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In a momentous achievement for the St. Louis dance scene, “Raising Spirits | The Big Muddy Dance Company,” directed by Chadwell + Ria Ruthsatz, claimed an Emmy at the 47th Annual MID-AMERICA REGIONAL EMMY® AWARDS. This remarkable documentary, which also received accolades at the Tellys and the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase, delves into the behind-the-scenes creation of The Big Muddy Dance Company’s original stage production, “Lemp Legends: A Ghost Story.”
For Chadwell + Ria Ruthsatz, co-founders of Tree9 Films who share a history of directing commercials, “Raising Spirits” marked their inaugural venture into the world of documentaries. Reflecting on the project, Ria Ruthsatz recounted, “We were filming a rehearsal in 2020 when the stay-at-home orders went into effect. Our crew and the dancers walked out of the theater that day, and the doors were locked—for months.”
Tree9 Films, who’s supported The Big Muddy Dance Company with promotional films for over a decade, eagerly embraced the opportunity to craft a documentary exploring the haunting story of the Lemp family through dance. As the film unfolded, the challenges posed by COVID-19 became an integral part of the narrative. The pandemic created an unexpected backdrop for a story filled with a new set of twists, turns, and terror.
Both The Big Muddy Dance Company and Tree9 Films faced the need to adapt and find new ways to create amid the uncertainties of the past few years. Ruthsatz observed, “There were more than a few times when we had no idea how the story would end. Fortunately, The Big Muddy Dance Company proved that art can’t be stopped.”
Ruthsatz expressed gratitude to Erin Prange, Executive Director of The Big Muddy Dance Company, whose perseverance ensured the dance company’s continuity during the pandemic. “It really is a testament to the arts in St. Louis. Prange found ways to keep the dancers dancing. We found ways to keep the cameras rolling. We’re all still creating, and we’re stronger for it.”
While being honored by their filmmaking peers is significant, Ruthsatz emphasized the thrill of acknowledgment for a film highlighting the artistic work in our city. “We’re proud to be part of the St. Louis arts community.”
Looking ahead, Tree9 Films anticipates more exciting projects that showcase the resilience and creativity of St. Louisans, forging a path for innovative collaborations in the realms of both commercial and documentary filmmaking.
Watch Raising Spirits