Kathryn Calder | Who Are You?

Dance video for the great Kathryn Calder. Exclaim Article on Kathryn. Visit my partner Cameron's site. Credits | Camera: Greg Biskup, Costume Designs: Lee Stringle, Projections: Emma O'Neil, Dancers: Sessy Lee Slater and Peng Cherry.  Special thanks to Dean Tzenos, Brendan Black, Todd Julie and Chris Chapman.

Kathryn Calder Making of...

May - July 2011

In the summer of 2011 Cameron TomsettDean Tzenos and I began throwing around concepts for our friend Kathryn Calder’s new track “Who Are You?”. She had requested a “weird, fun dance video”. We threw around several ideas: Belly dancing video? Break dancing C3P0? A Sesame Street parody… Finally we decided on a stream of animated, colourful shapes with sexy lady legs, similar to the “lets go out to the lobby” cartoons at old movie theatres. 

We came up with rough ideas for the costumes. We knew we wanted the designs to evolve and become more complex as the song progressed.

Eventually we decided it would be interesting to focus on animal evolution. We would start from basic shapes and as we added more geometry to the costumes, we would move up the evolutionary tree — Worm, fish, octopus, crab, gator, dinosaur, bird, pony, monkey and finally a human which would be played by Kathryn Calder herself.

Our friend, painter and designer Lee Stringle helped us design the “evolving” costumes. Each costume in the sequence has one or more extra geometric planes, or polygons, than the design that proceeded it. 

Once we had the designs, we had to think about how to best build the costumes. We crafted a 1 meter diameter buckyball out of paper mache as a test, but the prototype was both too heavy and too rough-looking to work for the concept. 

After consulting local builder Melissa Fisher, we decided to build the costumes from large sheets of foamcore. To create the blue prints for the costumes, we built 3D CGI versions of the animal designs in Maya. Using a program calledpepakura we “unwrapped” the CGI models and converted them into 2d blue prints.

We then projected the patterns onto 48 x 72 inch foamcore boards and traced the images with pencil. Afterwords, we used box cutters to trim the designs and duct tape to assemble the pieces into the final costumes.

During our construction marathon, I managed to slice the pad off of my index finger with a box cutter. It was 12:30 at night on a Tuesday, and all the stores were closed. Cameron, along with my roommate Brendan, ran around the neighbourhood looking for bandages while I sat pinching my finger in the fetal position. I figured I could fuse the severed skin back onto my body if I applied enough pressure. I had a rotten sleep that night. For some reason, because I have never had a pain in my finger before, I thought finger pain would be mild and easily ignored. It was not.

16 hrs and a few Tylenol liquid jells later, we were back at full capacity. Incidentally, a couple weeks later, the whole end of my injured finger turned brown and hard and eventually peeled off like a leather thimble. Underneath was a brand new finger, soft and pink like a baby’s… 

On shoot day, our friend Chris Chapman set us up in a beautiful room at this awesome photography space Silverline Studios which basically took the project to a whole new level. It came with a small refrigerator full of coca-cola, which I think, Cameron and the dancer Peng Cherry are still dreaming of. 

Later, Cameron and I rented a moving van and drove the fully constructed costumes to the shoot space in the dead of night to avoid Toronto traffic. We blasted Classic Rock Q107 all the way there, since there was no iPod jack in the van’s stereo. Here is one of the songs… 

Next is a video from our dress rehearsal starring Peng Cherry and Cameron Tomsett.

The shoot day was a long 12 hour slog. The wonderfully talented Greg Bliskep worked as our DP. We shot one costume at a time, and used a HD video projector to add colourful animations by Toronto Designer Emma O’Neil, on to the while costumes. 

The day after the shoot, faced with the fact that we had no place to store the huge costumes, Dean, Cameron and I ninja kicked them to pieces. Failing to capture video of this event, is probably the greatest regret of my career….