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Behind the Scenes with Carl Coomer and Riley Moyano

Headshots of Carl Coomer and Riley Moyano

By Dallas Guill

Later this month, Texas Ballet Theater will present its first digital mixed repertoire, which will be available for patrons to stream on TBT’s website March 25 – April 9. The production will feature two world premieres by TBT Company dancers: Carl Coomer’s The Story of You and Riley Moyano’s VREC.

Both are seasoned choreographers (with Coomer most recently presenting his world premiere of Henry VIII in 2018) and together possess a nearly combined 25 years of experience as TBT dancers. With the premiere date rapidly approaching, I recently had a chance to discuss their new works in greater depth:

First, what can audiences expect with these productions. Is there a narrative to your piece or is it more abstract?

Objects and situations around us can often inspire our imagination and induce a journey within our own minds. This dance film has a soft narrative that will follow a few individuals inside of a museum and offer an insight on their thoughts and discoveries, as they embark on an adventure inside their own minds. – Carl Coomer (CC)

My piece is an abstract shell where the viewer will be able to fill in their own story for each section. – Riley Moyano (RM)

What music are you using and why?

The music is by Ian Post, Sivan Talmor, Alon Ohana and ANBR. Ian Post’s music inspired most of the piece since he offers a wide variety of styles and characterizations. I searched for music that would portray each character and their physicality, whether that would be a twirling ballerina, a flying bird, or a stomping caveman. – CC

I picked a variety of different music from hip-hop to tango to have each section become a different experience. It’s nice to be able to show the versatility of our dancers with different styles of dance. – RM

Can you share any specific details about costumes, filming locations, and dancers selected for the project?

This film is a collaboration with the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas. I was really inspired by their amazing architecture and the diversity of their exhibitions. In particular the Being Human exhibit, which includes the following quote:

The Story of You
Begins with your ancestors
Is heard in your voice
Moves as you walk
Is held in your hands
Travels through your DNA
And is written in your brain.

Company dancer Katelyn Clenaghan is the costume designer. Katelyn has been designing and constructing costumes/ headpieces for the last couple of years. I previously worked with her during TBT’s Solo Premieres and I have been looking forward to tackling a bigger project with her.

Regarding the dancers, I tried to carefully choose dancers that would suit each role in the narrative. – CC

Speaking of last October’s
Solo Premieres, was there anything you learned from creating pieces for that project that you applied to your approach with these works?

I had experimented with making dance films shortly before the pandemic, but I have definitely learned a lot more about this new medium and have developed my skills as a filmmaker. During Solo Premieres I was able to explore different ways to choreograph for video and determine which way is more efficient.  I also discovered new ways to be creative with scene transitions and blending it all together to achieve a certain look. – CC

I learned that getting to know how to use your camera for different situations is very important. I’m glad we had the opportunity to work through different lighting situations and figure out how to make certain shots looks cinematic. – RM

What advantages do you see to presenting the piece digitally versus on the stage?

I believe dance films help the audience view the material from 360 degrees and feel even closer to the dancers. The dancers are captured from different distances and angles, making the experience a lot more intimate, which is a very different experience from a stage performance, where the audience always has the same point of view. And of course, this will be a lot more convenient to the audience, since they can watch any time and from the comfort of their own homes. It will hopefully be a way to reach new audiences. – CC

You can truly get a three dimensional experience with a digital piece. Every shot captures exactly what you want the audience to see and feel. – RM

Lastly, describe one takeaway you hope audiences have after viewing your premiere.

I hope to take the audience on a journey of self-discovery and exploration of the world around us. I also hope to motivate them to observe the world in a more curious way, feeling a sense of wonder for everything in it, just as children do. – CC

I hope that the audience realizes they can view performing art digitally and find it just as entertaining as their favorite TV shows. – RM


Join us for the world premiere of The Story of You and VREC, which become available to stream on March 25, 2021. Click here to purchase tickets.

To learn more about supporting Texas Ballet Theater and the TBT Relief Fund, click here.