The Bus Swims Too!

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During the summer of 2014, SF Ballet Choreographer in Residence Yuri Possokhov and Composer Shinji Eshima asked me to create the animation for Yuri’s new ballet, Swimmer. Yuri’s intricate vision for the piece was a tall order for the multi-media projections and animations. For starters, the ballet is set in the 1960’s and Yuri had a number of specific iconic American images, stories, and movies he wanted to reference throughout the piece. He also had a clear sense of the expressive arc of the ballet—from light and comic at the beginning, to more serious and realistic at the end.

All of these components added up to an eclectic mix of color, style, and images that we set out to incorporate into the overall production. Animation is a series of moving images, and my goal was to enhance the ballet, not to distract from it. The score, choreography, and sets were mostly done by the end of November, and at that point, we started “swimming” as fast as we could.

Taras Domitro in Possokhov's Swimmer. (© Erik Tomasson)

Taras Domitro in Possokhov’s Swimmer. (© Erik Tomasson)

As the video designer, “swimming” for me meant dreaming up and sketching ideas by the hundreds and working with the animators (with a big shout-out to Brandon McFarland at Photon Creative) to put those ideas on screen and make them move.

Animation is painstaking work, and its hard to know what something will look and feel like until to you see it. For this 41-minute ballet, we estimate that we made about 50 hours of video using six different software programs, including Cinema 3D, for the various scenes. We shot live video of Yuri in a swimming pool twice, and dancers in a green screen studio twice. We made—and then jettisoned—loads of ideas, finding our collective way forward to realizing Yuri’s vision.

Nikita Dimitrievsky, part of the Swimmer team, taking photos in the pool.

Nikita Dimitrievsky, part of the Swimmer team, taking photos in the pool.

 

As of this writing, we are just a stroke away, with animations that will project on five different surfaces throughout the ballet, three of which move. It has been delightful to experience Yuri’s expansive imagination, his sense of humor, and to have a behind-the-scenes spot from which to watch him create movement that so remarkably expresses the time period, the story, and the emotion at the heart of his ballet.

It’s been quite the deep water swim for all of us on the video side, and without giving too much away, I will just say, yes, the bus swims too.

 

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13 Comments

  1. avatar Moira
    Posted April 11, 2015 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    We were blown away last night! This was perhaps the best thing we’ve seen at SF Ballet – and we’ve seen a lot of performances over the last several years. Time permitting, we might try to see it again while it’s still there. Thrilled to be there for the premiere.

  2. avatar Bob
    Posted April 13, 2015 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    “Swimmer” is truly amazing. What a package of visual delights, fresh choreography, athletic dancing, and musical virtuosity! Outstanding in every way… Kudos to everyone involved in this wonderful collaboration!

  3. avatar Michel
    Posted April 18, 2015 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    Wow! I am still grinning with delight after experiencing “Swimmer” this week. Yuri Possokhov, Shinji Eshima, Helgi Tomasson, the talented designers and benefactors of the San Francisco Ballet are blazing a trail for ballet into the 21st Century. It is exciting to be part of an audience sharing a state of discovery and ecstasy. What a wonderful delivery on a promise for ballet lovers, SF Ballet, SF community, and the world of dance. Bravo! I hope that “Swimmer” will be on the program for next season for those unfortunates who missed it this time around.

  4. avatar Bill
    Posted April 19, 2015 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Splendid performance by animators, videographers, musicians and performers to make this very special ballet come to life. How special to have seen it live.

  5. avatar jenya
    Posted April 21, 2015 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    I was so impressed with “Swimmer” is was the best of dance, digital art, video, design etc. Love the story and the implementation! Thank you! Hope to see Swimmer again in coming years (I am a full season subscriber)

  6. avatar Sarah Arnold
    Posted April 22, 2015 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    “Swimmer” may be my new Favorite. We saw it last night– standing ovation, moments of complete silence and rapture in the audience and stellar dancing! Yuri Possokhov delivers. Thank you SFB! ‪#‎SanFranciscoBallet‬#Yuripossokov#ballet#tutuschic#ballet#choreography#technologyballets

  7. avatar B. Jane Hawthorne
    Posted April 26, 2015 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Possibly the most memorable and captivating experience i have had with the SF Ballet. “Swimmer” brought together a mix of the immediate and ethereal on a continuum of the temporal and mysterious. I was left with a mystery not an ending. Astonishing.

  8. avatar Open Studio 455
    Posted April 28, 2015 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    We’re so pleased to hear how much you all enjoyed Swimmer, thank you for taking the time to give us your feedback!

  9. Posted May 22, 2015 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    I was so impressed with “Swimmer” is was the best of dance, digital art, video, design etc. I hope that “Swimmer” will be on the program for next season for those unfortunates who missed it this time around.

  10. avatar Open Studio 455
    Posted May 29, 2015 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for your comment, Brandon. Swimmer is slated to return for the 2016 season! You can find the full season programming here: https://www.sfballet.org/tickets/2016_season_announcement
    Thank you for being a fan of SF Ballet!

  11. avatar Bob
    Posted March 18, 2016 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    I saw Swimmer March 18, 2016 and was so impressed; especially since I’ve been a swimmer for sixty some years and still go in the ocean almost every day. (I live in Hawaii so I can do that). All the parts of the ballet were just magnificent and thanks to everyone for making swimming come alive on stage, and integrating so many art forms. It was wonderful to see so many male dancers on stage.

  12. avatar Anonymous
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Incredible! One of the best ballets I have seen.

  13. avatar Ioulia Napalkova
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    I’m hoping “The swimmer” will swim back in 2017! I would love to bring my friends and more family members with me next year! It’s truly awesome, completely different from anything I’ve ever seen! BRAVO!!

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