by Dave Warner

Hannah Straney was back creating another dance film in Little Falls last week after she wrapped up shooting her third one of the series the day before in Utica.

This one was different in several ways, in that it was supported by local donations, businesses and involved a teaching component, where students from Little Falls High School spent two hours on the set getting instruction on everything from cameras to the creativity involved in shooting this kind of project.

The Creative Outpost is a Little Falls non-profit 501c3 organization working in the media, film, and technology industries, and they coordinated the student involvement. The Youth & Family Center (formerly the YMCA) handled the business side of things such as insurance for the project, and Mark Regan, who owns the powerhouse on West Mill St, allowed the group to use the facility for filming.

Straney brought Quaba Ernest up from Brooklyn to dance with her, as well as Jacob Kruty and Garrett Parker with Retrograde Studios to produce the film.

Ernest trained at the Institute of Harlem, briefly attended the American School of Ballet, took performing arts in school, and later graduated from the SUNY Conservatory of Dance at Purchase College. He had moved to Vancouver to join Ballet BC but now has his own dance company.

When describing the project, he stated, “It’s centered on sight, searching, and a feeling of being lost.”

Straney said, “I think it was really awesome to have the students here and get them involved and spark interest in both the video and choreographic side of things, as well as the dance. Most of the kids that attended were already somehow involved in the arts either working a soundboard or in drama club.”

“This helped show them an avenue that they could eventually take,” Straney stated. “I don’t know anything about these cameras, so it was really interesting to hear the boys talk about them and how they work. I’m typically thinking about just the dance and choreographic side of things.”

Ernest stated, “It was really exciting to get back to an in-person demonstration. It was kind of like a lecture demonstration. We would set up and then would show a little bit of work. We’d explain what we’re doing and then be able to answer any questions. It was super exciting.”

He said that he also learned things from the kids as well. “It’s how meaningful the little moments are and how it’s nice to be able to reintroduce them to an art form that is seemingly dying because of COVID. It was nice to bring that back and potentially inspire them to maybe dance themselves or get into film.”

Kruty, with Retrograde Studios, said, “This is a great way to get out of the City. Working with the kids was great. It’s not very often that we get to do educational outreach like that where we are actually on one of our sets and we get to share that with the children.”

He said that it was really cool to be able to give them some insight into their process and get them some hands-on experience. “We were able to share our gear with them and provide insight into what goes into making a film like this.”

Kruty has been dancing himself since the age of eight. “I found a camera in my grandparent’s house when I was twelve, so I’ve always been shooting. A lot of street photography, nature photography, just hobby photography for a long time.”

It morphed from a hobby to a passion, at which time, “It intersected with my other passion with dance. So it’s been kind of my mission to fuse those two things,” he said.

Photo by Dave Warner – Ella Rogers and Dylan Harrer share their thoughts on being involved in the making of ‘ICU’.

One of the students, Dylan Harrer stated, “I really think it was a cool experience to see the filming process and how the camera works with the dancers and how it’s really a two-person job, not just the dancers. The filmmakers are artists as well and I really liked that aspect.”

Ella Rogers, another student said, “Right now we’re in drama club and I don’t really know where we’re going after high school, but it was really cool to see how they got into it and really liked what they were doing.”

The Creative Outpost helped Straney on the fundraising side of things for the two films, and that effort is still ongoing with 89% of the third film already raised, and the need for 100% of the fourth film still on the table.

In the future, Straney wants to create a much larger project with more dancers and a larger budget. “This is our fourth project, and we’ve always had one or two dancers at a time. So I’d love to get six people up here and create a larger scale production.”

As for when that larger production just might happen? “Dancing in Little Falls in the summer would just be great.”

If you would like to contribute and help additional films come to Little Falls, please head over to the Projects page on creativeoutpost.org to show your support.

“We are always looking for funding and support for these projects, whether that be emotional or actual funds,” she said.