The 2009 edition of Dance on Camera, the longest-running annual film festival showcasing the influential and formative role dance plays in film, will hit the screen at The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater, Jan. 7-11 and 16-17. The Film Society and Dance Films Association reunite for the 13th year to present the festival’s 14 unique film programs, screening 39 new, classic and experimental features and shorts. They highlight new media’s pioneering role in bringing dance to vivid life on screen; celebrate a rarely seen silent film classic; offer two evocative looks at South Asian dance; spotlight dance luminaries Jerome Robbins, Busby Berkeley, Antonio Gades, and Jirí Kylián; and much more.
Special guests will include iconoclast filmmaker Sophie Fiennes, Emmy Award- winning producer of “Dance in America” Judy Kinberg; Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and Long Island University dean Rhoda Grauer; choreographers Nora Chipaumire and Rajika Puri; and Village Voice senior film critic J. Hoberman, who will introduce a screening of Berkeley’s legendary 1934 dance musical “Dames” on Saturday, Jan. 10, at 4:00 p.m.
Acclaimed French documentarian Bertrand Normand will introduce and answer questions following the festival’s first program, Ballet Then and Now, on Wednesday, Jan. 7, at 6:15 p.m. Normand’s “Ballerina” is an insightful new investigation of the St. Petersburg ballerina as incarnated by five of the Kirov’s rising stars: Alina Somova, Svetlana Zakharova, Diana Vishneva, Ulyana Lopatkina and Evgenia Obraztsova. It screens alongside Gillian Lacey’s “Play: On the Beach with the Ballets Russes,” presenting newly found and edited footage of famous Ballet Russes dancers on the beach in Sydney, Australia, during their 1936-1940 tours.
At 9:00 p.m., EMPAC Dance Movies looks at the future of dance and new media technologies through four groundbreaking shorts specially commissioned for the Experimental Media Performing Arts Center. EMPAC curator Hélène Lesterlin will introduce the program. Choreographer Nora Chipaumire, filmmaker Alla Kovgan, and producer Joan Frosch will introduce their video, “Nora,” a biographical dance drama about a Zimbabwean girl’s struggle for love and independence.
Era-spanning feature films highlighted in the series include a rare retrospective look at Maurice Tourneur’s 1918 fantasy masterpiece “The Blue Bird,” featuring a live piano performance by silent film accompanist Ben Model. On the opposite extreme, innovative Belgian choreographer Alain Platel and filmmaker Sophie Fiennes team up for “VSPRS Show and Tell,” a definitive look at Platel’s controversial interpretation of the cherished hymn, “Maria Vespers.” Fiennes will introduce and answer questions following the screening.
Rajika Puri, choreographer, writer and renowned exponent of two forms of Indian temple dance, will also be on hand to introduce and answer questions about the first of two Dance on Camera films focusing on South Asian artistry: “Dance of the Enchantress,” veteran filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s compelling exploration of the Mohiniyattam dance form. Aribam Syam Sharma’s celebrated 1991 Cannes Film Festival selection “The Chosen One,” charting the strange rituals of a Meitei matriarchal cult as they affect a happily married woman, will be presented in the United States for the first time in nearly a decade. Rhoda Grauer, Emmy-winning producer, writer and filmmaker, and dean of the School of Visual and Performing Arts at Long Island University, will introduce the film on Saturday, Jan. 17. The shorts programs Magnetic Cinema x 3, On the Short Side and Memories, also offer an exclusive glimpse at the global reach of new choreographic visions.
The festival’s closing night feature offers a sneak peek at the new American Masters documentary on prodigious choreographer Jerome Robbins. Directed and produced by six-time Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Judy Kinberg and written by best- selling Jerome Robbins biographer Amanda Vaill, “Something to Dance About” cuts never-before-seen rehearsal footage next to interviews with many of Robbins’s esteemed colleagues, including Mikhail Baryshnikov, Jacques d’Amboise, Suzanne Farrell, Chita Rivera and Stephen Sondheim, to offer an incisive examination of Robbins’s creative process. A panel discussion with Kinberg, Vaill, dancer and choreographer Donald Saddler, and other guests will follow the screening.
Other dance and dance film virtuosos whose work is on display in the series include Czech choreographer Jirí Kylián and flamenco master Antonio Gades, whose backstage preparations are brought into fresh new light in Juan Cano Arecha’s documentary “Antonio Gades: The Ethics of Dancing.” Busby Berkeley’s trailblazing brand of Hollywood musical spectacle is spotlighted in two programs—Blithe Spirits: Rudavsky Meets Busby Berkeley and a screening in a new 35mm studio print of “The Gang’s All Here,” starring Benny Goodman, Alive Faye, Charlotte Greenwood, and the iconic Carmen Miranda as the Girl in the Tutti-Frutti Hat.
The 2009 edition of the Dance on Camera Festival marks the 13th year of collaboration between The Film Society of Lincoln Center and Dance Films Association and the festival’s 37th year as an internationally touring event. It is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, Capezio Ballet-Makers Foundation, French Consulate, New York State Council on the Arts, and the Experimental Television Center.
Bertrand Normand, 2007, France; 77m
Russian ballerinas have always been a source of pride to their country and a revelation to
Western audiences, from Pavlova to Makarova. Normand, a Frenchman, explores his
muse, the St. Petersburg ballerina, through interview and performance footage of Alina
Somova, Svetlana Zakharova, Diana Vishneva, Ulyana Lopatkina and Evgenia Obraztsova. Each ballerina reveals her personal hopes and dreams, as well as the misfortunes that can
interrupt a brilliant career. Lopatkina is seen returning to dancing after serious foot
surgery and time off for motherhood. An intimate look at six of the Kirov’s rising
stars and superstars.
ON THE BEACH WITH THE BALLETS RUSSES
Gillian Lacey, England, 2008; 23m
Even dedicated dancers need time off for play. This film is comprised of informal archival footage of the Ballets Russes frolicking on the beach in Sidney, Australia during
their 1936-1940 tours. No point shoes on the sand but some lively cartwheels, leaps and ballet poses in the edited fragments. We spotted the likes of Serge Lifar, Riabouchinska and raven-haired Tamara Toumanova.
Joby Emmons, USA, 2008; 8m
(Nominated for the Jury Prize)
Choreographed by Elena Demyanenko, Kino-Eye shadows a dancer through contemporary Moscow. Immersed in an aesthetic of video surveillance, the dancer shifts in and out of glitches and static as video playback manipulates her image.
Victoria Marks & Margaret Williams, USA/UK, 2008; 18m
These two artists who, collaborated previously on the dance videos OUTSIDE IN, MOTHERS & DAUGHTERS, and MEN, put their focus on five young veterans attempting to make peace with their military service. Performed and co-created by vets from the West Los Angeles VA combat rehab/ PTSD clinic.
David Fari, Carla Schillagi and Maria Fernanda Vallejos, Argentina, 2008, 10m
(Nominated for Jury Prize)
Dancers in a narrow passageway to create an elegant, abstract, and lively piece of pure movement and form.
Alla Kovgan and David Hinton, 2008, USA/UK; 35m
Choreographed by Nora Chipaumire, and produced by Joan Frosch NORA is a dense and swiftly moving poem of sound and image, alternately tragic and comic. A fiercely embattled African girl experiences the joys and disappointments of love, and struggles against intimidation and violence to gain her independence. Shot entirely on location in Southern Africa, NORA includes a multitude of local performers and dancers of all ages, from schoolchildren to grandmothers, with rousing music by Zimbabwean legend Thomas Mapfumo.
WINGS OF WAX
Hans Hulscher, Netherlands, 1997; 19m
Opening with a a bare tree, hanging crown downwards with its roots in the air, the
dancers emerge out of the black background, only to be absorbed back into it again in Jiri Kylian’s take on the man who flew too near the sun.
Hans Hulscher, Netherlands, 1996; 18m
Set to the slow tempos of two of Mozart’s most beautiful and popular piano
concertos, choreographer Jiri Kylian writes: “I am living and working in a world where nothing is sacred, and where brutality and arbitrariness are commonplaces. This work should convey the idea of two ancient torsos, their heads and limbs cut off – however unable to destroy their beauty, thus reflecting the spiritual power of their creator.”
Hans Hulscher, Netherlands, 2004, 26m
In this work for six dancers, Dutch choreographer Jiri Kylian uses Mozart’s adagio and rondo KV 617 in C major to make a pun on ‘moving, and being moved. He believes that “the nature of moving is such that, if you move towards something, you automatically move away from something else.”
ANTONIO GADES: THE ETHICS OF DANCING
Juan Cano Arecha, 2007, Spain; 56m
Dancer, choreographer, Communist, lover, Antonio Gades (1936-2004) brought an intense, seductive glamour to flamenco’s powerful vocabulary. One of the finest flamenco performers of the 20th Century, he was a master of spare gestures and potent stillness. This new documentary reveals previously unseen images of the dancer’s work, including his choreography for Ad Libitum, danced with Alicia Alonso and an excerpt from Giselle; in which he performed the role of Hilarion, among other surprises. Christina Hoyos, his partner in the Gades/Saura film collaborations of Blood Wedding and El Amor Brujo, is just one of the interviewees.
OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR
David Fernandez, USA, 2007; 19m
Set to Kronos Quartet’s REQUIEM FOR ADAM, OBJECTS, was filmed in Ailey Citigroup Theater with a talented group of dancers from American Ballet Theater and New York City Ballet, among them Misty Copeland, Luciana Paris, Ana Sophia Scheller, and NYCB principal Daniel Ulbricht. Choreographer Fernandez was inspired by the sculptures of Giacometti and the work of Maurice Bejart to make this piece on the theme of memory, exploring one man’s journey through his past, as figures and events appear to him in fitful spurts and swiftly disappear.
David Fernandez, USA, 2008; 10m
A solo based on a modern interpretation of the Icarus legend, set to the music of Pink Floyd’s Money. Icarus’s wings are made of credit cards and his flight toward the sun and his come-uppance have a particular resonance in today’s troubled economy. Performed by Ask La Cour and Frank Dellapolla.
Pierre Coulibeuf, 2008, France; 33m
Inspired by Canadian choreographer Benoit Lachambre’s Lugares Comunes, this film was shot in Brittany, France near Brest and touches on the sphere of the supernatural. Pierre Coulibeuf is a filmmaker fascinated by the idea of presenting images in motion in relation to external realities. As in his previous works, Pavillon Noir and Lost Paradise, he introduces his “characters” into a world of natural elements – air, water, plant and mineral – leading to a strange, antagonistic kinship and body movements that often imitate nature’s dark forces. Communication is non-verbal except for those disturbing android doubles that operate by magnetic signals and speak and move robotically. Whose universe is this?
Daniel Belton, 2008, New Zealand; 25m
An evocative partnership game, played out on a jazzy dance floor with dazzling physicality. Eight dancers pitch themselves at each other in a romantic roller coaster ride to love. Dancers sort each other out in witty, competitive ways.
Julien Condemine, France, 2008; 33m
Belgian choreographer Pedro Pauwels, with the collaboration of the Compagnie des Indes, creates a choreographic space and invites the audience to engage in the physicality and mystery of the performance. Two dancers – Francesca Bonato and Magalie Bouze– joined like Siamese twins by their left feet, move around a crackling bubble-wrap carpet that resembles a dimly lit boxing ring. This dance is on the frontier of the impossible meeting the triumphant. A brief photo essay brings a sense of relief after the intensity of the hypnotic experience.
THE DANCE OF THE ENCHANTRESS
Adoor Gopalakrishnan & Brigitte Chataignier, 2007, France; 70m
The beauty of the dance form of Mohiniyattam (mohini means enchantress and attam translates as graceful movements) is explored by this veteran filmmaker. Born in the southern region of Kerala, both devotional and sensuous in nature, Mohinitattam lays emphasis on romance, the shades, colors and moods of love. Rich in folk flavor, this dance of the enchantress uses mudras – hand gestures – along with music and body movement, to narrate stories related to the Lord Vishnu, often disguised as an enchantress. Gopalakrishnan picks out the richness of each color from the white and gold of the pleated saris to intense hues made even stronger by perfect lighting.
Daniel Belton, 2007, New Zealand; 7.5m
A choreographed probe into the heart of Durer’s engraving Melencolia I spiced by Jac Grenfell’s depiction of the Geometric Body at the center of the engraving.
Didzis Eglitis, Latvia, 2007; 3m
An accidental encounter on a sidewalk spins a group waiting for the garbage collector into a chain reaction likely to provoke a smile.
DANCE LIKE YOUR OLD MAN
Gideon Obarzanek & Edwina Throsby, 2007, Australia; 10m
Karn Junkinsmith, USA, 2007; 8m
Taking a day off from the convent, six novices dancing through the suburban streets of North Seattle in this charming black and white short.
OF THE HEART
Douglas Rosenberg/Allan Kaeja, USA, 2008; 6m
(Nominated for Jury Prize)
A dance camera trio set in a windblown field with heartfelt performances by David Dorfman and Lisa Race.
Marie-Christine Letourneux, 2008, Canada; 21m
Elia, a timid and introverted man, accompanies his mother to a private event where a choreographed performance is taking place. When the dancer appears, Elias discovers that, as if in a nightmare, he is the one who is on stage. Under the harsh stage lights, his doppelganger’s movements express everything he is most ashamed of: his fear of not being perfect, his isolation and his self-centeredness. Elia rushes from the room in search of an explanation. What if the escape to his nightmare lies in the tortured gestures of the dancer?
Marie Losier, 2007 16mm, USA: 10m
Made in collaboration with Canadian director Guy Maddin, this film involves two sisters, five brothers, a doctor and two nurses and the miraculous birth of a pair of hands..but whose hands?
Jeannette Ginslov, South Africa, 2008; 8’55m
Three young men dancing on the streets of downtown Johannesburg reveal aspects of African male identity, through subtle shades of physical satire.
Richard Move, 2007, USA; 4.52
(Nominated for Jury Prize)
Choreographed by Richard Move, commissioned by the Martha Graham Dance Company and performed by Katherine Crockett.
MYSTERIES OF NATURE
Dahci Ma, 2008, South Korea; 10m
(Winner of the Jury Prize)
Torn into bits and gone with the wind.
Patrick Lovejoy, USA, 2008; 4.5m
An elegant choreography of the cinema space created by sliding framed images of
the body in time with a jazz score.
VSPRS SHOW AND TELL
Sophie Fiennes, 2006, Belgium; 72m
Trailblazing Belgian choreographer Alain Platel and innovative filmmaker Sophie Fiennes (A Pervert’s Guide to Cinema) teamed up for this hybrid marvel – part performance, part documentary – in which dance, drama and music fuse to mesmerizing effect. Platel and his Les Ballets C de la B have often courted controversy and this piece is a contemporary interpretation of Monteverdi’s Maria Vespers, one of the most significant works of European religious music. Fienne brilliantly captures the bizarre performance of VSPRS, set at the foot of a glacier, with virtuoso soloists and ensembles exploring the behavior of those whose psyches and bodies have experienced both trauma and ecstasy. The result was described by one critic as “the weirdest, most shocking and provocative performance you will ever see.” See Fiennes on VSPRS.
Karsten Liske, 2007, Germany; 2007; 45m
A young woman’s short life is visualized in the dramatic interplay of choreographic and abstract images. In the silence of mourning, among family and friends following a funeral procession through various parts of a Portuguese city, a compelling narrative emerges about the interval between life and death. Awarded the price for best film work at NapoliDanza Festival 2008.
ISHANOU (THE CHOSEN ONE)
Aribam Syam Sharma, India, 1991; 91m
One of the hits of the 1990 Cannes Festival, the film was based on a story by Manipuri writer MK Binodini Devi, THE CHOSEN is a rich melodrama that contrasts ordinary domestic life with the strange rituals of the Meitei matriarchal cult. Beautiful and spirited, Tampha is happily married to Dhanbir and lives with him and their little daughter Bembem under the protective care of her market woman mother. All is bliss until Tampha is unaccountably seized by divine possession and experiences violent fits of vision and trance. In search of her Maibi guru, she abandons her family and embarks on a transcendental journey. Myth, magic and ritual and a riveting final sequence of shamanic dance (the shamans portray themselves) are the elements that make ISHANOU an unforgettable viewing experience.
AMERICAN MASTERS JEROME ROBBINS: SOMETHING TO DANCE ABOUT
Judy Kinberg, 2008, USA; 112m
How does one describe a genius like Jerome Robbins – the choreographer/director who transformed the Broadway musical and left anindelible mark on the world of classical ballet? Here is an extraordinary documentary that explores this complex figure in all his contradictory colors. Directed and produced by six-time Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Judy Kinberg and written by best-selling Robbins biographer Amanda Vaill, it examines with candor and humor, his creative process, his perfectionism, and the controversies that plagued his life. Kinberg uncovers never-before-seen rehearsal footage and interviews many of his esteemed colleagues, including Mikhail Baryshnikov, Suzanne Farrell, Jacques d’Amboise, Chita Rivera, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents.
THE BLUE BIRD
Maurice Tourneur, 1918 film, US; 81m
Based on the play of the same title by Nobel Prize winner Maurice Maeterlinck, this silent film fantasy with allegoric overtones cries out to be a full-length ballet. Combining lavish sets, ingenious camera effects and disarmingly naturalistic performances, it evokes the whimsy of Melies and looks ahead to the expressionism of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Two children – a girl and a boy named Mytyl and Tytyl (Tula Belle and Robin Macdougall) – are joined by the fairy Berylune (Lillian Cook) in their quest through magical realms for the elusive Blue Bird of Happiness. Reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz, this Blue Bird has its own distinct old-world charm. Preserved with its original color tints, the print has undergone some decomposition but is still breathtakingly lovely to behold. Accompanied by live piano music by Ben Model.
Ray Enright with Busby Berkeley, USA, 1934; 90
Busby Berkeley was a genius of excess. At his best, particularly in his classic black and white films, he created some of the most awe-inspiring and jaw-dropping production numbers in Hollywood musical history. On the 50th anniversary of DAMES, Dance on Camera celebrates Berkeley, his signature kaleidoscopic style, his cinematic flair and endless ingenuity. This backstage putting-on-show musical is enlivened by the bright comic turns of some great character actors, among them ZaSu Pitts, Guy Kibbee, and the inimitable Joan Blondell (catch her as the laundress in The Girl at the Ironing Board number!). For romance, there’s Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler, of course, but for eye candy there’s I Only Have Eyes for You, and the title number with chorus girls, bathtubs, alarm clocks, you name them!
GANG’S ALL HERE
Busby Berkeley, USA, 1943; 103m
Berkeley’s first color film is an unparalleled over-the-top extravaganza featuring Carmen Miranda as the Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat, accompanied by chorus girls with life-size bananas. Ignore the ridiculous plot but enjoy the tuneful tunes of Harry Warren, the dizzy humor of Charlotte Greenwood, and the nice renditions by Alice Faye looking “swell”, in living color. Eugene Pallette and Edward Everett Horton add silliness and cheer. According to film historian Martin Rubin in his book Showstoppers: Busby Berkeley and the Tradition of Spectacle: “GANG’S ALL HERE contains more energy and imagination than all of Berkeley’s work for MGM put together.”