An artist who first appeared on DN back in 2014 in her collaborative docu-dance short with Jake Saner Spaces Part I: Interior and again last year in her role as choreographer and dancer for Daniel Gootnick’s one-shot dance film Different / Sleep, Ashley Robicheaux returns to DN today with Eclipse – the first video for her music alter ego R O B I which sees this polymath add directorial duties to her ever growing list of creative talents. Watch the film below after which we hand the reins over to Robi to discover how both song and video were inspired by a powerful experience of natural beauty and why despite featuring expressive movement Eclipse is not a dance film.
*If you enjoyed Eclipse be sure to also check out our interview with Robi for her one-shot music video Handlebars.
I wrote Eclipse, a reflective poem, with my friend Jonah Greenstien while we were on a road trip to and from the 2017 solar eclipse. We passed a notebook back and forth as inspiration came to us in the car. During the actual eclipse, there were 30 seconds when the clouds parted, revealing the magnetic colors in the sky in a way I had never seen them before. Everything became extremely quiet and time seemed to go on forever. It was probably the most beautiful thing we had ever seen.
When we returned to NYC, I had a residency at the Ace Hotel, where I invited some friends to turn this poem into a song with me on my last night before moving to LA. I randomly selected lines of our poem and improvised melodies, the others doing the same. Producer Ethan Woods shaped the song, which he and I finessed from afar (alongside Rahm Silverglade) for another year before I felt ready to release it into the world. The song itself breathes of slowing down and taking space, with the essence of a “happening” as its driving force. I wanted to create a video that “felt” this way if that makes sense.
The idea for the music video came from a few different directions. I had recently collaborated with Performance Artist Millie Brown, who I felt a strikingly magnetic connection with. I knew that I wanted to work with her on this one. In the development of the idea, the other characters were born as a response to her character.
I wanted to make a video that allowed space for interpretation of its meaning, that did not force a narrative but involved characters that were rooted into nature and intertwined in some way by the loosely conceptual threads that exist in the video. I wanted to evoke feeling and allow the viewer to individually take from it what they will. This was also the first video I featured in as a music artist — it is also my visual introduction to the music world.
I wanted to make a video that involved movement in a more abstract way, but I was not interested in creating a dance video.
Eclipse was shot by Stephen Michael Simon, on the Sony FS7, with Canon L Series lenses and an Easyrig Vario 5. During the process of making the music video, I wanted to remain open to letting the narrative unfold while we were on set. I made a visual treatment beforehand and compiled a list of images I knew I wanted to create and kind of left it open from there. I didn’t hammer the concept out as much as I have with other projects in the past. I knew the characters were all somehow rooted in nature and spanning space and time in a peculiar way but I wanted to leave room for discovery.
From the choreographer part of my brain, I wanted to make a video that involved movement in a more abstract way, but I was not interested in creating a dance video. I think the way that movement contributes to the film and the characters is subtle but impactful in helping to shape the world. All of the dancing was improvised and built from character work.
I used choreographic tools and visual imagery and let that influence how I was directing the other performers. A lot of the feeling of the video came through in the edit, with Editors Alan Ortiz and Diego Gilly helping to shape the loose narrative and the pacing. In the end, we didn’t end up using any of the performance takes of me singing the song in the desert because I felt it took away from the abstract nature of the rest of the shots. I was very involved in the editing process, often sitting at the table with the editors.