André Grekhov’s body moves mechanically in this work. Grekhov, who lived in the Soviet Union as a child, cites Michael Jackson as an influence. His upbringing seems to have fueled his interest in dance since videos of American dancers were not easy to come by in the USSR. Although he does not consider what he does in Cast Glass' "Ballroom" as necessarily break dancing, to the lay person it seems very similar. Set to an indie electronic song that includes glitchy pop hooks and violins, the dancing works perfectly with the music.
The dreary atmosphere and the scenography is key to create a narrative that connects space and dance. The location, light, and shadows show us how the piece is cinematically driven and how the design is key to build a powerful visual dance movie. The audience can experience a story line along the house and the dancer creates a powerful presence throughout the rooms, the living room, the stairs, and the corridors. The dancer moves instinctively to inhabit the space in unpredictable ways: He touches the walls, the floor, and his body to create a dialogue with the space.
"Ballroom" shows a how a choreographer works in tune with the designers and how they cooperate to create a cohesive language that connects music, design, dance, and film.
Below, Grekhov discusses the intersection between dance and design.
I use my design skills as a choreographer and my dance heart when I design something. I believe that the source is one and the same. It's just dance kind of chose me first.
You’ve said that you are often asked if you are a dancer or designer. How do you tend to answer?
I am a dancer that is for sure. Yet, I use my design skills as a choreographer and my dance heart when I design something. I believe that the source is one and the same. It's just dance kind of chose me first.
Would you say that you also designed this video?
Well, first of all I didn’t exactly design the whole video. I choreographed and danced in it. The major part of the whole clip music, light, location, camera, and editing came from other people. Yet, as I explained earlier, I definitely have a feeling that I design choreography.
How did you first begin dancing? When did you discover breakdance?
I started before my memory actually registered things like that. The question is more suitable for my mother. She said I used to try to breakdance from the age of 3, then copied Michael Jackson, MC Hammer, and any pop dance we could get our eyes on in the Soviet Union. Much later, in 1997, I discovered B-Boying and electric boogie through a videoclip of Jason Nevins, "It's Like That."
What makes a dance a breakdance?
Woof! Just to keep it short: first, we, the dancers that call ourselves B-Boys, tend to ignore the term breakdance. It has a very negative historical perspective. The term for the dance is either breaking or B-Boying/Girling. I know I sound a bit pedantic but we are a growing culture and need to educate people around us. But to answer what makes a dance breaking, I'd say it's dancing like boxing or fighting, we throw moves like punches, it is acrobatic, very stubborn, and constantly evolving dance.
What was it like to collaborate with Chris de Krijger?
It was great! In the beginning I was a bit of a diva, I was reluctant to be a part of the project. I asked too many questions and stalled the answers. But Chris kept pushing through and made me feel that I was the man for the job. Once I agreed, we had a natural and easy process where we understood each other very quickly. It turned out we have some shared inspirations and that helps a lot in collaborations.
I just went on with my intuition and let the music move my body and as my body got more grip on the music I structured some of the movement.
At first, it doesn’t seem that Cast Glass’ song would suggest breakdance. Did you approach the song any differently? What makes a song conducive to breakdance?
Well, I have to be pedantic again. Technically, I am not breaking there. There is maybe a little piece in the final scene where it shows something resembling breaking, but what I danced in "Ballroom" is a mix of different styles. I am actually famous for my signature approach to dance based on breaking but more evolved and more focused on artistry. (That shows my design background again.) I can't say that I approached the song differently. I just went on with my intuition and let the music move my body and as my body got more grip on the music I structured some of the movement. Later, Chris edited the dance so it fits the mood of the song and the idea of the clip even more. So, I'd say that for my style, every song is fitting, while traditionally breaking is done to funk music, breaks, and hip-hop. Then, I just have my taste and "Ballroom" fits it very neatly. I really like to dance and compose dancing to indie electronic new age techy stuff.