by Mo Brady
Just a few weeks ago at a cafe in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, a team of skilled filmmakers quietly assembled dozens of Broadway’s best dancers. Working late into the night, co-creators/directors Banji Aborisade and Moogie Brooks collaborated to stage and film scenes from their new dance film, Scenario.
While Scenario is slated to be the team’s first publicly distributed collaboration, the duo has been partnering for years. Aborisade and Brooks met while both pursuing BFAs at Syracuse University’s prestigious College of Visual and Performing Arts. They began living together their sophomore year and have been collaborating ever since. “We’re only a few years from a civil union,” Brooks jokes.
Having worked together for years, their creative process coalesced thanks to an established communication style and an understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. “It’s always important to us that our set runs smoothly and is an enjoyable environment,” says Brooks. “That energy starts with the two of us trusting each other and always being on the same page.”
For over a year, the team has been exploring ways to tell narratives through dance and movement in a commercial format. While dance is often used to emphasize the emotional state of a character, their focus is in accessing dance as a way to push narrative forward. “We believe our format is where musical theatre and commercial film and television meet,” says Aborisade.
Scenario is a film about the vices and faults of humanity told from the perspective of a writer sitting alone in a cafe. “While we’ve always bounced ideas off each other and used one another as a sounding board for our creative ventures, Scenario is one of our first true collaborations,” notes Brooks.
In Scenario, the writer paints a picture of the day's happenings, with the patrons serving as his muses. As he tells the stories of the vignettes occurring before him, bending and twisting reality to his will, he watches on as his control of the world slips through his fingers.
“The origin of Scenario was a concept I had for a new choreography reel,” remembers Aborisade. “After bouncing ideas off of Moogie, we decided to utilize narrative shorts as the basis of the reel. What began as simple shorts built upon itself into a full story with a beginning middle, and end.”
One of the most unique aspects of the production is that its cast features a number of Broadway performers. With a cast of over 35 dancers, the incredible ensemble includes Tyler Hanes (Cats), Alex Wong (Newsies), Karla Garcia (Hamilton), Ryan Steele (Carousel) and Amber Ardolino (Head Over Heels), as well as many others familiar to Main Stem audiences.
Aborisade and Brooks felt Broadway dancers would be the best kind of performers to play these roles because of their familiarity of using movement to develop narrative. “When we go through our casting process, we intentionally seek out performers who tell clear stories through their movement,” they say. “Whether it's a video on Instagram or standing out in the ensemble of a show, we pursue people who personalize movement to tell a specific story.”
In addition, these Broadway performers are used to being consistent in their delivery, a skill vital for filming dance. “The vocabulary of our camera work involves numerous long takes which requires our actors to be specific and precise repeatedly,” they say. “With an eight show a week schedule, it is second nature for these actors to hit their mark again, and again, and again.”
In combining these actors’ expertise with their unique cinematic vocabulary, Aborisade and Brooks hope to create a new genre of dance film with Scenario. “It is our belief that the greatest on-camera acting is told through the physical relation to the camera rather than the emotional,” they state. “That a look across the room or a turn away from the camera can clearly tell an entire story on its own.”