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Rachel Levin
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Dance Media Screen Innovations — The 9th Annual Dance Camera West Film Festival

by Rachel Levin
June 5, 2010
(Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater - in the Walt Disney Concert Hall)
631 W. 2nd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
This year's Dance Camera West festival opened Friday with a night of short films that, as Artistic Director Lynette Kessler said, provided a "survey of cultural geography in today's world." The global entries from the Netherlands, China, Germany, Denmark, and the USA were supposed to have been joined by an entry from Iran, but, as Kessler described, the Iranian "moral police" scared the filmmaker into pulling the film from the lineup. This incident of Iranian censorship reminded the audience that the language of the body is a powerful form of expression, especially when it can reach so many through the medium of the screen.

As in previous years, the offerings reflected innovations at the juncture of choreography and cinematography. Some of the more surreal films made camera and editing techniques the central focus. In the delightful "Beguine" (Netherlands), visual effects funneled bodies from the dance floor, into a glass of wine, into an office cubicle, and finally into the belly of a copy machine, where a flip-book-like series of frames made it seem as if the main character was dancing through the reproduced pages. In "Circulatura" (Germany), motion and suspension techniques made it seem as if the bodies were moving sculptures.

To me, though, the most enjoyable films to watch were those that used dance to communicate a humanized narrative. In "Flow," the simplicity of watching young men invade the rooftops of Rotterdam by gracefully flipping, leaping, and tumbling through the urban spaces was a kind of poetry in motion. "Mahjong" (China/Sweden) explored the indirect expression of emotion in both the ancient Chinese game and in the language of dance. Especially touching was "Sand" (USA), a documentary-style short that illuminated the bonds between father and son as they did the "sand dance" together — a rousing percussive style that lies somewhere at the intersection of soft shoe and tap.

The closing piece, "Advance" (USA), was a bit of eye candy that spliced together scenes of two dancers walking, leaping, and grooving through 50 different locations (from deserts to forests to cityscapes) to make it look like one continuous two-minute dance. The metaphor of dance marching through disparate cultural and ecological terrains yet being understood as the same expression in all of them was an apt one to close the night. It reinforced the global scope of the festival and dance's capacity to cross linguistic and national barriers in a cinematic medium.

Dance Camera West events continue throughout the month of June, and most are free screenings. Some upcoming highlights include screenings at the Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk (June 10), premieres of Pina Bausch films at the Hammer Museum (June 12 & 13), a night of local filmmakers' work at the Cheviot Hills Recreation Center (June 19), and the screening of a Brazilian documentary at Grand Performances at California Plaza (June 27). For more information, visit www.dancecamerawest.org.
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