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Caleb Simpson and Jillian Armstrong Q & A

Monday, September 30, 2019

In late April, Film & Media Studies student Caleb Simpson led a music video project for his pseudonym, Swade Simpson, and his recent single, “Sound Escape.” The music video was a collaborative effort between students in the School of the Arts featuring simultaneous storylines intertwined with choreographed dance breaks. On the other side of the creative project, Theatre & Dance student Jillian Armstrong took the lead  choreographing and casting the dancers. Simpson and Armstrong hope to set a new precedent for cross department collaboration.


Answers to Q&A


1. What inspired you to create this project?

Caleb Simpson: As the original artist behind “Sound Escape,” the song is very personal to me. Writing music has been my outlet the past couple years, and the music video is an extension of that. Since Sound Escape isa dance song, not including choreography felt sinful. I think that’s what’s most exciting about it all. To my knowledge there hasn’t been a project like this within the departments. I think working with the Theatre & Dance to create something new is energizing.


2. How did you get connected with the dance department?

Caleb Simpson: One of their staff members, Dawn Hawkins, helped connect me. Without her help, this project wouldn’t have started as smoothly as it did.


3. Who are you working with in Theatre & Dance?

Caleb Simpson: Our dance team consisted of four students from the department: Jillian Armstrong, Anastasya Bagdasaryan, Gabrielle Dionne, and Derrick Ice. 


4. How is the project going so far?

Caleb Simpson: So far, we’ve made great progress. Watching Jillian lead the dance team and seeing how quickly they learned it was surreal. What might’ve taken me 6 hours took them 10 minutes. Seeing the dance in motion breathed new life in the song.


6. Why are you making this project?

Caleb Simpson: Throughout my time at KU, I’ve heard a multitude of students talk about wanting more collaboration within and across departments. This most often comes about as a collaboration between Theatre and Film and film. While there has been some effort for this, I feel it’s a missed opportunity. The landscape for arts and media are converging. We should follow suit. I’m hoping our project sets a new precedent for cross department collaboration.

Choreographer Jillian Armstrong then connected with us on her experience with this collaboration.


1. How did you get connected with Caleb in the Film department?

Jillian Armstrong: I got connected with Caleb through a "Call for Artists" sheet/email that was sent out seeking a choreographer 

2. Why did you want to be involved in this project?

Jillian Armstrong: I love to choreograph. It is what I want to do in the future, so I couldn't pass up an opportunity to create something this fun! 

3. Tell us about your experience so far.

Jillian Armstrong: My experience has been really good. Everyone has been very willing to work together and collaborate which can be difficult sometimes. 

4.  You are not new to choreographing work, but is it different when you’re choreographing with someone else’s vision and ideas?

Jillian Armstrong: It definitely is different when you have to choreograph with someone else's ideas. Instead of it truly being my vision I have to constantly think about what Caleb wants. So there is less freedom, but it provides a challenge in that I have boundaries to create within -  I like challenges. 

5.  Any advice for fellow School of the Arts students who might be interested in collaborating, but are nervous or don’t know where to start?

Jillian Armstrong: Just reach out! I promise you that all SOTA students love working with other artists. We have so much to learn from each other and someone always wants to collaborate, so just go for it. And if you don't know where to start, ask a professor to help you send out a call sheet seeking artists in other departments.