Mar/April 2010 Journal

Screening/Class for the Premiere of JULIA & JOYCE Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD!) presented on March 13, 2010 a world premiere screening of the documentary JULIA AND JOYCE: THE STORY OF TWO PIONEERS directed by Sonia Dumas, Trinidad & Tobago, 2009, 60M. The filmmaker and one of her subjects, Joyce Kirton, came from Trinidad to show their film, bringing their weather with them. Wild winds and torrential rains were followed by a blast of calm, courtesy of their sunny, serene temperaments. A window blew in on an actors class at BAAD! just before our master class in Afro-Caribbean dance was to begin. Fortunately the community center across the street from BAAD, The Point , welcomed us! Joyce Kirton regaled us with stories and insights about the dances we learned, as demonstrated by Sonia Dumas and accompanied by 3 masterful drummers. Along with Joyce came her brother and his wife from Florida, her sister from Texas, and two dancers from Toronto, all coming to NYC to show their love and support for Joyce. Arthur Aviles and Charles Rice-Gonzalez hosted this event with admirable aplomb. Despite the disastrous loss of a window at BAAD! and rains which threatened to tear down the house of BAAD!, they served supper, and wine, replaced the window, put candles in all the windows by the time of the screening, and pulled in a crowd! The New York Times printed a story on the same day as the screening and class about Trinidadian dancer Mike Quashie who was known as The Limbo King in the sixties. Susan Quist, a long time friend of Mike Quashie who hung with Jimi Henderson, Lou Reed, and Led Zepellin, brought Mike to the screening. Also at the screening were Sonia’s teachers from NYU, Phyllis Lamhut, Pat Hall and Pam Patrick. The film JULIA AND JOYCE: THE STORY OF TWO PIONEERS looks at aspects of the Trinidad and Tobago dance world and its local and global impact through the eyes of two local dance legends–Julia Edwards and Joyce Kirton–in an attempt to capture some of this history. These two women, now in their seventies, have collectively contributed over 110 years of dedicated, pioneering work to the dance community of Trinidad and Tobago. Between them, they have been instrumental in the preservation of and innovation in countless traditional dance forms, and their commitment to dance is echoed in the accomplishments of the many dancers and choreographers of the generations that have come after them. For more information on the film, contact Sonja Dumas at: 5…6…7…8 Review by Felicity Zemsov “5…6…7…8” is an honest portrait of a suburban dance school with noble efforts and high levels of camaraderie. The film excels at documenting the emotional journeys of teenage girls as they learn life lessons in addition to dance education. The school’s companies, Nova Jazz and Nova Jazz 2 make up the roster of characters within the film with Jenn Dell, the studio’s artistic director, at the helm of this dancing ship. Produced and directed by Andy Milkis, the film reads as one man’s introduction to the world of community dance studio life. A year in the life of Nova Jazz, a dance company with 41 teenage girls based in Bedford Hills, New York opened at Garden State Film Festival March 28, 2010. While the subject matter is not new, the genuine empathy for these students and their experiences growing up is evident. The majority of camera time is dedicated to the physical and emotional obstacles of dance training and the assumption of leadership roles at young ages. The camera work is smooth and consistent. Mid-shots and close-ups create an intimacy with Jenn and the girls. Occasionally, the camera man is caught on camera, an unnecessary distraction, as are the many bus and backstage shots that do not propel the story forward. The point of view and intention behind the film is vague. Melodramas, common to anyone used to working in a group, traveling, running a studio and performances, are seemingly all equally fascinating to the maker. A narrower focus would have helped shape the film. Ten months of footage were condensed, but not distilled, into an hour and forty-five minutes. Yet, as an archival tribute to The Pulse Performing Arts Center, 5…6…7…8 is a slice of life that dance students around the country and their families can identify with and enjoy. 5…6…7…8 marks Andy Milkis’ feature directorial debut. Andy teaches a master’s degree course in Visual Effects at NYU’s CADA, and is a graduate of the Film Program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Define the Capture /World Class Dancers DFA’s “Define the Capture” addresses the need to upgrade the filming of dance in New York to assure that the many new Internet outlets for dance videos have strong content. Many dance companies have only made videos for rehearsal and archive purposes, not for general consumption. We are keeping expenses minimal, putting dancers, filmmakers, and photographers together so that DFA can develop its own curriculum for teachingteachers, as well as students, and professional videographers. The spring session will focus on long time DFA member, the entrepreneur and dance filmmaker Frank Correa and his project involving The World Class Dancers, led by Juan Zapata. DFA’s Artistic Director suggested that Frank bring his dancers to ReBuilders Source, a nonprofit venture in the Bronx that he started with Omar Freilla. A discount retailer cooperative of surplus and used building materials, ReBuilders Source is a worker-owned cooperative. The idea is to challenge the dancers to make site-specific choreography using the site as inspiration for a video while making the young dancers aware of their environment and what happens to trash. This project follows the thinking of NEA chairman Rocco Landesman that “investment in art can build stronger communities and revive a flagging economy. “ Perhaps if this project is successful, similar collaborations can be instigated across the country. Our aim is to have a teaser ready to show during the National Dance Week film screening that DFA will have at The Alvin Ailey School on June 12th. Review: NY Export: OPUS JAZZ by Melissa Silvestri Jazz and ballet combined is an electric mix that brings out the classic technique with the hepcat sophistication of jazz. Jerome Robbins understood this, and in 1958, staged a ballet entitled “New York Export: Opus Jazz.” Tailoring a youthful exuberance to Broadway jazz, Robbins’ work made the combinations seem effortless, like skipping in the park or doing the two-step. The ballet features adolescent characters in five movements, celebrating unbridled passion, first loves, city street life, and a world free of authority and rules. Directors Henry Joost and Jody Lee Lipes staged a new short film entitled NEW YORK EXPORT: OPUS JAZZ, which premiered on PBS on March 24th as part of their Great Performances series. Performed all over New York in abandoned open spaces by a cast selected from the New York City Ballet, this re-imagining takes Robbins’ work and alights it with vivid colors, gritty side streets, and fluid, creative camera work. As a tribute to Robbins’ legacy, Sondra Lee, one of the original dancers in the 1958 production, appears in an elevator with the young dancer playing her role. They don’t say anything to each other, just silently acknowledge each other as representing the past and present productions. It’s brief, but contemplative moment that bridges the old and new school. Choreographed to the jazz rhythms of Robert Prince, the dancers, clad in sneakers, first appear in the film as regular city kids, waking up the same time as the city does, under a glorious sunrise. The dancers begin the first movement with an ecstatic burst of power and natural cool, partnering as if they can’t get enough of each other. The guys flip the girls over a line with polish and ease, foreshadowing more inventiveness to come. The cinematography echoes both the panoramic shots of WEST SIDE STORY and MTV, along with overhead shots of the dancers placed in Busby Berkeley-like formations and continuous panning shots. When Georgina Pazcoguin simultaneously flirts and challenges three guys in a deserted parking garage, the camera takes on a voyeuristic P.O.V. as it circles and zooms around them from behind columns. Georgina brings to mind a 50’s be-bop chick, with graceful extensions, who one-ups the three guys enthralled by her. One of the most thrilling sequences is set in a school gymnasium. The dancers challenge each other to a dance-off. Blazing with natural cool, radiating a “this is our time” feeling, the dancers celebrate adolescent passions, suggesting that they are normal folks who just have an incredible ability for dance. That is the beauty and ingenuity of Robbins’ style. He took risks to bring youth, sex, and street style to ballet, with a twist. A brief documentary follows the film, featuring reminiscences from former Robbins collaborators (including Miss Lee), noting how “Opus Jazz” can be seen as an “abstraction of WEST SIDE STORY.” Similarly, the current generation of dancers speak with reverence and glee about participating in this project. Their combination of exquisite talent with a childlike joy cements Robbins’ message of “Opus Jazz.” New York City is their playground. Joost and Lipes (as led by dancers Sean Suozzi and Ellen Bar, who initiated the project) took a great leap in bringing this fifties jazz-ballet to abandoned parts of the city that are ripe for reinvention. * Melissa Silvestri is a contributing writer to FILMMAKER MAGAZINE LEMOLLET DE LA DANSEUSE: Feet on the Ground “A film around dance, very serious, and slightly burlesque.” Marie-Pascale Lescot, France, 2009; 52M Review by Dalienne Majors The Trailer Voice Over (Marie-Pascale Lescot’s voice with images in parentheses): “How did it start? It was probably her (a drawing of a classical ballerina in a children’s book), early on, I think he (Astaire) had something to do with it too. And him (Astaire) with her (Cyd Charisse), definitely. But these guys (men folk dancing) could have been involved too. And what about the Old Man (Lescot’s father)? Anyway, I don’t know for sure how dance started for me, but I do know where it ended (Merce Cunningham Dance Studio). After devoting ten years of my life to dancing, I quit. And forgot all about it or thought I had. But by the time my son (baby) started walking, I started wondering, why do we dance? To feel vibrant (toddler running falling rolling in park), weightless (film clip of Spiderman flying through buildings), connected, or disconnected (Larrieu’s dancers performing in WATERPROOF). Or do we dance to stay forever young (man performing gavotte)”? Marie-Pascale Lescot’s film, LE MOLLET DE LA DANSEUSE, is a personal reflection on her experience of dance after an absence of practicing dance for ten years. The film is an archival assemblage of these ten course covers historic dance (classical ballet, gavotte, bourrée), folk dance, modern dance and she illustrates her thoughts with film clips of her years of moments with her family, her dance inquiries and analysis, her dance experiences and shared memories with fellow ex-dancers, all in the quest of defining what the purpose of dance is to the dancer.  Her discourse covers historic dance (classical ballet, gavotte, bourrée), folk dance, modern dance and she illustrates her thoughts with film clips of her son, the Daniel Larrieu dance company, family members, friends who dance and farmers with their delightful cows. Lescot also shows herself dancing with her contemporaries who, like herself, return to dance before the camera. Together they experience rehearsal and an improvised performance. One moment of truth they share is that the contemporary dancer leading the group does not lead them in a warm-up class. Times have changed as the leader explains that dancers of today warm themselves up rather than in an ensemble. The camera slowly pans the faces of these dancers who have left the profession but their devotion to movement is evident on their faces and bodies. Lescot even performs a solo for the camera that is stunning to watch in its intricacies of directional change and vital energy. By showing us her childhood interest in dance, Lescot compares her early life to that of her son as she watches his movements from baby to toddler to pre-adolescent. She boldly examines her own body, featuring the development of heavier calves (mollets) due to aging and even shows close ups of her mother’s aging feet as she gently washes them. When she visits her father and asks him to dance with her, they look natural and happy in each other’s arms, dancing in a familiar room in her childhood home. The French farm country of Aubrac, located in the Massif Centrale of France, is the home of a French folk dance Lescot reveals to us on an archival film. Her camera returns to the same small room that was viewed previously on the film archive. The men are shown dancing or playing accordion, while women watch and provide encouragement. The farmers sadly discussed the lack of interest in the folk dance by the younger generation and then proudly showed off their cows who delightfully mugged for the camera. Lescot’s stories and reflections on her dance life are captivating and provocative as she allows the camera to linger over a French paysage or Paris/New York cityscapes. Does performance drive the dancer? Is performance necessary? How do dancers view movement when it no longer becomes the driving force of their everyday lives? These are issues that are familiar to this viewer and the questions deserve to be pondered and explored. Lescot has given us a very beautiful film to help us with these thoughts. Dalienne Majors teaches dance at The Berkeley Carroll School, Brooklyn. Dance Designer, a new software for choreographers Two years ago, Carri Burbank, dancer, choreographer, and studio owner, along with husband and event producer Sean Glen, founded Choreo Technology LCC. The intent was to create software that would save choreographers time and help with all steps of the creative process, including supporting choreographers in documenting their Intellectual Property. The pair, together with a team of dancers, choreographers and software specialists, started developing Dance Designer. The outcome two years later is a powerful software program that offers a complete choreography package that assists with the creation, pre-visualization, documentation, communication and rehearsal process. Dance Designer has the ability to save and organize elaborate, multi-layered productions in a single digital file and allows choreographers to share creative information easily with their dancers and production team. The Dance Designer program is divided into 8 tabs or sections, each having tools for a specific area of the choreographic process. The sections are Music, Stage, Dancers, Path, Notes, Reports, Video and Choreo Score. “ChoreoMotion”, a popular component of Dance Designer, is an animation tool designed specifically for choreographers to quickly pre-visualize, create and document performer’s paths and formations. Designed to be fast and easy, the choreographer can select and drag virtual performers and props to their position on a virtual stage, click record and then play it back. Choreographers can test their staging and resolve complex patterns and traffic jams before they get to rehearsal. They can show a director their blocking and staging synchronized to music to help with camera shots and sight lines even before the dancers are at rehearsal. “Choreo Notes” is another key feature in Dance Designer. A count by count notation structure that conveniently scrolls with the music, allowing notes and music to always be in sync. “Dance Palettes” offer auto population of dance vocabulary from a variety of dance styles to make notation faster, easier and more accurate. In addition to the existing 6 dance palettes, users can create their own custom palette. Choreographers no longer have to deal with the frustration of lost or mixed up note pads. Combining Music, Staging, Notes and Video in Dance Designer creates a detailed picture called a “ChoreoScore.” Virtually every element of your choreography is integrated into one complete multi-media file making it easier than ever to document your choreography. Dance Designer offers the advantage of a complete choreography package that can be taken with you on your laptop wherever you go and can be a library of all of your choreography projects past, present and future. To learn more about Dance Designer, view tutorials, and sign up for a 15 day FREE TRIAL, click here. Special $25 discount available to DFA members. Use discount code DFADE01. Dance on Camera Festival on Hulu TenduTV launched this month Dance on Camera Festival on Serendipitously, The New York Times just published an article about this three year old, independent company run by Jason Kilar in Los Angeles. Dance on Camera Festival as seen on Hulu is a digital extension of the DFA’s Dance on Camera Festival, now entering its 38th year. “This new venture presents an exciting opportunity for dance film artists to expand their audience. The bulk of today’s viewers consume their media digitally. Our partnership with TenduTV widens our distribution while offering an excellent, new venue for our participating artists,” said Deirdre Towers, artistic director of DFA. “We’re excited to take this first step forward towards achieving our goals for the dance field. Finally, dance audiences can begin to get the access they eagerly desire. DFA is a great partner and we’re looking forward to doing all we can to help them fulfill their mission,” said Marc Kirschner, general manager, TenduTV. TenduTV will be adding new films on a regular basis, providing viewers with a diverse range of dance on screen. While the initial films primarily represent contemporary works from prior editions of the festival, DFA and TenduTV will also curate focused collections of dance films. Planned themes include “Past Masters,” “Africa” and “Animation.” The first six films are available now on Hulu: ARCUS, a jury prize nominee, DOCF 2004 directed by Alla Kovgan and Jeff Silva ARISING, from DOCF 2009 directed and choreographed by Ben Dolphin FOLIES D’ESPAGNE, a jury prize nominee, DOCF 2008, directed by Philip Busier, choreographed by Austin McCormick; MADRUGADA, from DOCF 2005, directed by William Morrison, choreographed by Deborah Greenfield; VANISHING POINT, DOCF 2009 directed by Patrick Lovejoy WIPED, Jury Winner, DOCF 2002, directed and choreographed by Hans Beenhakker. Before each short is a commercial. However, the presentation is otherwise superior to YouTube, and other on-line video, as well as offering the promise Founded in 2008, TenduTV seeks to deliver dance to audiences through the highest quality digital distribution network available to the art form today. Through TenduTV’s platform partners, dance artists and organizations will be able to transport their vision beyond the physical theater and engage audiences through computers and 200 million digital devices including internet-enabled televisions, portable video players and mobile devices. By empowering artists to connect with audiences on a global scale, TenduTV believes that the dance field can be as strong financially as it is creatively. In June, TenduTV will release on Amazon a dance film compilation that can be downloaded for a fee. For this venture, the filmmakers are poised to receive some remuneration. The titles to be included are: FLYING LESSON, winner of the Dance on Camera Festival Jury Award in 2008 created by Roseanne Chamecki and Andrea Lerner, Peter Sparling’s BABEL, Eric Koziol’s THE DUCHESS, Jacob Niedzwiecki’s HELIOSCAPE, KINO-EYE commissioned by EMPAC, created by Joby Emmons; Ami ipapo and Matt Tarr’s  LITTLE EASE, MOMENT, and Hans Beenhakker’s SHAKE OFF. * DANCING DREAMS Review by Tanja Meding Earlier this year, the Berlin International Film Festival paid tribute to the late choreographer Pina Bausch, premiering Anne Linsel and Rainer  Hoffmann’s documentary DANCING DREAMS (TANZTRAEUME, 2009); a moving, memorial piece. Introducing the screening, Berlinale program manager Thomas Haile remarked that Bausch would have been thrilled with this film, because Linsel and Hoffmann’s documentary is truly uplifting and life-affirming. In 2007, Pina Bausch revisited her classic 1978 dance theater piece KONTAKTHOF, an intense study of love, intimacy and human relations, and re-staged it with teenagers aged 14 and above. DANCING DREAMS follows a year of rehearsals with 40 teenagers from Wuppertal, an industrial town in Germany’s Ruhr area, where Bausch’s company resides. With patience, warmth and wit, rehearsal directors Jo-Ann Endicott and Benedict Billiet, two long time company members and part of the original KONTAKTHOF cast, introduce the teenagers without any formal dance training, to the intimate and intricate world of Pina Bausch. Over the years, Linsel has filmed choreographer Bausch and her company a number of times and directed a portrait on Pina Bausch, titled PINA BAUSCH, 2008, screened at DFA’s Festival, as well as a 1994 documentary about the company’s residency in India titled NELKEN IN INDIEN, 1994. festival. Linsel and Hoffmann allow us to witness the enormous growth and maturation of these young people. Besides seeing them struggle and succeed in learning the dance, we have an insight into their dreams, desires, fears, life philosophies and experiences. A young performer recalls that he was quite nervous when Pina Bausch announced her first visit to see how far they have come – and then reflects that “she has a poker face.” Bausch trusted the young performers and felt that nothing could go wrong, because they all worked so hard. Ten years ago, KONTAKHOF was re-staged with seniors 65 and older, a process captured by German filmmaker Lilo Mangelsdorf in her documentary LADIES AND GENTLEMEN OVER 65 (DAMEN UND HERREN AB 65, 2002), which won the Dance on Camera Festival Jury Award. Both films confirm the universal draw and attraction of Pina Bausch’s work. With Pina Bausch’s passing, the many documentaries on her life and work will become even more important as testaments of unique contributions to world culture. Wim Wenders is in production of a 3-D film on Bausch and her Dance Theater titled PINA, scheduled to premiere in 2011. For more information. Tanja Meding is a New York based producer.      
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