Time Out New York exclusive! Gemma Bond and John Resner unveil their brand-new dance film

In Stella & Tom, the choreographer and a filmmaker collaborate on a new project between dancers and a camera

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John Resner, a film editor and director, was sitting next to Gemma Bond, a dancer with American Ballet Theatre, at a wedding when they got to talking about their mutual desire to show ballet in a new way—without the tiaras and tutus, but with the sweat.

“I wanted to take ballet off the stage and strip away some of the artifice and the theatrical lighting and costumes, and showcase the pure physicality of it,” Resner says. “That’s something not many people get to see unless you happen to be engaged to one of the ABT dancers and can just pop into rehearsal.” (Conveniently, Resner is engaged to ABT corps de ballet member Lauren Post.)

In Stella & Tom, a collaboration between Resner and Bond, who choreographed the pas de deux featured in the film, ABT members Thomas Forster and Stella Abrera perform to “Depuis le jour” from the Gustave Charpentier opera Louise at the window-filled Ailey studios. “We wanted to have the city almost be another character,” Resner says. “And then really it’s a love story: It’s two people falling in love on the best day ever.”

Bond, who has recently started choreographing—later this year, she’ll work again with New York Theatre Ballet—originally created the pas de deux for Devon Teuscher and Calvin Royal III, who were competing for the Erik Bruhn Prize. “I loved working with them,” Bond says. “It was only one performance, but I was really proud of this ballet, and that was probably the first time I was proud of something that I’d done.”

The ballet has been slightly altered for film, but the biggest difference comes down to casting. After Teuscher couldn’t dance due to an injury and Royal had to be somewhere else the day of the shoot, Cory Stearns, opposite Abrera, stepped in. But the night before the shoot, he found himself stranded in Florida. Bond quickly asked Forster to take his place.

“Tom learned it overnight, and we worked on it as we were filming,” Bond says. “That’s another element that is really special. It isn’t a polished piece; not everything is perfect in it. It’s more like if you were in the studio, and you see these little things—somebody stumbles. Of course the dancers hate that, but the whole reason is to get a more realistic view of ballet, rather than it being polished and filmed from afar.”

The collaborators call the film Stella & Tom, because they want it to be about the dancers. “It’s a prop for showing how Tom is moving and how close you have to be,” Bond says. “It’s not about showing the choreography. It’s more about the technique and how they interact with each other.” Capturing intricate partnering was integral to Resner. “You see something onstage and it’s a totally different experience than when something is right in your face,” he says. “When you watch a full-out run-through of something, they’re panting. You can see their muscles ripple. Men are lifting women in the air with one arm and making it look like magic. It just blows my mind how special that is.”

Watch the full exclusive video of Stella & Tom


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