DANCE ON CAMERA JOURNAL
January-February 2011 Volume 14, No. 1DFA’s 39th Annual Dance on Camera Festival Jury Prize Honorees
Joanna Ney, Shi Jing Xin, Rannvá Káradóttir, Mei Yin Ng, Anne Linsel & Deirdre TowersJury Prize for Best Dance Film
BOW – Rannvá Káradóttir, 2010; Faroe Islands Five artists from the UK, Belgium, Faroe Islands/Denmark, China, and Malaysia participated in a cross cultural exchange project motivated by notions of bowing; metaphorically, culturally and physically. The shadows, light and repetition in this short film attempt to capture the birthing of movement ideas about folding and origami, rhythmic patterns and ritual during the studio process.
“Like a Rorschach test transforming before your eyes, this film creates idiosyncratic forms by combining the moving body with simple cinematic techniques. BOW questions perception and invites viewers to create their own narrative.” – Jury Committee
BOW was supported by the Asia-Europe Foundation as a part of its Pointe to Point Dance Forum. Held annually, this program emphasizes the significance of dance as an art form as well as a medium of communication that considers the constantly changing society. To learn more about the organization visit: asef.org.
See BOW Trailer.Best Documentary FilmTHE LAST TIGHTROPE DANCER IN ARMENIA
Inna Sahakyan, Arman Yeritsyan, 2009; Armenia
Two septuagenarians, the most celebrated tightrope dancers in Armenia, share the same dream–that their only remaining student will keep their daring heritage alive. An elegy to a vanishing art form.
“This captivating documentary reminds us how a body balancing in space and defying gravity is a magical act. A moving and melancholic film that shows the struggles of those devoted to the disappearing art form of tightrope dancing in Armenia.”
– Jury Committee
The film will air on PBS’ Global Voices Program.
Special Jury Mention
Anne Linsel, Rainer Hoffman, 2009; Germany
“This recreation of Pina Bausch’s “Kontakthof” by a new generation is about transformation through art— and with its flow of pacing, lighting, and editing, a piece of art in its own right. The setting is the choreographer’s home base, industrial Wupperthal…During the months of rehearsal, they come together in a magic show, Bausch’s last choreographic triumph before her death in June, 2009.” Joan Dupont, International Herald Tribune.
“DANCING DREAMS opens a window into the fragility and strength of teenage-hood, revealing how a group of nonprofessional adolescents grapple with profound emotions as they rehearse Pina Bausch’s classic dance theatre piece, “Kontakhof”.
-Jury CommitteePurchase DVD through the DFA StoreNo Dancing Images
by Kathryn Luckstone
The Museum of the Moving Image relaunched on January 15th of this year, after having closed in 2008. Located in Astoria, Queens, the museum is appropriately adjacent to the Kaufman Studios and the Frank Sinatra Performing Arts High School. The newly renovated space, designed by architect Thomas Leeser, known for his ultra modern and geometrically complex work, now houses a 267-seat theatre, a 68-seat screening room, expanded exhibition galleries and an education center. The brand new lobby and café invite you into a world of art that is all white. Literally every inch from floor to ceiling and every addition in between is pristine winter white. Hundreds of slushy boots later, I found myself sympathetic to those responsible for mopping at the day’s end.
Centrally located in a family neighborhood, the museum delivers a vast array of educational programs and marketing aimed at the next generation of filmmakers. The Ann and Andrew Tisch Education Center will facilitate weekend programs, workshops and demonstrations including the making of hand drawn flipbooks and digital drawings. While the museum boasts family-friendly programming, the diversity of the exhibits caters perhaps too much to a more mature audience.
New Yorkers rarely protest the blurring of art and culture: the word “museum” inherently invites observers of all ages. Parents do not object to nudity in paintings at the Metropolitan Museum, and rightly so. However, in the age of television and video game ratings, I wonder if family-centered presentations of the moving image can responsibly parallel the liberal rules of other fine art institutions.
Up the first muddy staircase to an open screening area is the first introduction to the museum’s exhibits. DOLLS VS. DICTATORS by Martha Colburn is a brightly colored animation with an allure of whimsy, until you have watched for a few minutes. Amidst a crowd of five to eighty-five year olds, I searched for some audience reaction to images of Robert Mugabe (the current president of Zimbabwe) stabbing a puppet of Pee Wee Herman in the eye with a pencil, and of the president of Ethiopia torturing and killing an army soldier. Hannah, the eight-year-old seated to my right appeared unfazed by the images. Her parents seemed even less concerned. Asked what she thought of the animation, Hannah replied, “Ummm, well it’s kind of weird”. When I approached Hannah’s parents on the subject, her mother commented, “It’s definitely more violent than I’d expect, but we’ll go to the next room shortly”. The father added, “Ehh, it’s New York, they can get away with it”. Having lived in the New York area for almost seven years, this exchange made this twenty-something observer wonder if I was being prudent.
In the next room was the artifact exhibit one would expect of a museum dedicated to film. Studio portraits of film stars, masks, costumes, set models, original cameras and props crowd the wall space like a Hollywood film buff estate sale. Interactive touchscreens throughout the exhibit list all of the professional titles of a film crew with their job descriptions, ranging from well-known titles like director and producer to the lesser-known foley artist and the obscure in-betweener (which is a 2nd assistant animator).
Overall, the museum excels at educating those less familiar with the film world and offers artistic and retrospective cinematic incite to amateur and professional filmmakers. While the curatorial selection may be questionable, as aptly noted by Hannah’s mother, there is always another room. The only omission that left this visitor disappointed was that there was no dancing at the Museum of the Moving Image, at least not yet. Perhaps dance filmmakers can sway the curatorial team in the future to present more dance and fewer dictators.
Review: Flamenco, Flamenco
Carlos Saura, 2010; Spain, 2010
by Eva Yaa Asantewaa
FLAMENCO, FLAMENCO opens, and you find yourself hovering just below the vaulted ceiling of Seville’s Pavilion of the Future, a remnant of the 1992 World’s Fair in Spain. Staring into the structure’s severe, track-like arches, you eventually feel a gentle shift. In one fluid motion, the camera carries you down and down, floating you towards and through a giant stand of screens. Each screen bears a blown-up painting or poster of flamenco performers.
Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro delivers the viewer into the irresistible world of flamenco toque (guitar), cante (song) and baile (dance) as director Carlos Saura sees it, as a world of complex, anchoring heritage and liberating creativity.
Saura’s 1995 FLAMENCO also opened with a glide through architectural severity and geometrics. That prequel to FLAMENCO, FLAMENCO similarly presents more than a dozen rhythms interpreted by Joaquín Cortés, María Pagés, Manolo Sanlúcar and other veterans and innovators. This approach to showcasing flamenco represents a break from the format of Saura’s famed trilogy of narrative dance films: BODAS DE SANGRE, CARMEN and EL AMOR BRUJO. Those films, from the 1980’s, featured romantic melodrama interwoven with choreography by their brooding leading man, world-renowned Antonio Gades.
FLAMENCO, FLAMENCO can then be considered FLAMENCO, Part 2 and the handiwork of a director who clearly can’t get enough. Simply stated, Saura’s message is: Flamenco lives. It will always have something new to offer.
The crown jewel of the 2011 Dance on Camera Festival, FLAMENCO FLAMENCO replaces FLAMENCO’s spare, sometimes funky atmosphere with all-out showmanship. The emphasis remains on welcome and intimacy–with the camera sashaying you right up to the performers’ faces as if you’re partnering them. (And you really must see the film on the big screen to get that full, heady effect.) But now lighting on the performers’ flesh and color-drenched backdrops–a palette right out of Frederic Church–suggest the arc of time from late afternoon through high noon of the following day. The idea is subtly narrative, but the look is rich, visually and emotionally charged and anything but understated.
Twenty-one performances pop off the screen in this gallery come to life. Sara Baras swirls the satiny expanse of her cranberry-red dress over a honey-colored floor and painted sunset. Eva Yerbabuena, soaking wet in artificial rain, grieves and writhes in a dramatic scenario of stark darkness and light as singer Miguel Poveda invites her to sleep in his arms. Illuminated in gold, pianist-singers David Dorantes and Diego Amador alchemize a blend of flamenco and jazz as they smile boyishly across their pianos’ interlaced bodies. Young phenomenon, Rocío Molina, cigarette clamped in her lips, and the fabulous Farruquito, bring a fresh, jazzy feel to flamenco, though from opposite poles. Molina fiercely controls the shaping of her body in space and time (La Hermosura de lo Extraño). Farruquito’s exuberant musical response is so immediate that it looks, and could well be, improvisation (Lluvia de Ilusión).
Not everything works equally well. Ensemble numbers tend to be less satisfying–stagey, impersonal pieces in which costuming or set outshine individual expression. Israel Galván, dancing the solo Silencio, remains a taste I have not and might never acquire. His post-flamenco eccentricities of movement and phrasing are showy to the point of being laughable. Saura, tellingly, places him among the gallery’s fussiest, most florid paintings.
I must also mention Jorge Marin’s excellent sound direction and the way this film supports its musicians and, especially, inspiring singers such as Poveda, Emilio Florido (well known to fans of Noche Flamenca) and Niña Pastori. Rich sound brings out the warmth and soulful breath of this powerful, sensuous music.
Near the end, the camera reverses its journey, gradually lifting you away, upward and out to the world of traffic sounds and sirens. It’s a cold jolt, one that’s sure to make you pine for FLAMENCO, FLAMENCO and, perhaps, FLAMENCO, Part 3.
Eva Yaa Asantewaa writes for Dance Magazine and blogs on the arts at InfiniteBodyFinding Stillness in Parkour
An interview between Journal Editor Kathryn Luckstone and commercial photographer James Starkman on his exhibit Let Go: Moment in Movement, on view in the Furman Gallery of the Walter Reade Theatre at Lincoln CenterFirstly, what is Parkour?
Parkour is a way of moving, originally taught in the French army to efficiently get from one place to another without wasting energy. Talking about Parkour now and what it is in New York, I’d say it’s an urban movement. Young people are taking the movements from Parkour, like jumping and vaulting and using it instead as a way to express themselves.
How did you begin photographing them?
I never set out to shoot Parkour. It just so happened that I was discovering Parkour and I went to follow these guys and found what they were doing interesting. I can’t say that my photos represent the movement in general. As I started to follow them, it became apparent how much of the process is mental, not just physical. That’s what got me interested in capturing them in moments that revealed their mental state rather than just the moves.
Can you discuss the selection process for the photos that became the exhibit?
There were definitely some key images I knew expressed what I wanted to convey. Walking into the gallery I had to determine what kind of journey I wanted the viewer to take. I wanted to frame moments of kinetics. I wanted to create an arc about grappling urban obstacles, releasing into flight and some images that reveal how its all done.
I noticed the images not only display the full body of your subject but also include a lot of the environment. Can you talk about your composition choices?
I realized early on that getting tight shots of them became very unrealistic in the final product. It was important to include the landscape for a few reasons: One, because you can see their shadows and how far they are off the ground. With all of the photo software out there, it was important to me to show that they weren’t digitally placed in those positions. Two, I wanted to incorporate my knowledge of shooting angles and the urban landscape, so that they became contrast points to the artists. It also makes you aware that we’re in a landscape that could threaten us at any moment and to see these Parkour artists with their heads inches off the ground and in a state of bliss is their way of overcoming the elements. Allowing the viewer to see the mind space of a person who is risking a lot is something I really tried to capture.
Considering the spontaneity of Parkour, what was your process for capturing the moments that you did?
There was no choreographic plan. A lot of times we’d arrive at a location and they would say what they were thinking of doing there. What I tried to do was compose what they wanted to do, in the frame, so I could try to tell a story and highlight different characters. Even though they have done performances, I was not shooting a performance. Some of them, I’d ask to move closer or farther from the camera, like the images on the roof, and other times they came completely serendipitously.
To some, having an art exhibit of an extreme sport as part of a dance film festival seems unlikely. Can you talk about Parkour’s performance qualities?
I think that’s why DFA and others were interested in having this exhibit because it was stretching the envelope of this urban movement turning into an artistic movement. As an artistic movement, it makes its viewers riveted and people can find metaphors and stories in it just as with other dance forms. Nadia Lesy, who is the choreographer of the group, really had that vision. She’s done a few stage shows with them and after seeing her use of their talents, I knew the movements would lend themselves well to a photographic display. There is so much repetitive, aesthetically pleasing and beautiful moments in Parkour that most people don’t notice. In the purest moments you can see that they just let go of the restraints of their environment, which is one of the reasons I called this show Let Go.What happens to the exhibit now?
I have a much larger library; we had to keep it to sixteen pieces for this exhibit so I’m hoping to move it to other galleries. I have had requests for other museums in two cities in Canada and hopefully a few locations in Berlin. I’d like to expand it a bit more as well. I really like the effect it has on people. This one guy came into the gallery and said, “I can only say one thing, this exhibit was life affirming.” That made me feel good. I go back to the images to feel the same way.
James Starkman is a New York based photographer.
For more information on James Starkman’s work.Nadia Lesy’s short film FROM ROOSEVELT TO BROOKLYN will run at The Big Screen Project. For screening timesDance on Camera Festival Workshop & Screening at Beacon High School
by Dalienne Majors
On January 26, New York City’s Beacon High School hosted a dance film workshop and screening of two films by Caswell Coggins: DESTINO and CONFINEMENT. Coggins, assisted by Beacon’s dance and video teachers and Assistant Principal, Harry Streep, led forty high school students from Beacon and Berkeley Carroll in a dance for the camera workshop.
Dance students created choreography while video students captured the process on film. Coggins spoke about how he started his filmmaking career as a “runner” on documentary and commercial production shoots. His job was mostly “making tea.” He explained the best way students can learn about filmmaking is to put themselves in situations and learn by being involved.
Coggins presented two of his recent music videos plus CONFINEMENT, an impressive three-minute film shot in the empty corridors of a London hospital. Collaborating with Ethiopian dancers, Addisu Demissie and Jaid Jemal Sendi, and working with a budget of only $4,000, Coggins captured the choreography with a single HD camera. English composer, Tom Jarvis, composed the music after the film was edited. The result is an exquisite mix of dramatic movement aligned with throbbing musical accompaniment.
The film is dramatically set in an empty hallway with white walls and a window at the end. A male dancer enters, silhouetted against the window’s light, crashing into a wall as music explodes. The dancers climb, roll, meet and collide into each other, the walls, staircases and railings. Music desists at moments to create a compelling effect. A dancer shakes with intense desperation. His pulsing expands into slow motion accompanied by a screaming guitar. The film’s high quality and fine editing are impressive, especially considering the slim budget that required careful planning and generous in-kind contributions from the artistic collaborators.
DESTINO, Coggins’ first full-length documentary, features the same two Ethiopian dancers from CONFINEMENT – Demissie and Sendi- in projects sponsored by Dance United in London and Adugna Community Dance Theatre in Ethiopia. The film is in two locations, following the dancers in London as they prepare to perform three works by five British choreographers at the Sadlers Wells, with a repeat performance in Addis Ababa. The film opens and closes gracefully, with sunrise and sunset over Addis Ababa.
In London, the British choreographers Russell Maliphant, Adam Benjamin, Hofesh Schecter, Susannah Broughton and Tara- Jane Herbert narrate their experiences with Sendi and Demissie. Stunning camera work captures the intensity of thedancers’ bodies struggling with the daring lifts of their duet Holding Space; the complexity of movement in the sextet, The Empire’s Fall; and the excitement of working with 140 nonprofessional dancers aged 9 to 90 in Full Circle.
In the large community work, movements with non-dancers were effectively captured in rehearsal footage featuring the glowing and inspired faces of the young and elderly performers. Full Circle featured the music of Leonard Bernstein’s ON THE WATERFRONT, performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
The duet and sextet created in London for the DESTINO project also toured to Sendi and Demissie’s community in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with the addition of a new large group dance, Weket: The Seasons. The cast combined able-bodied dancers with the physically disabled. Interviews with members of the Ethiopian dance community emphasized the need to improve their country’s awareness of this underserved population. Choreography was expertly created using the limitations of the disabled dancers.
A student attending the premiere summarized the film as “…a dance movement of people from all over joined as one, based on a true story of Ethiopian orphan boys.” However, the Ethiopian portion of DESTINO may have had more impact earlier in the film, instead of being diluted by too much time spent covering the project’s London portion.
The students responded to the film’s strong camera work and its elegant treatment of the varied choreographic styles. Several also appreciated the way the large group works combined everyday movements and props with dance. They were particularly affected by the portrayal of Sendi and Demissie as “two boys with a troubled past who turn their lives around.”
Dalienne Majors is a graduate of the Juilliard School and the University of Iowa/Iowa City. She currently dances and choreographs with Parents Who Dance, a group she founded. She is Chair of the K-12 Dance Program at Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn.
Information on Caswell Coggins and clips of his work can be found here.DFA Awarded Grant for Dance Film Lab
DFA is proud to announce receipt of a grant from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council in support of an expanded Dance Film Lab: a members-only series of peer-to- peer workshops, practicum and screenings for emerging dance filmmakers based in the New York area. Organized and moderated by Zach Morris of Third Rail Projects. For details, contact Zach Morris at: firstname.lastname@example.org
DFA Announces Online Member Benefits
Another reason to become a member! DFA introduces a Members section of the website. Through MemberClicks you can easily connect to other members of the dance film community through:
• Bulletin Board
• Members Only Directory
• Personal Profiles
• Events Calendar
• Current Dance Film News
For current members just enter your email address to access your pre-assigned username and password and login to MemberClicks immediately. For more information about becoming a member visit: DanceFilms.org/membership
2011 Dance on Camera Touring Program Schedule
St. Mary’s College of Maryland, St. Mary’s City, MD
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
REflect 2011, San Francisco, CA
Florida State Univ., Tallahassee, FL
Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA
Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI
Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME
S.E. Center for Education in the Arts, Chattanooga, TN
Modern Art Museum/Contemporary Dance,Fort Worth, TX
Jacob Burns Center, Pleasantville, NY
Philadelphia Dance Projects, Philadelphia, PA
San Diego Tijuana Dance Film Festival, CA
For dates, details and information about hosting a Dance on Camera screening in your community visit: DanceFilms.org