Rooftop Sessions Chapters 1 – 5

The restrictions imposed by the corona virus have given birth to some interesting new projects and collaborations. Rooftop Sessions by ISH Dance Collective is a case in point: a series of short dance films shot on the tops of tall buildings. On 29 April the fifth of these, Chapter Five, had its online premiere. All five chapters so far are available for free on Youtube.

The first three Rooftop Sessions were made in the summer of 2020 – the first two in collaboration with Rotterdamse Dakendagen. All chapters share recurring features: all feature two performers and one musician, all take place on rooftops in big cities, all feature a mix of different styles and disciplines. Marco Gerris, Artistic Director of ISH Dance Collective and the driving force behind the series, is no stranger to creative collaborations. Over the years, Gerris has worked together with a wide range of visual artists and musical collaborators, such as Dadara and Amsterdam Sinfonietta, among many others. ISH Dance Collective also collaborates regularly with the Dutch National Ballet’s Junior Company.

In Chapter One, Gerris coupled house dancer Nedda Sou and inline skater Sven Boekhorst with drummer Jimmi Heuting on the parking deck of APCOA Westblaak. Chapter Two saw a locking duet (Lars De Vos, Gino Jagessar) danced to soulful music by saxophonist Sanne Landvreugd. Chapter Three combined BMX (Dez Maarsen), breakdance (Dietrich Pott) and cello (Jörg Brinkmann) in a roof garden in the heart of Amsterdam. Chapter Four saw Lucinda Wessels and Tamara Obledo Oud dancing on the upper floors of the A’DAM Toren, to music by percussionist Laura Trompetter.

Watching all chapters back to back (each is between four and five minutes long) I see an interesting evolution unfolding. Chapter One already has a warm vibe, but many of the elements still feel a bit detached. There doesn’t seem to be much cohesion between what skater Boekhorst and dancer Sou are doing. Boekhorst can be seen zipping past Sou two, maybe three times, but there is no real connective tissue. While Sou certainly seems to be moved by the beat laid down by drummer Heuting, there is not one shot placing them together at the scene at the same time. It would have been great to have at least one establishing shot that has all three artists performing together.

This does happen in Chapter Two. Not only are De Vos and Jagessar dancing together on a rooftop in Rotterdam, there are even some shots together with saxophonist Landvreugd. In Chapter Three all performers are again isolated, but the choreographies do give a sense of cohesion, with Pott physically emulating the twirls Maarsen makes with his bike just moments before. The evocative composition by Brinkmann underscores the elegiac mood.

ISH Rooftop Sessions: chapter 4 | photo: Sjoerd Derine

Just as I start to get slightly wary of every dance short ending with the participants yet again gazing wistfully at the skyline and the setting sun, ISH Dance Collective shakes things up with Chapter Four, which premiered on 15 April. Choreographer Nedda Sou (who was a performer in Chapter One) cleverly lets her two dancers interact with the space of the upper level of A’DAM Toren (the weather having forced the team to move inside). With the dancers moving from behind pillars and on a see-through floor, her duet brims with energy and life.

In Chapter Five, which had its world premiere on 29 April, the cinematography by Roderik Patijn (who handled the camera in each of the films) really comes into its own. Mimicking the dynamic choreography made by Mohamed Yusuf Boss and Thomas Krikken, the camera circles around dancer Ser Sebico (DOX) and breakdancer Tim Janssen on the rooftop terrace of Forum Groningen as if it were a dancer itself squaring off. This time, when musician DJ Irie enters the narrative, there is even interaction between him and the dancers, with all three tapping away on his controller pad as if it were a toy keyboard. The chapter ends in twilight, with all three artists in blurred silhouettes, and the Martinikerk in the background.

The development in the quality of the films and the exchange between the collaborators certainly made me hope there are more chapters still to come.

ISH Rooftop Sessions

ISH Rooftop Sessions: chapter 4 | photo: Sjoerd Derine

Featured photo: Patrick van der Weerd