In October 2019, East Berlin photographer Sven Marquardt photographed several members of the international ballet ensemble of world-famous Friedrichstadt-Palast. Even though it was unclear at the time when and where these photos would be presented to the public, we were asked to come on set and capture the moments on video.
Overwhelmed and simultaneously inspired by the grace and attitude of the Palace’s ballet, we decided on-site to produce more than a usual making-of video. The result was an artistic film, the dynamic of which was determined by the expressive movements of the dancers and the special atmosphere during the production days.
Less than half a year after the photoshoot, the artists portrayed were deprived of their stage and essentially became “stageless” when all performances from March 11th, 2020 were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Facing this new situation, Sven Marquardt’s photographs took on a whole new meaning—and suddenly the idea of a photo exhibition called “STAGELESS . SVEN MARQUARDT” in the Palast’s empty foyer was born. In cooperation with the renowned C/O Berlin Foundation and headed by its main curator Felix Hoffmann, the ensemble’s portraits were printed on massive construction fence tarpaulins illuminated with construction lights and presented to the public from the beginning of October until the end of November 2020 (without any entrance fee).
With this new development, our 100-second video that we produced in late 2019 became the exhibition’s official promotion trailer. What’s more, as part of the upcoming communication activities, we were also asked to create three specific video cutouts from the comprehensive footage we had on hand. These 15-second clips focusing on individual dancers were used for the Palast’s official exhibition promotion on social media, for which we cut each video to the 9:16 and 4:5 formats required by stories and timelines on social media.
In addition, we created an expressive loop video for the big LED screens hanging outside above the main entrance.
Besides this marketing-centered work, we were also asked to create a concept for a video visual: a cinematic, artistic addition to the “StageLess” photo exhibition. During a detailed exploration of the many empty rooms and corridors of the Friedrichstadt-Palast, we came across a so-called “ghostlight:” In theaters around the world, when the auditorium is empty, there is a tradition of leaving a single light on until the ensemble returns to the stage and the auditorium is filled again.
At that moment we knew immediately that we wanted to start our cinematic visual with this symbol of hope. In the following days, we produced a 10-minute video walk through the empty Palast that we subsequently combined with rough construction sounds and digital overlays of Sven Marquardt’s analog ensemble portraits—like faces that sometimes appear out of the dark as if they were ghosts inhabiting the void.
During the photo exhibition, this video was permanently shown in the middle of the foyer on both sides of the stairs—and at a height of about five meters. When you stand on the huge stairs in the foyer featuring several meter-high video projections, you will almost feel as if you are in an abandoned grand hotel.
Photography by Sven Marquardt
Personal assistance by Hardy Paetke
Concept, direction & production by Jonas Meyer
DOP, cut & grading by Steven Lüdtke
2nd camera by Frederik Bösing
Fashion by Klaus Stockhausen
Hair & makeup by Saskia Krause
Assistance by Felix Stößer
Production assistance by Ralf Preßmar
Music by Florian Deitermann
Graphics by Marc Naroska
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