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Seven Films at the Dance on Camera Festival 2003

by Robert Abrams
January 11, 2003
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.
140 West 65th Street
New York, NY 10023

Seven Films at the Dance on Camera Festival 2003

presented by The Dance Film Association, The Film Society at Lincoln Center, The Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The Donnell Media Center of the New York Public Library, the Puffin Room, and the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance

Review by Robert Abrams
January 11, 2003

Overall, both sessions reviewed below were worth viewing. The Festival organizers did an excellent job curating the films into coherent groups for each session. It would not be too far off to describe each session as being organized into appetizer, entrée and dessert. The films reviewed here, as well as another five hours of different films about dance, will be shown again on January 17 and 18, 2003 at Lincoln Center. Plus many other events going on at other venues. Check out www.filmlinc.com or www.dancefilmsassn.org for more information. Or call the Film Society of Lincoln Center at 212-875-5610 or the Dance Films Association at 212-727-0764.

Singular Perspectives - Session 1

The Duchess contained a few elements of Botoh and Ballroom dance, but otherwise did not contain much dance per se. Nonetheless, it fits squarely in the modern dance tradition by provocatively telling a non-story through movement and image alone. The film presented a coherent whole full of drama, greys and industrial images contrasted with palatial opulence, and was a collaboration with the Berkeley California based dance/theater company, InkBoat. The film was shot in Potsdam Germany. Choreography was by Shinichi Momo Kogg; directed by Eric Kozil; music composed by Joshua Kohl and Allen Wilher. USA, 15:15 minutes, 2002.

Yes, She Said explored the possibilities of 3-dimensional movement by filming two dancers entirely under water. What results is beautiful, if not dance as we know it. Of course, most of us, myself included, have not danced in water beyond practicing cha-cha in the shallow end of a pool, so who knows what dance in three dimensions could be? Yes, yes, I know, NYCB dancers and others are capable of great leaps into the air, but even that is perhaps 2.5 dimensions at best given that gravity keeps pulling them down. The film was shot in 25 second sequences because the dancers had to exhale and then go under the water. They were moving too deep in the pool to be able to hold their breath. They were not wearing goggles, so they couldn't see very well. All in all, an admirable experiment in what dance can be if the ordinary assumptions of dry land are removed. Choreographed and directed by Laurie McLeod; danced by Laurie McLeod and Paul Matteson; music composed by Cara Madou, Marie Josie and Charles Trenet. USA, 8:53 minutes, 2002.

Hit and Run is a coherent work of modern dance with brushstrokes of ballet, freestyle, swing and broadway - they used a fedora instead of a bowler, but close enough. The film presents a sumptuous site-specific dance with modulated pacing. The dance contains intimations of story without narrative. The amount of story it does contain is just enough to be useful as a tease to help the audience see the dancers as people. The dance in the film, which was originally staged in one space, and then restaged in another, represents the third incarnation: this time staged specifically both for the chosen location - a gloriously lit semi-abandoned Irish factory, and for film (rather than being a film of a dance on a stage). The editing did a great job of making sense of the movement. In one of my favorite moments in the film, the dancers command the spotlight with a clap of their hands so they can show off, only to have the spotlight stolen away again, repeatedly. All of the dancers were incredible, both individually and as an ensemble. This is a high energy work that comes as close as humanly possible to being a perfect full-length work of non-narrative modern dance crafted specifically for film. Choreography by David Bolger; directed by John Comiskey; produced by Siobhan Bourke, Kate Lennon and Bridget Webster; Music composed by Bell Helicopter. The dancers included Muirne Bloomer, Daryn Crosbie, Justine Doswell, Benjamin Dunks, Adam Dyer, Eric Lacey, Simone Litchfield and Liz Roche. For more information, go to www.hitandrun-thefilm.com. Ireland, 56 minutes, 2002.

Igor and Svetlana is a documentary about Igor and Svetlana Iskhakov, two champion International Latin dancers from Columbus, Ohio. The film takes the audience inside their life together. The film is also a good survey course on the five dances which comprise International Latin, interspersing a short performance of each between commentary on competitive dancesport, such as the difficulty of getting a decent pair of shoes in Russia. Choreographed and danced by Igor and Svetlana Iskhakov; produced and directed by Victoria Uris and John Giffin. USA, 31:10 minutes, 2002.

Mostly Africa - Session 2

Fly was shot in the gorgeous countryside of New Zealand. It is a take on the Icarus story told through movement and sign language (which is both movement, and spoken word to those who speak it). The film shows a father training his son and then letting him go. Choregraphed and directed by Shana McCullagh; produced by Margaret Slater; danced by John Caller; music composed by David Lang. New Zealand, 4 minutes, 2001.

African Dance: Sand, Drum, and Shostakovich is both a documentary and a presentation of filmed stage dance. This film provides a compelling introduction to African dance, and to the challenges faced by African choreographers and dancers when they try to create contemporary African dance. Their work asks the question, "What does it mean to dance today while also staying true to my own rich African roots?" The film contains many powerful images of African dance which are worth seeing, but more importantly, presents a number of ideas about what makes African dance so rich. Dance is a part of all life. When one dances, one should move all parts of one's body. Drummers are an essential part of the dance, and are not just embellishment. Dance can heal people in different ways (including one admirable dance project where the choreographer is trying to give back to his country by teaching street kids how to dance and in the process help them develop skills and hope). Choreography can embody both doubt and faith. Traditional African dance contains precision of rhythm and movement which contemporary African choreographers can build upon. Collaboration across cultures is difficult, but possible. In the work highlighted in the film's title, African dance is set to music by Shostakovich. From the excerpts shown in the film, it looked like Shostakovich is naturally supposed to be accompanied by African dance. This dance made very creative use of sand, both to dance upon and as part of the movement itself, as well as metal briefcases. This was just one of many works shown in the film that looked like they might very well be worth viewing in their entirety. Choreographers included in the film were Zab Maboungou, Mathilde Monnier, Sylvain Zabli, Vincent Mantsoe, Clara Andermatt, Beatrice Kombe Knapa, Salia Sanon and Seydo Boro, Susanne Linke and Avi Kaiser and Germaine Acogny. The dance companies were Nyata-Nyata, Compagnie Mathilde Monnier, Compagnie Slyvain Zabli, Companhia Clara Andermatt, Tchetche, Compagnie Jant-Bi, Cie Salia ni Seydo, Vincent Mansoe. The film was directed and produced by Ken Glazebrook and Alla Kovgan. The film was shot in performance at Montreal's Festival de Nouvelle Danse. The film was ably edited by Alla Kovgan from Ken Glazebrook's extensive footage. The dances selected were drawn from West and Central Africa. As anyone who has spent any time in Africa knows, Africa is an immense and diverse place. While it is legitimate to talk about "African Dance", African dance is far more diverse and worthy of in-depth consideration than many people realize. In light of this, we hope that Ken and Alla will find a way to produce a sequel highlighting dance in other parts of Africa. USA, 70 minutes, 2002.

Black Spring presents a dance for film interwoven with scenes of life in an African shantytown. This creates a contrast between the purity of dance and the messiness of life. The movement in this work often itself creates the sonic rhythm, through the use of hand held shakers, whisks and other items. As with all great dance, this work showcases both movement and stillness. The dance is presented in a way which is simple, yet very provocative. The film challenges the viewers to keep their eyes riveted to the screen - sometimes because the lead dancer speaks directly to the audience and challenges them to do so. Because the film was presented on a big screen, it felt like the dancer was eye to eye with me in the same room. This might not work as well if seen on a normal sized TV, but as presented it was very effective. Choreography by Heddy Maalen; directed by Benoit Dervaux; danced by Simone Goris and Serge Anagondu of Compagnie Ivoire; produced by Heure d'Ete.

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