Tomorrow, celebrated ballet dancer and choreographer Justin Peck will stage the world premiere of an original piece he choreographed, In the Countenance of Kings, at the San Francisco Ballet featuring music by Sufjan Stevens. To mark the moment, he asked Ezra Hurwitz, a former classmate at The School of American Ballet and a filmmaker, to create a cinematic trailer for the performance.
Shot over one day in an abandoned Oakland, California train station, Ezra was able to effortlessly capture the youthful and powerful spirit of Justin’s work, and used the logistics of the location for inspiration. The original marble floor meant the dancers had to wear sneakers, instead of the pointe shoes they’ll don in the actual performance, in order to prevent injury and protect their valuable soles. The lack of electricity in the building meant everyone had to hustle in order to capture the natural light. “We were chasing the sun,” Ezra tells Teen Vogue. Still, he calls the location, “incredible” and adds that finding it on Google was a “happy accident.”
The company performers also learned the 40-minute piece last summer,and the video was shot in January, so it was “ready, set, go,” explains Ezra, for the busy dancers who had to balance their regular training schedules with filming. And while the trailer has a clear narrative with a bookend, he says this was purely due to his imagination — “Justin really let me interpret the work in my own way.”
Ezra’s past life as a dancer also allowed him to capture the minute details of ballet that laymen might miss, and create something “that appeals to people who aren’t necessarily familiar with the art form,” he says. The video, Ezra says, is an example of how ballet is responding to the digital age and hoping to attract more fans through different mediums.
The result is a reverberating performance by the lead, Dores André, and the accompanying cast, which is sure to leave many lining up for this production and whatever Justin has in store next. — words by Sade Strehlke.