A conversation with Mink Pinster

What goes into NDT's online performances?

Hague-based Mink Pinster owns production company MILLK. His work centres around interpreting (dance) theatre & music into film. Ever since 2020, Mink and his team have been working with NDT on recordings for online performances. Nowadays all NDT recordings that are streamed or offered on demand take place during a live performance with an audience. How do the recordings work and what are the challenges involved? During Illuminate‘s production week, we caught up with Mink to talk about his work.

What challenges do you face in capturing dance compared to other projects?

“When recording a concert, there are all kinds of options, there is freedom to react to the moment. With theatre, the preferred way is to make it feel like a feature film. Dance has a certain precision. The origin lies with the choreographer and the idea of the ballet. During an initial meeting with the choreographer, I explain what we are doing and emphasise that everything that happens on stage has priority. In some cases the preference is for a tight registration and in others a more cinematic approach is needed. Ultimately, the choreographer decides how far we can go. After a test during a rehearsal, we discuss the choices made, and make tweaks for the final recording if necessary.”

You determine the audience's view. How do you make choices in this regard?

“Firstly, with the camera setup. In fact, we place three cameras on the very best seats. For the viewer, that gives the best experience. This season we have added a fourth camera; an extra perspective that can also show formations from above. This way, the viewer online sees even more than a visitor in the theatre! The major decisions in what the viewer gets to see are made by the choreographer. For instance, I sometimes ‘hide’ dancers entering and leaving the stage. I observe the movements and then on this basis choose a total shot, a medium shot or a close-up. The motion being made is leading.”

Mink (right) at work during the livestream

During the applause, we see audience members standing in front of the cameras. Is this a deliberate choice?

“That’s funny, it has to do with the fact that we are in the best seats in the theatre. If we set up the cameras like they would in television then we might sell 50 fewer tickets for the show, it’s too expensive. Because we are shooting in a full theatre, it is unavoidable. For my team, it is a lot of fun to get all the dancers in the frame. During the applause, we have the most shouting back and forth behind the scenes.”

Applause during livestream In/with/in

What do you enjoy most about your work?

“The dynamics in our film team and the cooperation with the NDT crew is what I get the most pleasure from in my work. We are open and honest about each other’s performance and that ensures that we are always challenging each other which helps us capture the choreography even better. But also the filming itself. You only get a camera into something once there is already a story. I always step in at the moment when there is something to work with already and I get to be part of it at great moments.”

What inspires you?

Film still from Pina (2011)

“The film Pina (2011) by Pina Bausch and Wim Wenders. I saw it (in 3D) in the cinema and thought: this is the way to film dance. Dance theatre and film come together beautifully and with integrity. Partly on stage in the set, but sometimes also outside. Dance always remains leading and you see that the filmmaker does not put himself before the choreography.”


You are currently working on the recording of 'Illuminate'. What's different this time?

“Jermaine Spivey’s piece Codes of conduct contains improvisation. That requires a new approach from the film crew because we can no longer rehearse the camera movements with exact precision. How do we best portray that? The roles of the camara crew change this time for each piece, because they have to anticipate the dancers in a different way. This is the biggest challenge this time, although Jermaine is very good at explaining the concept. This helps with the choices we make in the recording. It’s great that he is so involved!”