On January 17 BTS released “Black Swan”, the first single from their upcoming album MAP OF THE SOUL: 7. The accompanying art film, starring the members of the MN Dance Company, left everyone in awe with its sheer beauty and the emotional complexity of the story the talented dancers told us with their bodies.
The Slovenian dance company was founded back in 2009 by Michal Rynia and Nastja Bremec Rynia, who now serve as the company’s main choreographers and art directors. Ever since, they have strived to popularize dance across generations and countries.
One of their main goals is telling an abstract story through movement, which is exactly what they did in “Black Swan”.
TheStandom team had the chance to interview these talented artists in order to gain insight into their creative process, feelings on their sudden popularity, and the backstory of their epic collaboration with BTS.
How did this collaboration come about? Who contacted you and what was your initial reaction?
MICHAL: This whole project was very unexpected and we still find it hard to believe that it happened. We don’t know how they found us, but we assume through our YouTube channel. Big Hit Entertainment contacted us in October to ask if we would like to do a choreography for BTS’ new single. We had to prepare the choreography and then send it to them for a review. They liked it and next thing we knew, we were already in Los Angeles, shooting the art film in December. We are very thankful to BTS and Big Hit Entertainment for this opportunity.
NASTJA: When they first contacted us, we were finishing our preparations for the premiere of our new performance and this news made us even more inspired and excited.
What do you think was the key characteristic of your style of dance that made you the perfect dance company for starring in this video?
MICHAL: We do not know exactly what made them choose us, but here are some characteristics of our style which make it special: we like telling stories in our own personal way; our style is pure, expressive, the movement comes out of researching the concept, and all of this is supported by our unique way of transmitting the storyline. We create intuitively, mixing different dance techniques and with this, we are blending various dance styles together. We like to express the beauty as well as the roughness of the world we are living in. This is probably what they found interesting when watching our videos.
Tell us something about the process of creating the choreography for his video. Were you given specific instructions on what the finished choreography should look like, or were you given artistic freedom to create a dance that would convey the deep meaning behind this song?
MICHAL: We started working on the choreography as soon as we received the song back in October. Big Hit Entertainment also sent the the explanation of the meaning of the song and what they would like the finished choreography to represent, but, other than that, we had all the artistic freedom we needed while creating this piece.
NASTJA: Usually, we both dance in our projects, but since Michal was injured at that time, he was more responsible for the choreography and the creative process.
MICHAL: We really liked the concept of the song because we think that it’s something all artists at some point in their careers can relate to. As an artist aiming for perfection, you always try harder and harder to pursue it. You could easily lose the joy, but you can overcome it by speaking from deep within yourself.
NASTJA: Also, the quote by Martha Graham which appears on screen at the beginning of the video – “A dancer dies twice – once when they stop dancing, and this first death is more painful” – really fits the meaning of the song.
MICHAL: We wanted to express all this through the body, using non-verbal communication to be able to reach the audience, and instinctively it brought us to the final result. We finished the choreography pretty fast. Then we filmed it in the theatre and sent it to the Big Hit Entertainment for a review.
How long did it take you to come up with the choreography and how long did it take the dancers to perfect it? Where was the video filmed?
MICHAL: Besides Nastja, we decided on a cast of six talented dancers from our educational program who best fit the meaning behind the choreography. Alongside our theatre work, we also have an educational program for dance, and all dancers in the video are a part of it – they are our students. Most of them took their first dance lessons with us. Like for example, the main dancer in the “Black Swan” video, Luka Vodopivec, made his first dance steps under our mentorship.
NASTJA: We thought that they are ready for this experience and that it would be a great opportunity for them. All the dancers in the video are familiar with our style and our way of work. We had two months – from October, when Big Hit first contacted us, until December, when we shot the video – to perfect the choreography.
MICHAL: We are very proud of our dancers for their work and dedication to this project. The process of creating a choreography is always very nice since you are constantly finding new ways in which your body can move and express emotions. For me, this process is like a playground where you play with different body parts in order to find a way to express the right idea.
You knew you would reach a huge and very versatile audience by starring in this video. Did this fact impact your process of coming up with the choreography in any way?
MICHAL: This is a nice opportunity to showcase our work to a wider range of audiences around the world, but while creating the choreography I was not thinking about this at all. I was just coming up with different ideas and liking how they were slowly painting a picture.
The reactions to the “Black Swan” art film were overwhelmingly positive. Were you at any point nervous that this wouldn’t be the case? How did you feel when you saw people’s reactions on social media?
MICHAL: When we finished the shooting in Los Angeles, I had a good feeling about it. But while waiting for the video to come out, I did experience a dose of fear.
NASTJA: We were most stressed about the fact that people might be in some way upset that BTS are not performing in the video. We had a lot of people contacting us to say that they are looking forward to seeing BTS do our choreography. When we saw the reactions to the video, we were overwhelmed and we appreciate all the positive comments.
MICHAL: BTS truly have a kind and open audience. Our hearts are still warm from all the beautiful responses. We are very thankful for that.
BTS’ main message is “Love yourself”. What message would you like to send to the world with your art?
MN: Listen to your heartbeat – there is a rhythm in it. Do not let the outside noise make you miss your own melody, intuition, and purpose because all the answers are within you already.
Don’t be scared to rise and fall, because there is a moment in between when you are flying. Keep on dreaming because your dreams become your reality.
Yes, love yourself and love others.
What does this collaboration mean to you? What was your favorite part about this whole process?
Luka Vodopivec: I think that it is really nice that BTS are giving opportunities and the platform for artists around the world to showcase their work and that different kinds of art are being presented to the masses. The experience of taking part in such a big production was really unforgettable and will be a memory that we’ll cherish forever. All thanks to the team that was on set taking care of us during filming. Most of all, I have to thank Nastja and Michal, the choreographers of the art film, for giving me the opportunity to portray the black swan. I did my best to express the storyline. I am also thankful to my fellow dancers for their unlimited support.
Matija Mačus: It was amazing because we got to film on a big-budget production set and collaborate with amazing artists. My favorite part was the filming process. I liked the team and the location.
Noemi Capuano: I think this collaboration is a great opportunity to promote a different type of dance, something more unique and creative, different from the commercial style that everyone is used to seeing. It was really nice at the beginning when we started learning the choreography because we knew that we were a part of something special, but we didn’t know that this project could become as huge and phenomenal as it is. My favorite part of the whole process was definitely working on the set; it was intense, the location was amazing and everything was so professional, so it was a great experience overall and a great opportunity to grow as artists.
Gabriel Vassilli Biondini: This collaboration is something that every dancer would like to take part in. I felt that this collaboration was like a train that you could either catch or not, but if you decide to hop on, it will make you work hard and break your limits, and you’ll ultimately reach the main point of dance: expressing emotions to the audience. So for me, this was a way to give something to the public and this collaboration helped us give ourselves to the world. My favorite part was the day of the filming, ‘cause we were doing something we love – dancing – so we didn’t care if the place was cold or not, if we were tired or not, we just wanted to dance and do our best.
Eva Podlogar: The chance to collaborate with BTS was definitely an unforgettable experience which meant a lot to me. I still can’t believe all this is happening. The best part was filming with an amazing crew and it’s nice to see that people support us and that they liked our dance video.
Meta Konjedic: The best part for me was the whole filming process. It was the experience of a lifetime. It was amazing to collaborate with BTS and I hope we’ll have more opportunities like this in the future.
Nastja Bremec Rynia: Since I already answered this above, I would just like to say: thank you to TheStandom for this interview and thank you to all the people who support us.
A huge thank you to Michal and Nastja, as well as all the dancers, for agreeing to this interview and taking the time to answer all of our questions.