Festival Preview – Nov/Dec Journal, Part III

Dance on Camera Reflections by Deirdre Towers 30 years ago I started working for DFA. I had gone to Susan Braun, the founder of DFA seeking a fiscal sponsorship for a cross-cultural documentary on Argentine Tango. She granted me the fiscal umbrella but she also recruited me to write her bimonthly publication. At the time, I was working in the music department of the Organization of American States for Efraín Paesky, a pianist who had left Argentina because of political differences. That same year, Carlos Saura’s BLOOD WEDDING was released. I was awe-struck by the collaboration of Saura and choreographer/dancer Antonio Gades, by the clarity of the story and by the range of emotions it triggered in me. That one film determined the course of my life, which has been largely dedicated to dance on camera and flamenco ever since. 30 years later, DFA is honored to offer the U.S. premiere of Saura’s latest film FLAMENCO FLAMENCO in its Dance on Camera Festival 2011. Unlike BLOOD WEDDING, no dramatic or thematic thread is readily visible in this film. Saura simply honors the past, by weaving the camera around free standing blow-ups of 20th century paintings and posters of flamenco, and the present, by holding a steady gaze on the artists, arguably the best from Spain today: Paco de Lucia, Estrella Morente, Manolo Sanlucar, Rocio Molina, Eva La Yerbabuena. These artists have each created their own distinctive style and formidable technique but none aspires to the narrative thrust of Gades’ work. Their ideas rush out with the speed of the Internet age, not with the crawl of the once isolated Andalusia. In contrast, THE LAST TIGHTROPE DANCER IN ARMENIA is an old-fashioned tearjerker, an ode to a dying tradition, and to a magnificent country. The Armenian directors Inna Sahakyan and Arman Yeritsyan were driven by the sad fact that their children might not be able to experience tightrope dancing as they had. They ingeniously captivate us with the anguish of the last two masters of this art, rivals in their day, who are not convinced that their only student is fearless enough to do the job. Beyond Spain and Armenia, the Dance on Camera Festival 2011 will stoke your wanderlust with tales from Bahia, Congo, Ethiopia, Switzerland, Tibet, France, Germany, Canada, Scotland, and of course the United States. PASSION – LAST STOP KINSHASA reminds one of how much a mind twist travel can be. Alain Platel, the Belgian choreographer featured in this documentary, became enthralled with how Johann Sebastian Bach’s “St. Matthew’s Passion” tackled the magnitude of the suffering of Jesus on the Cross. For Platel, this seems to be an intellectual puzzle, an image to explore, but for the African singers involved in his production, devout Christians, it seems deeply personal.  Joerg Jeshel & Brigitte Kramer, the directors who brought us URBAN BALLET last year, do a stellar job of photo journalism, making us feel like a member of the troupe, far from the familiar.

Photo by Yu Wadee

ALL THE LADIES SAY, created over the last four years by the Bronx B-Girl Queen Rokafella and her dancing husband/mentor Kwikstep, takes us beyond the known male hip- hop camp. They showcase the ladies who twirl on their necks with the greatest of ease: break-dancers Vendetta, Severe, Lady Champ, Aiko Shirakawa, Baby Love. Another personal favorite is Morleigh Steinberg’s UNSUNG set in an Irish Pub. Somehow you can feel the drizzle outside and the intimacy of a simple bar where the regulars feel free to sing and dance in the Irish traditions, both gay and aggrieved, and move singularly, and with uninhibited honesty. In addition to the 10 programs at the Walter Reade Theatre, DFA’s Festival includes an installation of the wildly imaginative, soulful Billy Cowie, hosted by The Baryshnikov Arts Center. Don’t miss this! I have been trying to find a NYC home for his 3D, 4-screen MEN IN THE WALL for more years than I’d like to confess. The shorts and retrospective offered on the Big Screen Project is DFA’s venture into Public Art and the chance to mingle at Bar Basque while viewing the films. DFA’s 39th Festival demonstrates the importance of dance, not only as a language, but as a sensibility, as a means to express something rarely captured in print, in feature films, or on the street. This year, the filmmakers seem bent on tripping up preconceived notions of what a particular dance form might be or what effect a film might provoke.  For example, Rocio Molina in FLAMENCO FLAMENCO, sporting a cigarette, bare midriff, and tights, is as playful as Gwen Verdon in a Bob Fosse musical. Are we disappointed not to see the polka dot dresses that used to be the norm of Seville, or are we prodded to embrace change, acknowledge that artists are products of not only their culture but of the mood of their times? Dance Films Association & The Film Society of Lincoln Center present the 39th Annual Dance on Camera Festival January 25, 2011 – February 1, 2011 Click on each venue listed below for programs Walter Reade Theatre – Lincoln Center The Baryshnikov Arts Center The Big Screen Project Movement Research – Judson Church The Beacon School
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