Nov/Dec 2009 Journal

Nominations for Dance on Camera Festival 2010 Jury Prize/Short Film Category DFA’s 38th Dance on Camera Festival offers strong shorts this year, with sixteen women directors. This year’s Jury, comprised of Terry Fox, Arthur Aviles and Zsoka Nej, nominated the following titles for the Jury Prize/Short Film Category with their comments: BEGUINE Douwe Dijkstra, Netherlands, 2009, 4:44 “A totally delightful rendering of an outlandish and logical extension of unrequited love danced out to its conclusion.” CINETICA Ana Cembrero, Spain, 2008, 25′ “A cinematic poem that places women dancers in surreal atmospheres, natural and interior, with mysterious beauty and inexplicable feeling.” THE LAST MARTINI Vickie Mendoza, USA, 6:16 “A pleasing animated revelation of what that last drink can conjure after a moody succession of drinks, artfully done.” little ease [outside the box] matt tarr, USA, 2008, 6:53 “Captures Elizabeth Streb’s iconic work transposed and daringly placed in nineteen public spaces in ways that could only be visited by the camera.” SUNSCREEN SERENADE Kriota Willberg, USA, 2009, 5:30 “A whimsical finger play with send ups on Busby Berkeley, unique, and graceful, easy and serious at the same time.” Installation of Tiny Dance Film Series in the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery Walter Reade Theatre, Lincoln Center Plaza DFA’s 38th Dance on Camera Festival, co-sponsored by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, will host an installation of “The Tiny Dance Film Series,” a collaboration between choreographer Peter Kyle and sound artist James Bigbee Garver, featuring dancer Holley Farmer. It consists of very short (usually between 60 & 180 seconds) and very small (always 320 x 240 pixels) dance films screened in a darkened kiosk for an audience of one. This uniquely personal, interactive experience for the viewer evokes the nostalgia of an old-time penny arcade. The project evolved out of guerrilla performances choreographed, rehearsed, and filmed in Lower Manhattan’s public spaces. Peter, Jimmy, and Holley agreed to a set of tight restrictions governing how the films were made: All of the films are done in “one take.” The tiny format and the disorienting venue in which the films are presented helped the filmmakers to concentrate on what they felt was useful in dance and on film: corporeal and mechanical magic. DFA adds digital component to 2010 Dance on Camera Festival In keeping with the DFA’s mission to be a catalyst for innovation and to create new audiences for dance film, we are happy to announce that we are adding a digital component to our 2010 Dance on Camera Festival. DFA, in exclusive partnership with TenduTV, will begin broadband delivery of dance film to worldwide audiences through TenduTV’s network of 70 distribution partners. Viewers will be able to discover dance films and enjoy them on a variety of devices, including televisions, computers and mobile devices. Starting in January 2010, for three months, a program of shorts, both favorites previously shown in Dance on Camera Festivals and new ones completed in 2008-2009, will be shown on TenduTV. Festival 2010 Jury was comprised of: Terry Fox is Executive Director of Philadelphia Dance Projects (PDP), an organization that serves primarily the Philadelphia regional dance and performance community and their audiences. Philadelphia Dance Presents features local contemporary dance artists in shared programs with their national and international peers. For over 8 years PDP has been presenting Motion Pictures a mini-fest of dance on film and video. Zsóka Nej, as the project manager for the Workshop Foundation, Budapest, Hungary, produces shows and performances, organizes artist exchanges, residency programs and facilitates international dance collaborations,  and co-productions. In addition Nej is one of the program developers and curator for EDIT – International Dancefilm Festival in Budapest. Arthur Aviles danced for eight years with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, left to his own company in 1996. In 1998 Mr. Aviles established the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD!) in collaboration with the Point Community Development Corporation in the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx. In 2008, Arthur won the NYC Mayor’s Arts Award and Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors. The Jury Prize award will be presented at the Sunday, January 31st screening at 6:30pm followed by a reception co-sponsored by New York Women in Film and Television. BODYART’s Multi-Media Limbo by Mary Hodges Patrick Lovejoy, former dancer and filmmaker whose work was presented in the 2008 Dance On Camera Festival, collaborated with New York dance company BODYART on their newest production, Limbo, which premiered at Dixon Place in November, 2010. The show combines live dance with video projections, creating a layered presence of the body. Lovejoy’s films fragment the body into panels or even chards; during one potent section, the dramatic action onstage is reflected in glistening slivers of movement on the back wall. Rhythmically, fades and cuts can resemble a thudding heartbeat or a soft breath. Film is also used to suspend time: a movement unfolds in slow motion, repeatedly, as live dancers— beginning from the same movement—press forward into new territory. Ode to Norman McLaren by Kathryn Luckstone “But who is Oscar?” McLaren wrote in correspondence while in India in response to the news of his short film NEIGHBORS winning the Academy Award in 1953. Always the unassuming artist, Norman McLaren, a Scottish- born Canadian spent fifty-four years of his life dedicated to film. His films, consisting mostly of animation and visually effected live action are imaginative and mathematical compilations that examine shapes and rhythms with microscopic precision. McLaren’s uniqueness lies in his experiments with image and sound as he developed a number of groundbreaking techniques including pixilation and superimposition, for combining and synchronizing animation with music. Guy Glover, McLaren’s longtime partner wrote; “Far from the talking picture- that vast province of the Cinema that borders, indeed overlaps, on the realm of language – there exists yet another province of the Cinema where talk is limited and which touches on the frontiers of music and dance. In a corner of that province is to be found the little garden of Norman McLaren whose films talk only through image and movement.” (1980) By 1941 McLaren’s animations were distributed globally and the world was introduced to abstract animated film. Chicago-based film critic Robert Koehler notes, “The wide distribution of NFB (National Film Board of Canada) and McLaren shorts on 16mm in schools lent him a fame second only to Walt Disney.” (Some Aspects of Norman McLaren) One of the components that made McLaren such an innovator and artist was the fact that he painted directly onto celluloid to create all of the animated visuals. He marked the celluloid for music notes as well, until later developing relationships with composers. His work was extremely labor intensive, to say the least, so that up until 1942 he was the sole creator of every frame seen on the screen. In late 1942 he was assigned to develop the NFB animation unit. This process took McLaren fourteen months to recruit and train artists in the techniques he himself had created. The phrase, “they don’t make movies like that anymore” usually refers to the technological advances in film that may diminish or undermine the beauty of artistic simplicity. But director Phil Harder sought out Brazilian choreographers Rosane Chamecki and Andrea Lerner to pay tribute to McLaren with their new film, JACKIE AND JUDY. Clearly resembling the forms of McLaren’s PAS DE DEUX, the film captures the vivacity of movement seen in McLaren’s work combined with the dynamic visual precision that only modern technologies make possible. Here is an excerpt from a recent interview with the choreographers: AL: Jackie and Judy has existed for a long time because it was one of the first pieces that we ever did. The choreography existed long before the idea of the film. KL: Were there aspects of the choreography that you had to change to adapt to film? AL: Yes. We couldn’t do the whole piece. (laughter) RC: We were twenty five. (When Jackie and Judy was originally performed onstage in 1993) AL: We’re forty something now. There were some things that were quite demanding. I was very self-conscious of my non-youth. It was kind of difficult. KL: So how did Norman McLaren enter the process? AL: Phil was very inspired by PAS DE DEUX. He came with that vision. The idea was that we didn’t want to make [JACKIE AND JUDY] as romantic [as PAS DE DEUX]. When Phil brought the idea we were a little ambivalent in terms of the energy of the piece and the technique itself. So then we started talking about how to use this technique but make something a little more graphic. It starts from him, the PAS DE DEUX, but it had a different energy. (On working with Phil Harder) AL: [Phil] has an incredible eye for movement I have to say. For someone who is not a dancer. Even his work that does not involve dancers are all movement oriented. So we did the steps and we did them over and over and over, so he kind of knew the piece and from seeing it onstage. (On the post production process) AL: The process of editing the piece was more labor intensive than actually shooting it. There was a lot of back and forth in terms of how much we wanted to deconstruct the dance. Actually we wanted to deconstruct the dance more than they [Phil and editor Patrick] did. They were much more careful with the dance than we were. We were much less protective RC: We wanted to make it get to a point of complete abstraction. AL: So that it would look more like a painting. JACKIE AND JUDY directed by Phil Harder, choreographed and performed by Andrea Lerner and Rosane Chamecki will be screened in the Dance on Camera Festival 2010 within the shorts program on Sunday; January 31, 6:15pm; repeats Tuesday; February 2nd, 4:15pm at the Walter Reade Theatre, Lincoln Center Plaza. Beacon School hosts screening as part of Dance on Camera Festival 2010 Harry Streep, DFA board member and co-founder of the Beacon School, a public high school in New York City with a stellar film and dance department, will host a screening of ONE STEP AT A TIME, a project by another exemplary high school, Jenks Public Schools based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Jenks’ Film and TV project was directed by Clifton Raphael with composer Nick Poss. The screening at Beacon will be preceded by an interview exchanged between the film students of both schools. The documentary follows a season in the life of Tulsa Ballet and explores the process of artistic creation–through personal profiles of and interviews with dancers and choreographers. For more information, see website. The Futurist Impulse After Futurism by Robert Haller PERFORMA, a biennial festival of visual art performance in New York, spanned three weeks in November 2009 and encompassed a centennial celebration of Italian futurism. On November 12, 2009, Robert Haller presented the program “The Futurist Impusle After Futurism” at Anthology Film Archives in conjunction with the biennial. The Futurist movement in Italy (roughly, 1909-1930) was a radical rejection of centuries of tradition in Italy, and an embrace of the cascade of new technologies—electricity, automobiles, telephones, radio, airplanes, movies, as well as social change, including the expansion of freedom and opportunity for women. Thus Futurism was about new art and social progress across the broad spectrum of culture. It was a revolutionary movement expressed in a number of strident declarations and manifestos. Filippo Marinetti asserted that “Speed is our God, the new canon of Beauty; a roaring motorcar, which runs like a machine gun.” Italian art and culture were held to be “a wretched slave to the past and to a thousand traditions or conventions that have become unbearable.” Poetry and music too were to be unbound from the past. Similarly Valentine de Saint-Point declared in her “Manifesto of Futurist Woman” (1912) that a liberated modern woman was “a creature whose instinct is highly lucid,” and not the socially decorative woman of the prior century. In 1913, Boccioni made the iconic metal sculpture “Unique Forms of Continuity in Space” which depicts a striding figure with fabric, or perhaps time itself, flowing behind him (or her) as the incarnation of movement. Four years earlier, in “Manifesto of Futurist Musicians,” Balilla Pratella wrote “I appeal to the young. Only they should listen, and only they can understand what I have to say. Some people are born old, slobbering specters of the past, cryptograms swollen with poison. To them no words or ideas, but a single injunction: the end.” “I appeal to the young, to those who are thirsty for the new, the actual, the lively … gloriously preceded by my, by our intrepid brothers, the Futurist poets and painters, beautiful with violence, daring with rebellion, and luminous with the animation of genius.” In 1909 when he declared the birth of Futurism F.T. Marinetti wrote that,  “An immense pride was buoying us up, because we felt ourselves alone at that hour, alone, awake, and on our feet, like proud beacons or forward sentries against an army of hostile stars glaring down at us from their celestial encampments. Alone with stokers feeding the hellish fires of great ships, alone with the black specters who grope in the red-hot bellies of locomotives launched down their crazy courses, alone with drunkards reeling like wounded birds along the city walls.” This combination of inflated rhetoric and the embrace of the developments of the new century goes far to define this movement, this philosophy of art and social innovation that flared into life in the second decade of the twentieth century, and then faded away in Italy in its third decade. But if Futurism as a name slipped away, the themes of this revolution persisted in the cinema. The motion picture, in the most fundamental ways, proved to be the heir of Futurism, celebrating the energy of the machine, the speed of the automobile, the “dematerialization of bodies,” progress, and all of the manifestations of the new technologies of the new era. Marinetti, in 1912, embraced the motion picture as part of the Futurist Revolution: “The cinematograph gives us the dance of an object that splits and is recomposed without man’s intervention. It gives us the backward thrust of a diver whose feet spring up out of the sea and forcefully bounce on the diving board. It gives us a man running at 200 kilometers an hour.” While we can differ on a cinema “recomposed without man’s intervention” at the very moment when D.W. Griffith in America was recomposing what he filmed, it needs to be acknowledged that Marinetti, who did not make films, grasped the special opportunities offered by the cinematograph for interpreting the world. There were Futurist films in Italy in the 1910s and 1920s. I can not comment on them because they have not been restored until very, very recently (some are being shown, for the first time in America, in November at Anthology Film Archives). Here I focus on more recent (since 1926) and accessible films that were made in the spirit but not in the name of Futurism. In 1926 Henri Chomette, in France, made Jeus des reflets et de la vitesse, which celebrated speed and the use of film not as a mirror of reality, but as a vehicle for its hyperkinetic subjective transformation. Little is known about Chomette (save that he was Rene Clair’s brother). He was certainly aware of Futurism. The cinema is not limited to the representative mode. It can create, and has already created a sort of rhythm. Thanks to this rhythm the cinema can draw fresh strength from itself which, forgoing the logic of facts and the reality of objects, may beget a series of unknown visions, inconceivable outside the union of lens and film. Futurism emerged from several currents at the turn of the century, especially the advent of electricity. Loie Fuller, an American dancer, was a sensation in Paris in the 1890s for her Serpentine Dance. Scholar Giovanni Lista, in his 2001 book Futurism, describes her electrically illuminated dance as “ An art of immateriality entirely devoted to the “poetry of motion.” Completely suppressing the narrative role and the anthropomorphic dimension of dance, Loie Fuller created a perpetual whirling of colors and forms expressing the uninterrupted action of the energy that generates universal life. Her dazzling performances became emblematic of the dawning century. Fuller’s dancing was imitated by Annabelle Moore in 1894, filmed by the motion picture camera of Thomas Edison, and Moore’s film prefigured Amy Greenfield’s Wildfire a hundred years later. That film opens with Moore’s film, then uses images shot on the stage of Anthology Film Archives where a multi-dancer performance was filmed. That footage was computer edited into thousands of images that flowed forward and backward, on top of each other, in close-ups and pans, and through each other, in increasingly brief shots that render Greenfield’s four dancers into immaterial wraiths of energy. Fuller’s Paris performances were a sensation in part because of her use of color. She was illuminated by electric lights that were mounted behind color gels, and the lamps were turned on and off, casting different hues upon her flowing shawls (her body was almost always obscured by the fabric). When Annabelle Moore’s film was made her shawls were individually hand tinted. In Greenfield’s Wildfire hues were applied digitally to the shawls of the dancers, and to their nude bodies, so that the waves of images, especially at the end of the film when shots were visible for only a quarter or eighth of a second. Though Greenfield did not intend it, Wildfire is suggestive of Futurist paintings–by Alessandro Bruschetti’s 1932 The Vortex, Giacomo Balla’s 1923 The Spell is Broken, and Gino Severini’s 1914 Sea = Dancer, as well as his 1912 The Dancer in Blue. In the 1920s Vinicio Paladini had praised the “teeth and gears, cogs and dynamos [which] with their dizzying mechanics will replace the slimy, wan old landscape, the romantic subject and the moonlight….” Ralph Steiner (with his 1931 Mechanical Principles) and Wheaton Galentine (with his 1954 Treadle and Bobbin) may not have been consciously thinking of the Futurists, but their films, rooted in American industry, celebrate the repetitive transmission of energy and power. Mechanical Principles was filmed at an exhibition of machine models in Rockefeller Center. Like Treadle and Bobbin–an intricate and loving portrait of the gears and rhythms of an early model Singer sewing machine—Steiner’s film is a work of aesthetic engineering, showing how vertical movements can be translated into rotational ones. Steiner definitely knew of Dziga Vertov’s films of the industrialization of the Soviet Union, but excluded any social interpretation of mechanization. For Steiner, like Charles Sheeler who also celebrated the machine in America—notably in the 1921 film Manhatta—machines were icons of power. Treadle and Bobbin has a music track by Noel Sokoloff but Mechanical Principles is silent. In 1931 it was accompanied by a live orchestra led by Aaron Copland, but not recorded. Seventy years later Philip Glass accompanied Steiner’s film at Anthology Film Archives (a DVD recording of that program does exist). The most titanic machine film ever made came from Germany in 1935, Das Stahltier/The Steel Beast by Willy Otto Zielke, a hymn to the railroads of the 1930s, It was a tribute to the Nuremburg-Furth railroad line—and was subsequently banned by the Third Reich for “decadent aesthetics.” As early as 1911 the brothers Arnaldo Ginna and Bruno Corra began making what they called “chromatic music” that explored the optical impact of complimentary colors and retinal fatigue after some frames of one color preceded another. They made these films by painting directly on the film stock—color film emulsions were then still decades away. Their films have decayed, so it is not possible to see what they made, but their dream was realized in the 1960s and ‘70s by Paul Sharits whose many color “flicker” films shift from a few frames of one pure color to another. Sharits was not alone in this; Christian Lebrat and Victor Grauer also made such color films. Of Sharits’ Rosalind Kraus wrote: “the cinematic field oscillated between the abstract, luminous flatness of the ‘empty’ frames of color (and the still emptier ones of after-image)….” And Abby Coleman—Sharits’ “images appear to move: horizontally, vertically, or diagonally in the twodimensional space (the theater).” His Declarative Mode in this program was made in 1976-77 to celebrate the American Revolution of 1776. It is a pulsing, chromatic work of visual music. There is no Futurist Manifesto directly focused on the city, but the paintings of the Futurists often take aerial perspectives of buildings to project the sensations of volume and architectural thrust. Boccioni’s 1911 Forces of a Street depicts lances of blue light (street lamps?) raining down on an avenue. Hilary Harris’ film Highway with its hurtling cars on expressway ramps evokes Marinetti’s racing cars and Boccioni’s Forces of a Street. Tato in 1931 has an aircraft Spiraling Over the Coliseum, but one of the most dramatic images that is echoed in Francis Thompson’s film N.Y., N.Y. is Fortunato Depero’s Mechanical-Kinetic Set for the Ballet New York New Babel which has all of the buildings leaning in different directions, as unbalanced as those in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. In Thompson’s N.Y., N.Y. some buildings curl up and float free of the ground. Their continuity in space, even as they “stretch and bend” is a kind, I would say, of the plastic dynamism Boccioni spoke of in his 1913 call for decomposition and distortion in painting and sculpture (as in his 1913 striding figure “Unique Forms of Continuity in Space”). Thompson’s film (like Highway) was a personal project made with his own funds— unlike the multi-screen World’s Fair films for which he is best known. Valentin de Saint-Point embraced eroticism in her 1913 “Futurist Manifesto of Lust” which rejects the Christian and traditional disdain for the excitement of the flesh. Saint-Point wrote, “We must stop despising Desire, this attraction at once delicate and brutal between two bodies, of whatever sex, two bodies that want each other striving for unity….Lust is for the body what an ideal is for the spirit—the magnificent Chimaera, that one ever clutches at, but never captures, and which the young and the avid, intoxicated with the vision, pursue without rest. Lust is a Force.” Sweet Love Remembered (1980) is one of the least discussed films in Bruce Elder’s forty-two hour “The Book of All of The Dead.” Often nearly clinical in its depiction of two nude women caressing and clasping each other, it disarms erotic response though it is composed of imagery that, individually, is highly erotic. Elder defuses passion through a visual treatment that largely isolates the two women. Except for one of the earliest images—during the opening credit sequence—we do not see the two together in one shot until midway through the film, and then what we unambiguously see are two pairs of feet. What is not ambiguous is the distinctive way the first woman’s body is illuminated, by sunlight that bears the shadows of window curtains blowing over the woman’s body. These streaming shadows—that immediately remind one of Man Ray’s depiction of Kiki in Retour a la Raison—at first seem to be the subject of the film, but then are displaced by the eventual appearance of the second woman. The body has been a central motif in Bruce Elder’s films from the beginning. Central as an image of the beautiful, and likewise as an image of mortality. In his Consolations one of Elder’s many inter-titles declares “the beautiful is resplendent, blissful in itself.” Earlier in the film another intertitle says “Beauty is one way that truth shines.” Usually such quotations are located close to effulgent landscapes or a nude, revolving woman who is an athlete or a dancer. But beauty is only one side of a coin, with the reverse revealing “fatality, incompleteness,…a fleshy vehicle that is distressingly subject to disinte gration and decay.” The two women we see caressing each other remain isolated and alone in a solitude that is fundamental. Elder assures this solitude by the way he shows them to us. By changing camera position to opposing sides, on virtually every shot, he does not support the illusion of continuity; he interrupts our response to these two solitary women. Little wonder, then, that in the penultimate sequence we see both women looking past each other. Physically accessible, they are cinematically wedged apart. The quotations from the Futurist Manifestos are from Futurist Manifestos. Edited by Umbro Apollonio. The Documents of 20th -Century Art. Robert Motherwell, General Editor. New York: Viking, 1973. The described paintings can all be found in Giovanni Lista’s Futurism. Paris: Terrail, 2001. In English. The program (approx 95 minutes): Henri Chomette. Jeux des reflets et de la vitesse 1925 (silent) 6M Amy Greenfield. Wildfire 2003 (sound) 11M Ralph Steiner. Mechanical Principles, 1931 (silent) 11M Wheaton Galentine. Treadle and Bobbin, 1954. (sound) 8M Paul Sharits. Declarative Mode. 1976. (silent) 20M Hilary Harris. Highway. 1958 (sound) 5M Francis Thompson. N.Y., N.Y. 1957 (sound) 15M R. Bruce Elder. Sweet Love Remembered 1980 (sound) 13M Robert Haller is a film historian, photographer, husband of Amy Greenfield, and is in thrall to early Italian modernist art, especially de Chirico and Severini.
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