Imprint of Light 1

“‘Imprint of Light’ is a unique collaboration of music and dance celebrating the wonder of the human body and our relationship to the elements of nature,” RiverArts’ artistic director Kate Ashby said. “The combination of music, dance, and visual images inspires us to see the dance and the world around us in a new light, through the lens of the imagination. 

“Imprint of Light” was made by Hastings residents Maxine Sherman, a choreographer and dancer, and Steven Brent, a composer and multi-media artist. RiverArts will present a pre-recorded screening of the film via Zoom on May 8 at 8 p.m., followed by a live Q&A session with the two artists.

“The medium of film draws our focus to details that are not always visible in a performance onstage,” Ashby continued. “It inspires us to appreciate the body and the environment we live in as works of art.”

The two artists met in 2017 when Sherman attended Brent’s performance in Hastings as part of a RiverArts Music Tour. Sherman, a former principal dancer with the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre and the Martha Graham Dance Company, is a former RiverArts board member and, for the past 20 years, the organization’s director of dance. Brent is a native of Dobbs Ferry.

“His performance included a very interesting video installation,” Sherman recalled, “and I said to him, ‘If you ever want to collaborate with a professional dancer, I would love to work with you.’”

Shortly thereafter, the two met in Sherman’s backyard and began experimenting with ways to combine their artistic interests. For Sherman, it was her passion about the “beauty of the aging body and how it parallels the deteriorating earth.” For Brent, according to Sherman, “it was the evolution of all the elements and how they dance around each other to form all kinds of structure — rock, water, landscapes, the stars, planets, life.”

During this first part of their collaborative process, they used Brent’s cellphone to record Sherman dancing, concentrating on the movement of different body parts: her hands, legs, face.

“It was a huge idea and we actually made a storyboard, and Steven was figuring out how to merge our interests and move the story forward,” Sherman said. “Then, life got in the way of finishing this part of the project.”

In early 2020, before the pandemic, a window of opportunity opened. Sherman and Brent reconvened at the Dobbs Ferry studio of filmmaker Ed Nammour, who recorded Sherman dancing to her own choreography in front of a green screen.

“I found it interesting to move in such a limited amount of space — so different from that of a stage,” Sherman said.

Brent then went to work on his computer, cutting away the green screen and composing an original score. During the pandemic, Sherman and Brent collaborated via Zoom. This past January, RiverArts invited them to present their work, which provided a deadline.

“One of the most important things, for me, is knowing when to stop, to step away,” Brent said. “We had so much material, but you have to move on.”

Brent describes “Imprint of Light” as 17 minutes about how “the four elements [air, water, fire, earth] relate to the phenomenal world. The human body, the earth, and everything in us and around us share the properties represented by these elements.”

“This piece explores the dance of these elements, and brings in the fifth element of spirit: universal creative imagination,” Brent continued. 

Once Sherman turned the footage to Brent, she discovered another important aspect of collaboration: a matter of trust.

“Of course I tweaked a thing of two — the way my hand was placed, for example — but all the rest was Steven, and he had my approval for all the manipulation he wanted to do, to move the story along, and use his own energy,” Sherman said. “I just thought to myself, ‘Oh I hope I like it.’”

Upon seeing Brent’s completed version, Sherman “loved it. Because it is original music, it has no baggage and is fresh and alive from the first moment. It has the right tone, rhythm, meter, and pulse. And it is emotionally representative of what I was doing physically. It also captures my sense of humor, in a tongue and cheek kind of way, about accepting some things you cannot change.”

Sherman repeated what she thought upon encountering Brent four years ago: “This guy is for me. A little bit eccentric, not cookie-cutter. He’s experimental.”

Now, after “a lot of time and a lot of trust,” Sherman said with conviction, “it was fantastic to work with Steven.”

For more information on “Imprint of Light” and to purchase tickets ($15) visit www.riverarts.org. The entire event, including the Q&A segment, will be available for viewing May 10-23 for $10.

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