Nov/Dec 2008 DOC Journal

The Jury for DFA’s 37th annual Dance On Camera Festival announces its nominations for the 2009 Dance on Camera Prize DFA’s 2009 Festival Jury – Tere O’Connor, Caterina Bartha, Lois Greenfield, and Madeleine Shapiro – met in the first week of December to deliberate as to what titles will be the winners from the 14 programs of the Dance on Camera Festival. Their unanimous decision is to nominate 5 shorts, including two that were commissioned by EMPAC: Kino-Eye Joby Emmons, USA, 2008; 8m 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. Propiedad Horizontal David Fariás, Carla Schillagi & Maria Fernanda Vallejos, Argentina, 2008, 10m Dancers in a narrow passageway create an elegant, abstract, and lively piece of pure movement and form. Of The Heart Douglas Rosenberg/Allan Kaeja, USA, 2008; 6m A dance camera trio set in a windblown field with heartfelt performances by David Dorfman and Lisa Race. Bardo Richard Move, 2007, USA; 4.52m A hypnotic ‘Lamentation Variation 2’, choreographed by Richard Move and commissioned by the Martha Graham Dance Company as performed by Katherine Crockett. Mysteries of Nature Dahci Ma, 2008, South Korea;10m “Torn into bits and gone with the wind.” The Jury statements are as follows “Joby Emmon’s film Kino-Eye, with choreography by Elena Demyanenko, masterfully weaves the body, technology, film editing, temporality and the psychological effects of surveillance, into a potent essay on public and private domains. “Dahci Ma’s Mysteries of Nature is a visually stunning film exhibiting exceptional artistry in all its aspects. At once contemporary and primordial, the alien nature of this work transports us into a reverie from which we can see clearly the seeds of humanness and engage in a secular meditation for the future.” Of the Heart is a sensitive and moving glimpse into an intimate moment between a couple.” Propriedad Horizontal offers a uniquely cinematic perspective of pedestrian movement manoeuvered in a narrow alley.” “True to its name, Bardo captures a woman on the precipice of two worlds. Ethereal with hints of magic realism, this black and white short has a duality throughout that is provocative and dreamlike, contemporary and yet classic.” The winner will be announced in the free Awards Ceremony to be held January 10, 7pm in the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery of the Walter Reade Theatre, Lincoln Center Plaza. The Awards Ceremony will also, for the first time, recognize innovative uses of dance on-line. Among those recognized will be The Science Dance Contest , created under the auspices of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is open to anyone who has (or is pursuing) a Ph.D. in any scientific or related field. Participants “dance their Ph.D.’s” and submit their entries by video. Videos are posted to the website, and winners are paired with professional choreographers to further develop their dance. See more. MANCC, a dance and choreographic research center housed on the Florida State University (FSU) campus in Tallahassee, will also be recognized for its contribution to dance on the web. Their website lets visitors garner a glimpse into the choreographers’ creative processes through video, audio and mixed-media, most of which has been shot and edited by Shoko Letton. A third project, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet’s project52 is a year-long documentary, released in one- minute segments online each week. Featuring the dancers and collaborators at the company, project52 creates intimate vignettes of the lives of performers and artists. See more. DFA’s 37th Dance On Camera Festival will be largely held at the Walter Reade Theater, Lincoln Center Plaza, New York City with 14 repeating programs. Co-sponsored by the Film Society of Lincoln Center since 1996, DOCF celebrates the immediacy, energy, and mystery of dance as combined with the intimacy of film. This year’s festival features 5 documentaries and 26 short, innovative works filmed in India, Africa, Spain, France, Australia, Netherlands, New Zealand, as well as retrospectives, Meet the Artist sessions, receptions, a Town Meeting, and a festival Awards Ceremony. DFA’s Festival is the oldest dance film festival in the world that sparked a global explosion of activity. The 2009 Festival is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, Experimental Television Center, as well as support from the members of DFA, The Susan Braun Trust, Capezio Ballet-Makers Foundation, The Film Society of Lincoln Center, French Consulate, Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC), Showbiz Software, plus the in-kind support of Gotham Wine and Liquors, and Ariston Florist. Bodies – Movies by Claudia Rosiny A naked woman turns and walks upstairs; the same woman walks downstairs or picks up a skirt. Photographer Eadward Muybridge captured these simple body movements between 1877 and 1885. Best known for his photographic series that proved all four hooves of a horse leave the ground for a moment during a gallop, he invented the zoopraxiscope, a rotating glass disc transmitting the impression of movement. This inspired, in part, Thomas Edison’s kinematoscope, the first commercial film exhibition system. All these early photographic and filmic experiments focus on one fascination: making subtle movements visible. The early films of Thomas Edison (1847-1931) are predominantly simple documents of daily life. He and his employee photographer, William Dickson, invented a kinetograph (a motion picture camera) and the kinetoscope (a peephole motion picture viewer), with which people could watch such short films. In 1891, Edison and Dickson exhibited these inventions to the public. Edison used film as a medium to preserve other art forms, primarily theater and dance acts of that time. The films were less than a minute in length, and done in one shot with a single static camera– the installation of these first apparatuses wouldn’t allow camera movement, and a movement montage was not possible. Only the movement of the body conveyed the attraction of the new medium. Notably, Edison and other film innovators favored female dancers in front of his lens. One alarming example of the gendered dynamics occurs in Animated Picture Studio (1903), produced by American Mutoscope and Biograph Company: after we see a model dancing for the filmmaker and then tolerating his repeated embraces, the scene reappears as a moving image inside a picture frame, set up in the room where the film is staged. Seeing herself in these compromising poses, the woman pushes the framed moving image out of sight but the film continnues to play on the floor nearby. The first commercially projected screening in the USA, in New York City on April 23, 1896, had two dance sequences. Edison had recorded Annabelle Whitford Moore performing a serpentine dance: “It focused on the manipulation of fabric rather than on elaborate footwork so could be effectively recorded by a stationary camera trained on a confined space.” The film Annabelle (1897) shows a young woman performing a skirt dance, with the color of her costume changing every few moments. Modern dance pioneer Loïe Fuller had become famous with her own Serpentine Dance in 1891, tempting many imitators like Annabelle. Fuller presented Firedance in 1896, described by an onlooker here: “She stood on a plate of glass set in the stage and all the light shone up through the stage and down from above… and when the white and yellow and red and blue lights shone and changed on them (the dancer and the scarf) their likeness to waving and flickering flames was often most striking.” We only have one short clip Loïe Fuller herself, which opens with a bat then dissolves into Fuller dancing outdoors. Perhaps modern dance avant-garde pioneers like Fuller, Ruth St. Denis and Isadora Duncan rejected being recorded on film, something recognized as amusement for the masses. However, Fuller and St. Denis started their dancing careers on vaudeville stages, and did not deny their backgrounds. In an Edison film called Dancing Chinamen, Marionettes (1898) two dancers in identical puppet costumes repeat the same jumping movement into a split position, like hanging marionettes. Another burlesque subject can be found in Bowery Waltz (1897), which shows a couple acting in a late-night, exhausted manner, then enjoying a sociable waltz. Dancing in silent films of that time included any movement that would entertain: acrobatics, burlesque, but also a few dance innovations like the serpentine dances. Any dance movement is performed with a smile towards the cameraman, any turn is immediately focused back to the front. These dances, many of them solo dances, almost look like private performances gazing the camera lens, acting towards the camera man and finally addressing the film spectator to be part of that performance. Hence this early filming is also about a male gaze at a female dancer. Around the turn of the century when actualities declined in popularity, Edison and his competitors started to make longer, narrative films. He hired Edwin S. Porter to direct Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1903), a 21-minute movie with a cakewalk dance scene. This helped establish the pattern of matching dances with narrative, typical of dance movies today. Méliès’s Imaginative Vision The birth of the cinema officially occured with the commercial projection of Auguste and Louis Lumière’s 20-minute program on December 28, 1895 at the Grand Café in Paris, presenting the shorts on a larger screen instead of gazing in a narrow aperture. Magician Georges Méliès (1861- 1938) attended that first screening. Recognizing the “magical” potential of cinema he bought a projector and some of Edison’s films in London and proceeded to show these films in his theater. He had already worked with mirror illusions and other magical effects on stage, and used this background in designing the “kinétograph” to make his own films. His first films were like Edison’s outdoor actualities, but he soon began capturing daylight through the large windows of his own studio. All of the films shot in his studio – which was in its dimensions the exact replica of his theater Houdin – reproduce a stage situation. The camera shot the action in a straightforward long shot perspective, again without any movement of the camera and hardly any shift in framing. The setting was completely theatrical with backdrops and props. His achievements in technical effects were the use of stop-action filming and experiments with dissolves and multiple exposures. In The Ballet Master’s Dream (1903), a ballet master, played by Méliès himself, dreams of new dance sequences. His dream is visualized by a projection of two female dancers on the back wall realized with a double exposure. Then the dancers jump down onto the bed where the ballet master lies sleeping to continue their steps in the middle of the room. With a dissolve another dancer appears, the previous two disappear and the backdrop changes to a fabulous image leaving the bed and the ballet master in this setting. The dancer performs a little choreography with many turns and some acrobatic movements doing cartwheels and back handsprings to which the ballet master, asleep, does some arm movements. He wakes up and tries to embrace the beautiful dancer but she turns in another dissolve into someone looking like an old maid. After a fight he awakes, and in another dissolve the actor has disappeared and the ballet master finds he is only hitting his pillow. In The Conjurer, Méliès as the magician helps a dancer in a tutu costume to jump down from a table (possibly she already emerged out of a dissolve). There, she performs a few ballet steps before she sits on a stool. Méliès covers her with a cloth and sets up a tube on the table. Using his well-known stop motion trick, the woman and the stool have disappeared and the dancer reappears out of the tube. Again he helps her to jump off the table, lifts her crossways onto both his arms – and she turns to smoke, with only confetti floating to the floor. Méliès uses more fading away, this time transforming himself into the dancer, then vanishing. The stop motion cuts are so tight that the astonishment is effective. Méliès’s The Dancing Midget distorts image sizes. Based on classic legerdemains like conjuring eggs out of a hat, one egg – now in double size – reveals a tiny ballerina. She dances on the table, admired by the men, who perform crude imitations of her flowing movements. Suddenly, she grows to life-size, and the magician helps her off the table. After this, Méliès uses more of his standard well-timed jump cut effects. 20’000 Leagues (1907), a film that marks Méliès’ stronger narrative approach, opens with blue inked images with fishes and a submarine (made with models) to show undersea-scenery. After the opening, female dancers in white dresses perform basic classical dance vocabulary. The scene changes again to the bluish underwater-image. Although Méliès’s imagination evolved from his theatrical background, he merged these illusions with new cinematic devices and thus created a consistency of vision, although the dance parts weren’t very strong on their own. As in Edison’s films, they served to stimulate the voyeur’s gaze Film historians usually present a dichotomy, with Edison being more documentarian. and Méliès adjudged to rely on a more fictional focus in his works. There was, however, significant exchange between these inventors: both established film as an entertaining form of “cinema of attractions”. Or as Felicia McCarren puts it, “cinema spectating followed dance spectating,” and this “had partly to do with a general audience moving from dance to newer forms, from one ‘attraction’ to another.” Méliès followed Edison’s tracks and Edison capitalized on Méliès trick aesthetics and narratives. (to be continued in the January-February, 2009 Dance on Camera Journal). Dr. Claudia Rosiny, based in Bern, Switzerland, born in Germany, has been involved with the dance on camera community for over twenty years as a critic, curator, and author. Review: DANCE LIKE YOUR OLD MAN by Shantal Parris Riley Dance Like Your Old Man is a touching, funny and upsetting short that features women dancing like…you guessed it, their fathers. Produced by Chunky Move Productions of Australia, the film takes a quick but potent look into the private world of fathers and daughters. Though the short relies heavily on the narrative, the dancing is entertaining in its absurdity. The transformation that takes place as the women imitate their fathers’ body movements is at times awkward. There is an intriguing quality, however, to the narrative, which occurs, at once, through the voice and the body of the dancer. Humor is a given, as the female form tries to squeeze into sizes too big or strange to fit. It is silly, for example, when a teenaged girl is seen dancing hard, thoroughly enjoying herself while explaining that her father is “so immature.” Yet, by the looks of it, the man can dance! What’s more, her friends think he’s really hot. Her giggly, disgusted response is as understandable as it is hilarious. Another daughter seems to have dissected her dad’s movements down to a science. There’s the single bum wiggle and the double bum wiggle, and everything revolves around that,” she says. Themes of daddy love and hate provide balance, adding a visceral edge to some of the stories presented. The physical and emotional intensity of a young punk rock teen who dances a story of her father’s abandonment of her pregnant mother while having an affair with a best friend, is almost too much to bear. The teen admits that, “he wasn’t a very good dad.” Another, obviously happy, well-rounded young woman explains that she is the apple of her father’s eye. And suddenly, life just doesn’t seem fair or funny anymore. As the women move in feminine and sometimes sexy clothing, one can’t help but try to imagine their masculine counterparts. At times, the women really do look like men, despite their clothing. The viewer is left wondering, how much do they look like their fathers? How good a depiction of his dance style is this? We will never know. The short ends by pushes the emotionally invested viewer over the cliff. The blending of the masculine and the feminine, the mediums of voice and dance, with an edgy indie rock soundtrack, combine long enough in each segment to provide a moment or two of DNA-swapping magic. Multiplied Subtraction Michael Cole, USA, 2008, 30m The raw material for this video served as a portion of the decor for “The Invention of Minus One,” a stage dance by Jonah Bokaer and will now serve as the thread for DFA’s 2009 Touring Trailer. Starting and ending with the staged reality of a photo shoot, “Multiplied Subtraction” takes a Walter Benjaminian look at art and image in the age of digital reproduction. 3-Dimensional imagery is flattened and then converted to a new, sometimes Busby Berkeley-like, third dimensionality. Realized through a combination of live video and 3-D animation including fractal particle systems, motion capture animation, and traditional pose to pose key-framed animation. The dancers are Holley Farmer, Rashaun Mitchell and Banu Ogan. Michael Cole is currently working for NBC Nightly News as an animator. From 1989-1998, Michael danced with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and then became intrigued by the software program that allowed Merce to choreograph – Lifeforms – on the computer. He won the Jacob K. Javits Fellowship and completed Masters Degrees in Dance and Technology and Computer Arts in Arizona and California. His computer animated dance videos have been screened at DFA’s festivals as well as those in Japan, Argentina, Scotland, Moscow, Naples, and the International Dance and Technology Conference. Dancers Create Electricity with the Sustainable Dance Floor by Mary Hodges Bringing dance and technology together in new ways, the Sustainable Dance Floor was developed to generate electricity from partners’ movements. The floor contains materials that become charged when compressed, thus producing electric power through the piezoelectric effect. The more jumping and weight shifting on the dancefloor, the more electricity is produced. An innovation of the Sustainable Dance Club, a group of Dutch scientists and investors sponsored by Toyota are devoted to making the clubbing experience greener. In early September, they opened Club WATT, billed as the first Sustainable Dance Club, in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. In addition to an energy-harnessing floor, the club uses low-energy LED lights, recycles all materials from the bar, and practices water-conservation strategies in the bathrooms estimated to save over 250,000 gallons of water per year. Currently, only Club WATT features a Sustainable Dance Floor, but plans to broaden its use to more venues are already in progress. Club owner Aryan Tieleman has acknowledged that the dance floor at WATT cost more than the electricity savings it earns, but the technology is improving and more efficient models will soon become available. See more. Should the sustainable dance floor be included on the DFA touring program? What do you think? Let us know. New Website: Choreographic Captures 2008 The website contains about 100 choreographic short films which were submitted to the first international Choreographic Captures competition in 2008. Choreographic Captures, each of which is maximally sixty seconds long, reclaim the format of the advertising clip for a new and purely artistic purpose. Choreographic Captures are art in public space. The five prizewinning films from this year’s Choreographic Captures competition are now also being shown in selected cinemas, where they’re screened at an unexpected moment: in the midst of the series of advertising clips that precede a feature film, e.g. between ordinary ads for jeans or cars! Shown in the context of such commercial messages, the Captures entertain and surprise movie audiences: entirely in accord with the motto: “art for those who didn’t ask for it!” Choreographic Captures Competition is a project of JOINT ADVENTURES – Walter Heun within the framework of ACCESS TO DANCE. The project is supported by the German Federal Cultural Foundation, the Cultural Office of the State Capital City of Munich, Bavarian Cultural Fund, District of Upper Bavaria, PICTORION das werk GmbH, ARRI Film & TV Services GmbH, Kodak GmbH, Meta Theater München, Neues Rex Kino, Museum Villa Stuck. ACCESS TO DANCE – Tanzplan München is a program fostering contemporary dance initiated and implemented by an association of various dance organizations and institutions in Munich. Chicago’s Salute to Dance on Camera Hedwig Dances initiated a new chapter in dance on camera for Chicago by programming in 2007 and 2008 dance on camera screenings, panels, lectures, and, this year, a workshop led by Deirdre Towers. On the second day of the workshop, the Hedwig Dancers adapted sections from its signature work, “Night Blooming Jasmine,” for the workshop of 17 participants. “Night Blooming Jasmine” is a dance that traverses the polarity between tension and release in a dreamlike setting, alternately evoking grueling endurance and a calm, sensual respite. Hedwig Dances’ new ReSound work, “Season to Ripen,” is a septet that reveals the transformative process of creating a dance—a process that involves spinning theatrical mystery and magic out of simple props, costumes and movements. Chicago artist Carol Genetti’s colorful, transluscent costumes lend a fanciful quality to the dance. This performance is part of the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs’ new Dance Intersections series. Dance Intersections presents collaborations between accomplished Chicago-based dance companies and independent dancemakers.
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