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10 minutes with Ruth Anna Phillips

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Make Your OWN Dance Film
10 Minutes with Ruth Anna Phillips...

As part of Greenwich Dance's Online Festival and inspired by the tasks set in our Up My Street ONLINE films, we put a call out for anyone interested in filmaking who had little to no experience and gave four selected applicants the opportunity to make thier OWN dance film and have it edited by a professional.

Each successful applicant was paired up with a mentor, one of the four choreographers whos work featured as part of Up My Street ONLINE, who offered creative guidence througout the filmmaking process.

FILM ONE: Ripples by Ruth Anna Phillips.
Mentored by Sarah Blanc. Edited by Martin Collins.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I am Ruth Anna Phillips, a director, movement director and theatre maker. I’m originally from the Midlands but moved to London in 2017 for my Masters. I also teach dance classes in South London for ‘School Of SOS’ which delivers open accessible classes, aiming to ‘empower a generation through dance’. I’m under 5ft, into photography, passionate about fat liberation and you can find me drinking a flat white (now trying to make it homemade in 2020).

Where and what did you study?

I went to The University of East Anglia in Norwich for a BA in Drama and then went on to do an MA in Movement: Directing and Teaching at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London where my personal research was on body inclusion and discovering inclusive teaching methods, with a speciality for expressive movement.

If it was safe, and money was no option, where would you travel to and why?

Oh Peru. It’s been top of my bucket list for ages. I’ve been lucky enough to travel quite a lot when I was younger, but I haven’t cracked South America and I’ve always been really interested in the area especially the music, architecture and the food.

What did you want to be when you were younger?

I actually wanted to be an actor! For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be working in theatre - in fact for my year 6 leavers assembly, I wrote a play about what we would all be doing when we grew up and I made myself an actor playing The Doctor in Doctor Who - aged 11. Can’t say I didn’t dream big!

What has been one positive from 2020?

As someone who works in movement and theatre, this year has obviously been difficult, but it has forced me to really look at the essentials of what I believe, what I teach and how I work – having to adapt them for online and sporadically in studios, with different set ups. As someone who is big into New Years and reflection and resolutions, it’s been a positive moment to have time to reflect and really investigate what I’m doing and where I want to be going.

What career advice do you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?

Follow things that you enjoy - whatever they are, because they will feed back to you in some way. I enjoyed photography so I got a nice camera and it’s helped me make theatre trailers, posters and understand marketing material. I like organisation and so tried production management in my first year, and I use the skills developed in budgeting, rehearsal scheduling and production understanding to this day. What started as a personal connection with body acceptance has formed a number of projects, scripts and now research. I enjoy swimming – and as a fundraiser for an Edinburgh show I swam for 5 hours! I think no time is wasted on things you enjoy, so don’t feel guilty and it may even feed back into your future in ways you can't imagine.

What was your inspiration for the film?

This came from a loose idea I’d had for a film a while ago, which was about diverse bodies, especially those often less represented in dance and media expressing power and sensuality. This was obviously before the Covid era and so would have been filmed with the ensemble together. It had been in the back of my mind for a while with a couple of sketches or notes but nothing concrete. When I saw the call out, this idea came forward and I started thinking more and then thinking about a modern version. By the time I submitted my proposal, it was for a two-stage video focussing on body acceptance and representation, showing two key sides of this: the personal, sensual side – taking quiet moments for yourself to accept things you might be told not to and then the loud, unapologetic, joyful side as an act of rebellion.

(Sketchbook): Early sketches of initial ideas for a visual piece

What tasks did you give your dancers?

I gave them the options of learning two routines, which were taught by me in a recorded tutorial. Then I also had some additional stimuli: dancing freely, showing any special skills, showing a part of their body up-close to the camera. People could pick how much they could commit to and which parts they partook in.

Has there been any point in the filmmaking process where you have had to shift or adapt your original idea in any way?

My original focus was predominantly on showing diverse bodies represented in a way they often were not by media or dance i.e. powerful, strong, joyous and to have a process focussed on body acceptance. Both of these definitely still feature however I did have a point of adaption. After releasing the call out through various networks and social media, I was getting a really positive response from individuals but I didn’t think I could claim it to be ‘diverse and representative’, with certain sectors of people not in the ensemble and not connecting with the range of sizes I feel are connected to fat activism. Therefore, I shifted the focus slightly to be about individuals journey’s with body acceptance – showing people unapologetically loving their body and still aiming for a wide range but being more about the collective action of body acceptance and the rejection of society’s pressure to criticise and chastise our bodies.

Tell us about the music in the film?

I am inspired a lot by music – often with a piece coming directly from a song, while I’m sat on the tube or walking. So the first part was always connected to ‘Movement’ by Hozier. This worked for me, partly because of the imagery, connecting to water, and strength but also the adoration for the subject of the song.

“When you move
I could never define all that you are to me
So move me, baby
Shake like the bough of a willow tree
You do it naturally”

The idea of overlaying these powerful, esteeming lyrics against bodies of all kinds, especially those oppressed by body standards and fatphobia felt important.

(Collage): Moodboard for the first half of the piece, themes: skin, water, fat, curves, self-love

For the second half, I wanted an upbeat, powerful song and as an unapologetic and public Lizzo fangirl ‘Water Me’ came to mind very quickly. All Lizzo’s work has amazing underlying currents of unapologetic acceptance and Water Me was no different. Also, it connected nicely to the water imagery that was lightly involved in the concept. In my tutorial for this routine I pull out the line “I am my inspiration” as the core principle for this section, that we should be our own inspiration.

(Collage): Moodboard for the second half of the piece, themes: ensemble, diversity, formation, collective, strength, joy

What is one thing you hope people take away from the film?

I hope people feel a sense of joy from seeing people moving, feeling, embracing their body, and that that may in a very small way, feed into their own journey towards that.

Where can we find out about you? What are your socials?

You can find more about me and my work at www.ruthannaphillips.com and on my socials: Instagram: @ruthannaphillips and Twitter: @ruthphillips100

What’s next for you?

I’m currently working on some research projects with a wonderful collaborator Christina Fulcher, drawing on my research into inclusivity of diverse bodies in movement and our work with the Inclusion Collective, which we founded this time last year (www.inclusioncollective.com).

I’ll be continuing to teach dance classes in studios/online and hopefully some more movement. Apart from that I’m hoping to get involved in some new theatre projects, meet some exciting collaborators and get stuck into 2021.

Look out for Ruth's film, Ripples, on our Digital Stage and YouTube channel coming this Monday 7 December.

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