Erin S Murray

February 26, 2018

Erin S Murray is an LA based movement artist, choreographer, and filmmaker. Her movement can be seen in various music videos and branded pieces for artists including Rhye, John Legend, Galantis, Foxygen, and Lululemon. Erin's short documentary, "NADIA," was presented at the 2017 Atlanta Film Festival. Photo by Dustin Giallanza.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I’m a movement artist based in Los Angeles. I enjoy working with professional dancers as well as people who claim they can’t dance. I find a lot of joy in proving them wrong. When I’m not choreographing music videos or commercials, I find the time to direct my own experimental dance films.

Still from Taylor Phelan “Settle Down” (Music Video Directed by Ariel Fisher, Choreography by Erin S Murray)

How did your interest in your work begin? My mom tells me that as soon as I could walk, whenever I would see dance on television I would become immediately transfixed and try to imitate the performers. Somewhere along the line, my love for dance developed into an intense passion for ballet, and I became one of those overly serious ten-year-olds who decides their career path before they can even earn their learner’s permit. I was lucky to have a family who supported me. Spending all day in a ballet studio, my training took me to the Atlanta Ballet and the San Francisco Ballet School. By age 18, the intense pressure to become the “perfect” ballerina had taken its toll on my mental health. I felt like my day to day was less about creativity and expression and more about changing myself to become someone else’s tool. I was tired of ignoring my own interests in an effort to be chosen by the ballet gods, so I left the ballet world for a college film program. It was a complete 180 that confused even my closest friends and family, but for the first time in a long time I was excited about the mysteries ahead.

I had a professor in school who encouraged me to make personal films, and I began collaborating with other dancers of different genres. I directed a documentary series where I explored the concept of perfection in art and performance from the perspective of three different dancers, each of a different style and background. The whole process was a way to celebrate others, while finding answers to questions about myself. Around the same time, I fell into the Atlanta music video scene, and I began experimenting with turning off my ballet training at times to move in a way that feels more human, genuine, and spontaneous. I love collaborating with filmmakers to design movement that serves a larger concept, and I have found myself in a career more fulfilling than I could have ever imagined as a ten-year-old.

Still from John Legend Darkness and Light Tour Visuals (Directed by Spencer Creigh and Cameron Dutra, Choreography by Erin S Murray)

What is it like living and working in LA? The work in LA is very fast paced and especially as a choreographer, you’re lucky to have a few hours of rehearsal with dancers before a music video or commercial shoot! This was an adjustment for me coming from the ballet world, where it’s standard to have weeks of rehearsal for one show.

It’s wonderful in a way because you don’t have time to second guess yourself, and a lot of magic can come out of that. It’s also informed my process, especially when I work with artists who aren’t necessarily professional dancers. When you don’t have much time to work with someone, you learn to quickly tap into what’s compelling about them as an individual. A big part of my work is helping people feel uninhibited and free in their bodies.

Still from HYDRA (Directed and Choreographed by Erin S Murray)

Can you talk a little bit about your new video piece “HYDRA” and what went into making it? “HYDRA” is an experimental dance narrative exploring themes of identity, herd mentality, and indoctrination. I directed and choreographed the piece. The lead actress, Meredith Adelaide, described the film in a way I wish I came up with. It’s about a girl “learning the rhythms of the world” and “seeing if they fit her.”

I starting jotting down notes last August that eventually became “HYDRA,” and we filmed the whole thing in one day in October of last year. I had two rehearsals before the shoot, each with only half of the dancers, which was slightly nerve wracking considering the extra long scarf that connected all of the women was a new prop for everyone. Some moments were rehearsed as much as possible while others were left unrehearsed in order to preserve some chaos and mayhem for Meredith to react to. It was a very ambitious, all-day shoot, and we ended up using each shot-listed moment in the final piece.

What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about social media, narcissism, aging, identity, power dynamics, behavior modification, and mental health.

What are some other recent, upcoming, or current projects you are working on? I have a few music video choreography works on their way into the world. I’m also in the early stages of another top secret dance film. 😉

Still from Taylor Phelan ‘Settle Down’ (Music Video Directed by Ariel Fisher, Choreography by Erin S Murray)

What is your absolute favorite place in the world to be? Any empty dance studio with lots of natural light.

What was the last show/exhibition you saw that stuck out to you? Shirin Neshat’s video installation Possessed.

Who would you ideally like to collaborate with? There’s a long list. . . Lydia Kavina, Alejandro Ghersi, Laura Newton are a few.

What are you really excited about right now? I’m excited about how my perspective is changing as I grow older. I’m also excited about new collaborations and personal projects I have on the horizon.

Still from John Legend Darkness and Light Tour Visuals (Directed by Spencer Creigh and Cameron Dutra, Choreography by Erin S Murray)