SV Showcase: Habitat by Sheila García and Inés Valderas

Set within a colorful, architecturally designed home, HABITAT flows from room to room, witnessing each dancer’s interaction with their environment and the boundaries, both concrete and imagined, they traverse within those spaces. Focusing on gesture, partnering, and elements of the surreal, HABITAT deconstructs our understanding of reality and illusion.

HABITAT is written and directed by Sheila García and Inés Valderas. This is one of the three films to be awarded the StandardVision Showcase Award for Artistic Achievement at the Los Angeles Dance Film Festival.

How would you describe your dance film, HABITAT, to someone who has yet to see the film?

IV: HABITAT is a mix of feelings, life stories, and colors brought to the big screen through individual characters. In a fast-paced world full of anxiety, [each] story takes time to develop each person’s feelings through movement. In [the film] you can see how architecture, painting, dancing, fashion, textile and music combine to make HABITAT possible.We all have an inner voice that we would sometimes like to silence. Who has not wanted to be reborn as a better version [of themselves] after drowning? Who has not been carried away by an obsession? Who has not felt [inexplicably] connected to someone else? Habitat takes real life feelings to the extreme of imagination and visual metaphors.

What was the inspiration for HABITAT? Did you develop the piece around a specific idea or image?

IV: HABITAT started from our fascination with a particular space in the house: the green bathroom with its natural light through the window [which] created a magical and brutal space. From this image the whole story came to us. HABITAT was inspired mostly by images. From this first room every story came to mind [in] each other room. For both of us dance is everywhere, invading spaces and telling stories. We created our inspiration board based on our ideas and achieved these images through the dancers, the clothing, the movement, and the colorful rooms.

How was your experience translating the choreography to film? How did putting this dance on film change the piece?

IV: The choreography was specifically made for the movie. The movements were created thinking of the [cinematography] we wanted to [achieve], the story we wanted to tell. We [wanted to] see the dancers as characters expressing themselves. In the movie everything is choreographed to the millimeter. Even the room in which a girl is painting is choreographed line to line–the way the lines had to be or how to get the brush to look natural and spontaneous, real. We looked for the humanity of the body.

HABITAT is set inside a colorful, architecturally interesting home. What is the story of this location and how did you choose it as the location for the film? How does this environment play a role in HABITAT?

IV: The story of the location is curious. Our friends Laura and Victor, both architects and passionate about art, told us they were making plans to re-design their house in a month or so. But before beginning reconstruction, they wanted to open [their home] to artist friends to use it as a form of expression. Elvira Solano is [one of these friends,] a muralist and also an architect [who] had already been working on the house for a couple of weeks when we first visited it. She was painting some of the walls based upon the architecture of Cano Lasso, a renowned Spanish architect from the 70s. Soon after that we knew we found the right spot.

IV: Our creative process was somewhat unusual. We spent a month just listening to the house, which had so much to tell … The environment plays a very important role in HABITAT since it placed us in a special situation [and] state of mind. It had a lot of visual power and guided us through [the film].

There are many beautiful uses of color and styling throughout HABITAT. What was the role of color and wardrobe in the film?

IV: The color and styling are in fact important parts of the film. The rooms had different colors and guided us through different moments. The light of the house is also peculiar since it is oriented to the northeast and that gave us the soft color we wanted when shooting at mid afternoon. That was perfect since it didn’t [take away from the choreography or the dancers]. When we started preparing the choreography we wanted the characters to be identified by their movement and the way they were dressed: the way the clothes move when the dancer does, the contrast between the color of the walls, and the different types of clothing. Overall we wanted to achieve the different personalities in the film throughout the rooms, the movement, the combinations of colors and the different light angles of the house. And we wanted it to be visual.

Throughout the film, there are many surreal and elusive elements, both in the location itself and the gestures and movements of the dancers. How do these elements relate to your title HABITAT?

IV: The elusive elements of the film refer to the story that each character wants to tell us. Each story is told through its own body and in its own “habitación” (or “room” in Spanish). The word “habitat” arose from a [play on words] given that “habitación” can refer to inhabiting a space, inhabiting a body, or inhabiting a place. All the elements in the film are related to the construction of the story and therefore habitability of the bodies. Hence the name HABITAT. For us, habitat is not only how to occupy a space, but [how] the human personality inhabits a place from deep within oneself. The dancers, their personalities, the color of the rooms, the paintings on the wall, the light and the right hour made it possible. The clothing brands, the make up artist, the musician, and the cameras [understood] our ideas. At the end… Everything stuck to the idea and all the pieces fit.

HABITAT will be on view on our SVLA 1 screen at the Courtyard Marriott in downtown Los Angeles. The film will screen along with two other films selected from the LA Dance Film Festival from March 2nd through May 31st playing every 20 minutes starting at the top of every hour.