Interview with Action Lines
Could you tell us how Action Lines came about and what kind of projects your team produces?
Action Lines grew out of a yearlong collaboration between Joffrey dancers Xavier Nuñez and Dylan Gutierrez and film producer Eric Grant. As new transplants to Chicago, Xavier and Eric met Dylan and became fast friends, combining their passions for dance and filmmaking. Shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic, they filmed their first fully-realized dance film. Dylan and his fiancée Jeraldine Mendoza starred in the project—both of them accomplished Joffrey dancers in their own right—with Xavier helming and Eric producing and assistant directing. A few short months later, with the cabin fever of the pandemic settling in, the trio shifted to guerilla-style films; shot with a limited, distanced crew on the vacant streets of Chicago. Determined to make a splash in the dance and film community, Xavier, Eric, and Dylan decided to make it official and form Action Lines in late 2020. Our goal is to break through the stigma of dance films, creating projects that appeal to a broader audience and to make the medium more accessible. As the team grows, we plan to use Action Lines as a way to help younger dancers and students create their own dream projects, highlighting all areas of the performing arts.
Most of your dance projects exist on stage in a theater setting with a live audience. How does showcasing the work as a hybrid of performance and video art in the context of 150 Media Stream differ from your previous experiences (creatively and technically)?
The 150 Media Stream project presented a particularly unique and exciting challenge. The magnitude of the Media Stream installation offers an opportunity to present a filmed project on the scale of a theatrical stage while simultaneously adhering to strict social distancing guidelines. Each dancer had to be filmed individually, with breaks in between to allow for air circulation. Rather than imitate a live performance, we wanted to take the opportunity with 150 Media Stream to create a unique film, stitching together shots of our dancers in a way no audience has ever seen them.
Typically we shoot and edit one cohesive video, but the Media Stream requires precise framing such that it sometimes felt like we were creating four complete videos that needed to interact with each other. It was as thrilling as it was daunting. In the dance world, choreographers stress the “shapes” dancers make with their bodies on stage. We decided to utilize the scale of the Media Stream to show audiences the delicate nature of these shapes, right down to how a dancer’s muscles must contort and twist to produce something that might be visible for only a moment in a live performance. We set out to create a video that teaches the audience something new, and found ourselves appreciating our own artform in an entirely different light. In a word, the process of Interim Avoidance was divine.
What do you think about the potential of contemporary dance in venues other than traditional theaters?
As with many artforms, dance is in a constant battle between needing to evolve and wanting to hold onto its sacred traditions. Even the most lauded dance films (such as Thom Yorke’s Anima) struggle to reach an audience outside the traditional ballet-goer. However, we are confident the 2020 pandemic may have finally broken the last remaining barriers. Opportunities like 150 Media Stream give dance a chance to evolve and feel both relevant and important in the digital age. Audiences increasingly seek the comfort of live performance without the stuffy, fixed-camera recording of an old proscenium stage. Our mission is to invite audiences new and old to experience contemporary dance with the same thrill, passion, and ease of a Netflix binge.
Dylan Gutierrez, Xavier Nunez and Eric Grant (left to right) in front of the 150 Media Stream
Action Lines was founded in 2020 by Xavier Nunez, Eric Grant, and Dylan Gutierrez. A trio of Chicago transplants, Xavier and Dylan are dancers with the Joffrey Ballet, and Eric is a writer and film producer. They created Action Lines as a company by and for independent performing artists. Their goal is to bring new perspectives to dance films and to provide opportunities to strengthen the bonds between the performing arts and digital media.
The Joffrey Ballet is one of the premier dance companies in the world today, with a reputation for boundary-breaking performances for more than 60 years. The Joffrey repertoire is an extensive collection of all-time classics, modern masterpieces, and original works. Founded in 1956 by pioneers Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino, the Joffrey remains dedicated to artistic expression, innovation, and first-rate education and engagement programming. The Joffrey Ballet continues to thrive under The Mary B. Galvin Artistic Director Ashley Wheater MBE and President and CEO Greg Cameron.