Lights. Camera. Lifts.
With bay doors for curtains and Ferraris for dance partners, unlikely players paired up for an innovative performance in Atlanta, Georgia. In a 10-minute video, dancers wowed audiences with their use of space—the bay of a luxury vehicle repair shop—and their impressive choreography.
But how did an auto repair shop come to serve as the backdrop for a creative dance performance?
Ratchet+Wrench sat down with Nash Tehrani owner of Autohaus Social; George Staib founder of staibdance, an Atlanta-based nonprofit contemporary dance company; and Sarah Hillmer, director of ImmerseATL, a training and mentorship program for contemporary dancers, to discuss their performance art collaboration: “R E V, Living somewhere between Zero and Sixty.”
Years in the Making
This partnership between a dance studio and a European auto repair shop began over a decade ago. Tehrani Tehrani served on the board of directors for staibdance. He had recently purchased property in Atlanta and wanted to make connections in the community. It was Tehrani’s idea to bring together luxury vehicles and the performing arts.
“I didn’t necessarily have a dance background,” Tehrani says. “But I was happy to be supporting them with ideas and contributions when I could.”
“Nash has something very special,” Hillmer says. “He has a great respect for George’s company; he gets it. He has such a love for the performing arts. Nash proved that you can make this world vibe with the dance world.”
And from the outside looking in, the appreciation of luxury vehicles and dance seem like they’d be worlds apart, but are more intertwined than imagined.
"There's a lot of overlap … the cars we work on are a more high-end—Mercedes, BMW Porsches—and a lot of those customers are also into the fine arts, like dance. So, it opened up [an avenue] to a cool merger of these beautiful dancers and these beautiful cars and how it all intertwined together. It's just a really cool collaboration between us and them. It allowed them to do their performance in a setting you wouldn't expect performers to be dancing at," says Tehrani.
With Tehrani’s help, Hillmer and Staib’s organizations, which often partner together to give young artists professional ties in the Atlanta arts community, will reach an entirely new audience as a result of the breadth of his network across Metro Atlanta.
“We not car people,” Hillmer says, “There’s a lot of expertise in both communities, and I think we found a way to talk together in this film.”
“It was so important having someone at the helm who understood the process. Nash gave us the time and generosity to allow us true exploration,” Staib says.
Laying the Groundwork
Originally, “R E V” was supposed to have been designed by November 2019 and performed live in Tehrani’s shop in the fall of 2020. That included choreography, costumes, writing, and recording an original score; rehearsals with dancers and directors; and rehearsals with cars and drivers all resulting in a multi-weekend performance schedule.
2020, of course, had its own ideas.
As a result, Hillmer and Staib put the project on a pause—just long enough to pivot and leap in a parallel direction.
Instead of live performances, they ultimately decided that filming “R E V” and selling tickets to the stream would be the best way to honor the crew’s vision and efforts, but the task would require the talents of a filmmaker, director of photography, film editor, post-production supervisor, and sound designer.
"We decided instead of not doing it that we would just film it, and then people had the opportunity to pay to watch the full length like 10-, 15- minute program,” says Tehrani of the pivot from live performance to online streaming.
They needed someone skilled in capturing a contemporary dance performance. Luckily, filmmaker Felipe Boral jumped into this multifaceted role.
“We trusted Felipe and we filmed things we didn’t even know would happen,” Hillmer says. “Once we shot the footage it became something more than just what we’d rehearsed.”
On filming day, there were two groups on-site: Tehrani oversaw the Vehicle Team and Hillmer and Staib led the Dance Team. Tehrani had a technician on-site to operate the lifts, volunteer drivers, car enthusiasts, and fellow entrepreneurs. Hillmer and Staib led the Dance Team, which included performers, production technicians, and Boral and his camera operators. They faced a few challenges with COVID-19 restrictions, which included limited time on set.
“It’s an obvious struggle to perform without being allowed ‘onstage,’” Hillmer says, “but on the day of filming, we created an open dialogue to make sure everyone felt safe; that they could voice if they needed a shift.”
“At the end of the day, we wanted to be respectful to the greatest concerns and implement as much as we could to keep everyone safe,” Tehrani says.
The final shot of the performance features the lead dancer carefully turning, weaving and exploring the space in front of Tehrani’s Speed Yellow Porsche 911 Turbo as it slowly creeps forward towards the camera.
“The dancer was stellar,” Tehrani says, “She was so professional and didn’t even flinch when I revved the engine.”
Ultimately, Hillmer and Staib say the experience was “equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking.”
“I feel we gained an opportunity to look into something I never would have personally considered,” George says.
“Phenomenal,” Hillmer summarizes. “It was a wonderful chance for emerging artists and professionals to bring incredibly, uniquely talented, top-notch individuals together for a specific project.”
Once someone sets foot in Autohaus Social, it’s obvious why staibdance and ImmerseATL chose to film there. The European auto service caters not only to their customer's demand for quality but also to their lifestyle.
“I wanted to take the negative stigma away from the auto repair industry and build a facility that looks nothing like a shop,” Tehrani says. “Autohaus is sleek, modern. You don’t smell oil or grease when you walk in. The lifestyle portion of the shop is where we really shine—beautiful restrooms, high-end fixtures, and an art gallery for Atlanta-based artists. The shop is synonymous with professional and clean.”
Guests can enjoy the downstairs level with a full lounge and virtual gaming amenities with complementary beverages while technicians evaluate their vehicles on the middle level with tablet-based diagnostics (which customers can watch via a live feed). Furthermore, there is an upstairs level with another lounge area and a game room complete with ping pong table.
Autohaus connects with customers through its unique approach to social media. After all, not every auto repair shop has a creative director. That’s where Noosh Prljaca comes in. One of her biggest roles is helping Tehrani develop ideas for the shop and its programs. Whenever the shop hosts an event, like its ground-breaking car show along the Atlanta Beltline, she helps organize and produce the event on a ground level and creates the marketing material. Customers’ vehicles have a chance to end up on their social media feed, which allows car enthusiasts to share the posts in their own circles. This way, the business gains traction online at a sustainable rate, and Autohaus gains name recognition with its target audiences.
"She's super talented. She's worked for a lot of big blue chip companies, so she's kind of overkill for us, but she's responsible for the branding, our Autohaus social logo, all the event promo graphics, anything you see visually, she's responsible for when we have all these events. She comes up with all the creative stuff, the website, anything visual, it's really her and 100 percent her. I give her the ideas, and she takes my ideas and turns them into cool stuff,” Tehrani says.
Alongside staibdance and ImmerseATL, Prljaca shared the teaser trailers for “R E V” on the Autohaus social media, which gave the film another audience pool to tap into.
“I think it’s a reflection of how we think of things on different terms,” Tehrani says. “We gain customer respect and meet a need in the local industry. This way I can enjoy my passion for luxury cars and know I’m helping the community.”