Jessica van Rueschen is a videographer. “Not a filmmaker, I work with video cameras.” She has been making the trailers, portraits, clips and recordings for Panama Pictures for years. “I try to show the performance as the choreographer wants the viewer to experience it,” she says.

She is also a choreographer and visual artist – which probably explains why Jessica manages so well to capture the complexity of a dance/circus performance in images. Jessica: “You try to create images with a choreographer’s eyes of what audiences will ideally experience. Not distorting too much, but making a translation into film. So figuring out: how do you capture the dynamics and aesthetics of the experience, how do you translate it? What do you want to show? What is redundant? And then: where do you place your camera? What angles do you choose?”

How I look and work

For some twenty years, Jessica has been recording performances by Pia Meuthen. Jessica: “That way you get to know each other well, I know what she thinks is important: what design or emotions, lighting and sound, movement language or contact between dancers. And vice versa: Pia knows how I look and work.” Later, trailers, clips and portraits were added.

Jessica: “When a new performance is almost ready, Pia sends me videos of rehearsals and I occasionally go and watch it myself. Then we discuss what she thinks is important. With Tipping Point, for example, whether the object should be visible as a whole or closer, and what movements of it are important. Or she indicates: in this scene, I want you to film very close to that performer. Based on those cues, I decide where to put the cameras and what to shoot.”

Extra dimension

Jessica also works for other dance companies but her approach with Panama Pictures is very specific because of the acrobatic approach. Jessica: “Through that acrobatics I want to show exactly what the performers have to be able to do, make it clear that it is not about tricks but always about content. You want to see up close what it takes from their bodies, in addition to the aesthetics far away.”

Panama Pictures’ performances also offer another challenge. Jessica: “The height, that’s really an extra dimension compared to other dance companies. And that’s searching sometimes, you don’t want a ceiling or theatre spotlights in the picture. So for trailers we sometimes work on location, so you really have the space.”

Pure

Trailers – the short videos used to promote a show on websites, social media and in theatres – are a story in themselves anyway. Jessica: “Such a trailer has to show the essence of the performance in a very short time. Quickly attractive, attract attention. But remain pure, accurate. So then you can start abstracting, add something that lifts the whole to another level. Mounting magical images between the ‘normal’ movements, for example. Because that’s the beauty of dance: there are always magical images.”

Panama Pictures’ performances involve a lot of enthusiastic and skilled makers, in front of and behind the scenes. Together they make up our company. You can read their (and therefore our) stories here.