Conor Biddle ’18 set out to make a video about urban dance for dancers and non-dancers alike. This summer, that video’s biggest audience is Red Sox fans, who watch Biddle’s Community of Dancers most nights on the Jumbotron at Fenway Park.
Community of Dancers, produced by Biddle’s DEFY Video, features 13 professional and college club dancers from across the city, all moving to GRiZ x Big Gigantic’s Good Times Roll at Boston landmarks. Not only did Biddle produce, direct, and edit the video, he’s also one of the dancers (he’s the one at the Reflecting Pool). Also featured are Ansley Hamilton ’18 of Emerson Urban Dance Theatre and Adam Settlage ’18 of Emerson Dance Company.
Emerson College Today asked Biddle, a film production major, about the making of the video, which was written about in boston.com. Answers have been edited for style and punctuation.
ECT: Why did you make this video?
CB: I made this video because I wanted to promote urban dance in Boston, promote the dance companies in Boston, promote the city of Boston, while still maintaining a feel-good and entertaining dance video that could connect with dancers, but more importantly, non-dancers.
Dance is an undervalued piece of our culture that should be significantly more respected and sought after. All dancers respect and watch dance videos, but the idea of Community of Dancers was to create a video that common Boston citizens and beyond would connect with. I made a decision to have all of the dancers freestyle (which is improvisational dancing, as opposed to planned-out dancing) because to me, freestyling is the true style of dance that conveys someone’s personality and enables others to connect with them and for them to connect with others.
ECT: How long did it take?
CB: The actual filming of the video was approximately 40 hours over the course of 6 days. The editing took approximately 10 days. But when I include the intense pre-production I did finding dancers, meeting with dancers, location scouting, and fine-tuning the concept, I spent well over 300 hours on the project.
ECT: How was it shot and edited? Did each dancer/group dance to the song the entire way through?
CB: We shot the video by having each dancer dance through the entire song 3 times. Each time, though, my cinematographer did a different type of shot (i.e. low-angle 360 shot, up and back, and side to side).
ECT: Did you know all the dancers personally, or did you put out a call?
CB: I knew only two of the dancers prior to this endeavor (Adam Settlage and Ansley Hamilton, who were the Emerson dancers). Putting out a call was grueling because I basically had to pitch this idea to a lot of different dance groups that had no idea who I was and who had to trust that I was actually going to follow through.
Now, however, I am very well-connected with the Boston dance community, and am growing in Philadelphia and [New York City].
ECT: Was there any significance to the locations you picked?
CB: The locations that were chosen were actually chosen by the dancers. This video was about them and their style and comprehension of the city, so I wanted them to be able to choose.
ECT: How did Fenway come to use the video? Were you surprised it took off?
CB: The Boston Red Sox stumbled upon the video, called me up, and said that they were going to do something similar but decided that they probably couldn’t do it any better than I did. That was an amazing compliment. From there, they explained what they would do with it and I agreed to let them use it. It now plays most nights after the National Anthem. I still get a rush saying that my video plays in front of 35,000 people most nights.
I would say that I was extremely honored and happy that it took off, but I was not surprised. My dancers and my crew were amazing, and I knew we pulled off a video that was pretty dang good, and it was really satisfying to have my team get the recognition they deserved.
ECT: Has anything come of the video for any of the dancers featured?
CB: I know that the dancers are receiving a lot of recognition for being up on the big screens at Fenway, but unfortunately, I do not think any of them have landed jobs because of it. But they can put that on their resumes now, which will definitely turn some heads. It would not surprise me if they land jobs partially because of this video, and that was one of the main purposes of making it in the first place.
On the other hand, I am actually meeting with the Phillies about a Community of Dancers — Philly this summer (I am a Philadelphia native).
ECT: What was the hardest part of making it?
CB: The hardest part about making it came down to the editing process. I had 13 dancers, about 3 minutes of actual dancing time, and tons of footage. The hardest part was cutting the video to include everyone equally. I knew that the professional dancers should get some more screen time than the college dancers, considering this is their livelihood. But I also knew how great all of the college dancers were. It was really, really hard to cut people’s time down and include all of the amazing moments that were captured of all of the dancers.
This was an amazing process and my hope is that I will get to make these videos nationwide.