You know the feeling. The one - right after your first kiss, or after landing the dream job, that makes you feel like you could burst out in professional dance moves to your own theme song, walking home down a busy city block. You never do it, because our inhibitions quell that burst of complete happiness out of fear of what some stranger might think, but imagine having the cahonas to do it. Enter Girl Walk// All Day- an epic music video (movie length), that follows three dancers as they explore NYC. After the second screening of Girl Walk, Joonbug was able to snag Anne Marsen (who plays The Girl) for a Skype chat.
From seeing Girl Walk, you’d know right off the bat that Marsen is a dancer. From her blatant happiness, to her alluring technique, it’s obvious that it has been a lifelong passion, but unlike most, her love stems as far back as two years old. While at first, she trained for ballet, tap, and jazz, as she grew older, she expanded to hip-hop, street jazz, and began showcasing her unique blend of freestyle at talent shows. After a bit of acting, she left college and returned to dance. And how has she evolved since?
“I want to start making pieces that are still entertaining and joyful but also address social issues more directly. You know- how Super-Size Me the documentary has humor in it but it's talking about a serious matter. I think it’s really effective to combine elements of seriousness & amusement to get your message across... I might be exaggerating but whenever I hear people talking about the state the human race is in right now, it kind of feels like if we don't make some serious changes ASAP, we could be screwed... Watching Girl Walk and seeing the faces of the people in the background, it's like damn, the majority of people look so drained... It seems like a lot of people don't have enough genuine joy in their lives. The only way people are going to take action towards bettering our health, government, education, environment, and so on... is if they are INSPIRED. Maybe dance doesn’t make you happy but what does? I feel like people are so scared of doing what they love. Don’t get me wrong, I am too, but you only live once and I feel like you always have to make time to explore it.”
So how did exploring her happiness lead to the epic dance film, Girl Walk?
"Well, I had met Jacob a year and a half beforehand. I saw this email blast looking for 50 dancers; anyone could come, put on your favorite song and dance. I was working on my freestyling at the time actually and he showed the footage of the whole piece called "Moves" at an event later in the summer. He told me that while reviewing the footage, he was showing segments from each person's freestyle to his wife but when he got to mine he told her "you just have to watch the whole thing" (it was a 6 minute long freestyle to Daft Punk "Human After All".) Two winters later, I got an email from Jacob asking John ("The Creep") & I if we were interested in dancing in a music video to Girl Talk's entire album "All Day". We WERE."
With that spark they started planning; while the initial plan was to shoot the film in three days in January as just dancing, they quickly reconsidered.
“Yeah we realized we were nowhere near started, ” she laughed, “although Jacob was prepared with a lot of hot hands for our gloves! Anyway there was a loose script, but there was more of just random dancing in pretty spots. Jacob is a photographer so every shot is beautiful, but even when I go to dance performances, if it’s just pretty or cool movement, I get bored pretty quickly. So we realized there needed to be some context.
And how did the story build from there?
“It was definitely a collaboration with everyone. I felt like I really needed to focus on the highs and lows of my character, because I felt like it would be really annoying to watch me constantly spazzing out (in the same way) for 71 minutes. Jacob let us try out our ideas. For example, I really wanted to have a point in the story where my character takes a turn for the worse and loses sight of spreading joy through dance mission. We needed to figure out what to do for track 8 of "All Day" and I kept imagining a shopping diva scene where The Girl becomes obsessed with material things but then a little girl snaps her out of it. So we both came up with ideas from there and we had actually waited so long to shoot this section- we thought we'd be done with the whole thing by June- that Occupy Wall Street was just starting to grow. We ended up shooting part of the chapter there which fit into the story in a really crazy way with the character and the stories theme of restriction versus freedom in public spaces. I'm glad we took our time developing the scene .”
And like the story, the dancing was mostly freestyle with some necessary structure.
“There were some sections that were structured improv, which is like- for this part of the music, it’d be really cool to have a staircase. You’re not choreographing what moves you’re going to use, but just the emotion or setting around it.”
The setting being, oh say- atop the Wall Street Bull, or an L Train ride-turned-dance-party. Among the many questions of how, one in particular is how was Marsen able to hear the beat so perfectly?
“Our friend Paolo was usually behind Jacob or Sam (the other cameraman) with a boom box. But there were certain scenes, like at Yankee stadium when I had to just listen to the song beforehand and match the energy.”
After this we had to ask if the Yankee scene was real- YES! (Simply amazing).
While Marsen identifies with her character, and had some input, she isn’t the first person to cut loose in public.
“The Girl is kind of like a caricature form of me when I’m dancing. If I’m not dancing, then I’m pretty quiet, and I’m actually pretty uncomfortable with my voice. I’d rather observe going on although we all have that side of ourselves that wants to break out. Maybe it’s because the music is so damn happy. I found this past year or two that it's better when there’s an element of heart in it; people respond to it.”
She calls it heart, we call it gumption, because an incredible amount of confidence is necessary to let go in front of the everlasting critics of NYC. Don’t be fooled though, off-screen, Marsen can be just as nervous to perform in public as the rest of us. The difference, though? She found a purpose.
“I guess because we were doing it for a purpose, I saw the story in my head- where each scene fit in and when that happens, I just go. I’m still trying to work up courage to dance in public by myself, and doing Girl Walk helped me realize that people don’t care, you’re most likely never going to see them again, and some people will even enjoy it. And the people that don’t- that's fine, those aren't the people who are meant to be in your life. When you’re doing what you love for long enough, the right people come into your life- I really believe that.”
So what is the underlying message of Girl Walk that you want to spread across the world?
I guess I’ve never thought about it in that kind of way, but I mean just to enjoy your body- Take a moment to realize that this is your life and your body wants to move. Our bodies aren’t designed to be at computers all day, and it doesn’t have to be dance- your body is a miraculous thing, explore what it can do. And don't worry what people think of it. When asked "what do you want out of life?" most people say "to be happy," right? And what is one of the main ways we experience happiness? Through our bodies!”
And with its one of a kind spirit, the film has landed more than a Brilliant spot on NY Mag’s Approval Matrix, and a spark in people’s hearts.
“I don’t think any of us expected it, but we were backed almost 5 times our goal of $4800 on Kickstarter. That’s almost 25,000 dollars. They’re going to Denver right now, and this movie theater is dedicating four of their theaters to Girl Walk, and there’s going to be a dance contest. We’re going to be doing screenings in NY throughout January and hit the West Coast in February. We'll also be at the Brooklyn museum for first Saturday in April, and we’re even going to do an interactive dance party where we teach the audience some moves. We’re hoping to bring the film to Europe in the summer. If you enjoy Girl Walk, it’s a very grass roots kind of thing, so please spread the word, so we can share it with more people. :-)
For more info and to request a screening, go here. http://girlwalkallday.com/