Nella Luce (translated from Italian meaning “Into the Light”), is a collaborative art piece that is centralized around a dance film.  Featuring visual art from Elizabeth Northrup, choreography from Joy Shanahan, and videography from Matthew Szczygiel, of MJS Live Productions. You can view the final film to the right!

You can also view this behind-the-scenes video we produced for the project’s go fund me campaign.

    Like so many projects in the arts, this one started on a whim. Elizabeth and Joy are sisters, and though they practice different mediums of art – Joy is a dancer and Elizabeth a painter- they’ve spent much of their lives working together and supporting each other’s endeavors. In December of 2020, Joy called Elizabeth from her car after listening to a song and seeing images of dancers with painted bodies and costumes. “I could see the colors and movements, and it just looked like Elizabeth’s work to me. I called her immediately because I had this overwhelming feeling that we needed to work together,” Joy said. What started as a “what if” quickly turned into a collaboration, and soon they had plans, designs, and a cast. Matthew signed on in February after a Zoom meeting discussing the project and its themes. His experience in lighting design, as well as videographer and photography, made him a perfect addition to the team of artists.

    The title of this piece, Nella Luce, came from the song choice, “Daylight” by Antony and the Johnsons. It seemed only fitting, after a year like 2020, that this film take shape as a way of seeking lightness. There’s no disputing that the struggles faced in the past year have been immense. Through fire, flood, sickness, and loss, life has been tumultuous for everyone. But, there are still cracks where the light shines through, and though it’s never easy, we have the ability to choose to look for it and to cling to it. This capture of hope is reflected in the light that peaks through trees in the forest, the rising sun at dawn, the warmth on your skin when the sun first appears after a long winter season. It’s all around us, but it does take some practice to find it, to choose to see it.

About the Artists

Elizabeth Northrup has her BFA in studio art from Appalachian State University and is a successful mixed media artist. Her work is inspired by the landscape that she was raised in. Elizabeth says of her style: “The aim of my work is to reflect the sense of divine belonging I feel in creation. This world was made for us and we for it. I want to share that sense of joy in providence with everyone who sees my work.”

With a concept so rooted in nature, its scenery, and the way light interacts with and touches our every day, Elizabeth was the ideal person to create art to go alongside the story of this film. As such, Elizabeth will be designing costumes and set pieces using scarves and ink dyes. She will also be hand painting the dancers for filming, in order to wholly connect her art with the movement. 

    Joy Shanahan is currently a dance student at Appalachian State University (yes, it runs in the family), and produced her first dance film in the fall of 2020. She works primarily in modern and contemporary techniques. As a choreographer, Joy describes her intentions:

With influences from my own lived experiences, to stories I believe are worth sharing, the pieces that I create centralize around the common themes of dance as activism and storytelling. Through movement, I have the ability to open doors to conversation. Dance has the power to shed light on topics and issues – both personal and public – and to present them outside of the realm of spoken word or prose.

Joy will be choreographing the movement for the film, and has a cast of five dancers in rehearsal. Her background in organic movement forms like modern seemed relative to the overarching aesthetic of the film. Further, the narrative nature of contemporary dance gave a solid foundation to her ability to convey the concepts driving Nella Luce.

    Matthew Szczygiel is a master of all trades as a photographer, lighting designer, and media producer. Matthew studied Electronic Media Production and minored in Theater Production at High Point University. He is decorated within the field of lighting design and has worked with artists like Sherryl Crowe and Luke Combs. Now the owner of his own company, MJS Live Productions, Matthew is eager to continue creating, stating:

I can’t wait for what the future holds, and am excited for whatever project I can next get my hands on. I believe that learning truly never stops, and thrive on the opportunity to face new challenges and learn new technology. 

We are pleased to report that thanks to Matt’s participation, the project will not be filmed on our phones. In all seriousness, his experience with video production, as well as his work with other dance artists, will play a key part in the production of the film. Matthew will be the director of photography, as well as the editor of the film. 

Community Impact

With the hope to convey that there is still light to be sought out in this world, it’s important to us all that we are able to share this work. As of now, we are reaching out to local arts councils, film/screen dance festivals, and other arts venues for opportunities to show this film. Once finished, the piece will also premiere on YouTube and other social media sites. 

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