style. Some are in color. Others are black and white.
While Storey’s choreography took weeks of rehearsal, more of Vernon’s time was spent in the editing process.

Bollinger called this a first step project for these dancers and emerging choreographers. And, she added, “We want to keep evolving.”

Parts two and three of WOOD/SHOP, featuring work by four other dancer-choreographers, will be featured in April and May. All will be on Zoom webinar so the audience will be able to interact with the dancers and choreographers after each dance film.

And, Halperin said, she is delighted to announce that with Moody Performance Hall tentatively set to reopen in April, Bruce Wood Dance is preparing for a live, indoor, hour-long, no-intermission performance in June. Dates aren’t finalized.

The three WOOD/SHOP presentations will be presented as a Zoom webinar on Sunday, Feb. 28 from 4-5 p.m. The performances are free but register for Zoom room admission at