Jonah Bokaer: Renaissance Man by Penny Ward Jonah Bokaer has cast his net wide. After seven years with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and receiving several awards for his choreography and work in the media, Jonah, 26, has produced an innovative multi-media piece, “The Invention of Minus One” with an expansive use of motion capture (a technology that digitally distills and reconfigures pure motion from moving bodies), courtesy of another ex Cunningham Company member Michael Cole. This in addition to collaborating with Robert Wilson, John Jasperse, Deborah Hay David Gordon, and most recently with John Jasperse in creating the Center for Performance Research (CPR) in Brooklyn so that artists can work on larger creations involving large sets and show work without fear of incurring the huge expense that such works would necessitate if produced elsewhere in the city. “The Invention for Minus One” with dancers Holley Farmer, Rashaun Mitchell and Banu Ogan comprised brilliantly danced vignettes with interspersed motion capture and animation. The stage setting suggested a photo shoot with attendant lights, umbrellas, cameras and racks of clothes. The dancers progress through the layered landscape of the set, led by Banu Ogan in a beaded top and silver stretch pants by Isaac Mizrahi. Rashuan Mitchell is in a military outfit while Holley Farmer is an androgynous photographer’s assistant facilitating the journey/performance. Some sections were stronger than others, such as a sequence where all three dancers moved in unison to a robotic version of the same sequence on screen. Also the animation for the three-card-Monte section was superb. Projecting the live action onto a wall of open white umbrellas was also stunning. An interesting sound score by Christian Marclay and video design by Michael Cole completes this event. The son of a filmmaker, Jonah has many gifts, but his choreography made up the weaker element of the performance and the vignettes did not always weave together. The piece would have been strengthened by firmer and more incisive direction. “False Start” Jonah’s solo at the beginning of the program is a virtuoso piece which shows off the received and returned information in human movement of motion capture. “At the back of the stage, a door opened to partially reveal a richly colored animation which added to the whole mystery and disorientation of the piece. Movements which would seem awkward or impossible were given great fluidity by Mr. Bokaer’s technique. In one section he seemed like an android praying mantis. Besides being declared by writer Roslyn Sulcas to be “contemporary dance’s renaissance man,” he also has won the admiration of dance patron Patsy Tarr who published “Start” starring Jonah’s solo “False Start” designed to be enjoyed like a flip book through her 2wice Arts Foundation. But also Jonah and his collaborator John Jasperse are looking after their fellow artists by offering dirt cheap rehearsal space in their new space. Definitely an artist to track. Does Dance on Camera need brand therapy? by Deirdre Towers The Metro headline of April 2nd, “Hillary: I am Rocky,” quotes Senator Hillary Clinton speaking to the Pennsylvania ALF-CIO. That statement provoked Joey Sweeney from to declare it as “a totally clueless, out-of-touch gaffe.” But, since the movie legend Rocky Balboa came from Philadelphia, Peter Madden, founder of Philadelphia branding agency Agile Cat thought it was brilliant. “It’s like an immediate endearing of her and her brand to a local audience.” Branding is all the rage these days, with consultants and firms popping all over the US, ready to define and design your brand so that you or your product can bond with the groups that are key to your success. Even though the field of dance on camera is spreading around the world, have we identified the audience that is key to our success. Gradually it appears that dance on camera, as an artform with a history extending more than a century, appeals not to so much to dance lovers as to rebels, independent minds, seekers of innovative forms. In this issue, you can read a caustic review of Dance for the Camera II which suggests the the name itself was misleading because the reviewer expected to see the dance she knows and loves and not the more subtle form of poetic, kinetic movement that is so often prevalent in this artform. We invite DFA members to join in on the debate as to whether dance on camera needs brand therapy. To participate, please go to: to post a comment. Tribute to Thomas Wilfred’s Lumia Box and Father Louis Bertrand Castel’s Behmoth Alla Kovgan, the Russian born filmmaker and curator writes that her new pieces created with Kinodance, FUSE and BEHEMOTH were inspired by the experiments of Thomas Wilfred and Father Louis Bertrand Castel, “In 1920s and 30s, Thomas Wilfred, a DUTCH-born American light artist invented the “lumia box” – a self-contained unit with a screen that looked like a television set. This apparatus could play programmed, colorful and dynamic light shows for days or months without repeating the same imagery. Devising compositions for his “lumia” boxes, Wilfred was able to choreograph color, volume, shape and movement trajectories of the luminescent strokes to mesmerize viewers with elegant and spectacular dances of light. The lumia box in its turn also references a film frame and early cinema. To structure the happenings in “the frame” we used a film script as a starting point and choreographed a human drama to a transformation of light and sound. In 1754, between absurd attempts to apply his aging worldview to natural occurrences, the French Jesuit monk Father Louis Bertrand Castel, also a mathematician and physicist, invented the ocular harpsichord or color organ. Twice the size of a grand piano, this miraculous object was comprised of 144 musical keys, 240 levers and pulleys, 60 reflecting mirrors, and 500 candles. Dazzling although awkward, this BEHEMOTH was precursor to the disco ball and MTV in its ambitions to inspire visual ecstasy. Castel genuinely hoped that some day every Parisian household would possess one of his instruments. His dream never came true. Both pieces from Kinodance are EXPERIMENTS in VISUAL MUSIC funded and made possible by the LEF Foundation. Premiered at @ICA BOSTON/Barbara Lee Family Foundation Theater these multi-media works feature collaborations among company members Alissa Cardone, Alla Kovgan,Ingrid Schatz and Dedalus Wainwright, with lighting design by Kathy Couch, and live musicians Roger Miller and Jessica Rylan. House on Hold by Marcia B. Siegel Dancer Josh Hilberman was working at a tap festival in Greece on September 5, 2007, when he got word from a friend that a water pipe connector had let go in his house just outside Boston, causing a major flood. He and his wife rushed back to the States, to find all their furniture on the lawn and the inside of the house soaked to the studs and floorboards. Their life was in limbo. Everything got moved into Hilberman’s studio in a separate building next to the house, and the couple moved to a temporary apartment in Chinatown. With the house stripped bare and the reconstruction ready to start, Hilberman negotiated with the insurance company and fretted. The trouble was, he was booked for a one-man tap show at Arlington’s Regent Theater on the first of March. He couldn’t use his studio because it was full of furniture, and he couldn’t concentrate anyway, because of the hulking job to be done next door. Hilberman is a sturdy, upbeat guy, a problem-solver with a loopy imagination. Since he couldn’t work on his dance he decided to make a film, using his derelict house as the set. He took a slightly damp video camera and his tap shoes into the house and started filming himself. What resulted, the four and a half-minute FloodHouse Dance, is neither a tap dance film nor a film with a tap story. Instead, with the ruined house and all its meanings resonating around him, Hilberman’s dancing becomes a voice—a witness, a commentator, and in the end a kind of exorcist to a calamitous event. First off, the fixed camera stares at a blank wall with a light socket in it, and a patch of floor. You hear some attention-getting raps coming from nowhere. Then you realize that at the side of the frame there’s an empty bookcase, and on top of the bookcase is a pair of feet, shouting into the empty room. Then, in a series of short takes, we tour the skeletal house. You hear syncopations echoing two rooms away. From behind a partition a leg reaches out, tentatively tests the floor. Big red, yellow and blue tap shoes take over the screen, dancing insistently, shaking the baseboards. Behind some studs and electrical cables, a shadowy figure whistles and scours the gritty floor with a sand dance, stomps down a hall and up some stairs. A ghostly form is glimpsed running through spaces, leaping through doorways. He’s stamping in circles two rooms away, the sunlight washing in behind him. He seems to be getting angry. His blurry figure throws pieces of lumber onto the floor. Then the tapping gets quieter and we’re looking at the culprit, a toilet on the second floor, covered with a crumpled sheet of plastic. There’s a commotion behind the blueboard construction panels, and then one panel comes loose and slams to the floor. The dancer, who’s pushed it over, stops his tapping and walks slowly toward the camera. Finally we see Hilberman’s face, coming closer and closer, peering into the lens, until the screen goes black. We’re left to ponder about empty houses, spaces filled with light and the sounds of frustration, disasters we live through. FloodHouseDance was shot in two days and edited in Hilberman’s new Apple computer in time to make its debut at the Regent. Hilberman is back in his house now and the mess is almost gone, except for some mold under the kitchen cabinets that may never get excised. In search of a name by Latika Young In the DFA office we have long talks about how to curate, market, of perhaps even “brand” dance for the camera. We sense that there are vast untapped audiences who either think that dance for the camera is staid, one-camera archival footage shot from the back of the house, or are completely oblivious to the genre (and all its possible offshoots). It seems that this genre suffers from a problem of expectations, in that (potential) viewers either project their own expectations on the genre so stringently that these preconceived ideas leave little room for variation, or they have so little expectation in the first place that the genre cannot even possibly be conceptualized. Much of this confusion of the genre undoubtedly stems from the lack of a coherent name. Ample discussion has been devoted in the past to the semantics of the issue and this indecision seems unlikely to be resolved any time soon and is certainly not within the scope of this article. But what is important, however, is the underlying philosophy of dance that props up the chosen rubric. At DFA, we tend to use the term dance for the camera, but we also throw around the words videodance, screendance, choreographic cinema, kinetic cinema, action cinema, and even films that “move.” We adopt an expansive view of what constitutes “dance,” a breadth of scope that is then also reflected in our curating decisions. We often screen films within the Dance on Camera Festival that have absolutely no conventional dance in the traditional sense. Instead we find dances that are composed through visual and sound editing that is witty and rhythmic, like the duet between bouncing boy and diving board in Toril Simonsen’s ALT I ALT, or merge with video art and installation by abstracting the body to a singular rolling movement that is so multi-layered it plays beautiful tricks on the eyes, as in Gina Czarnecki’s illusory NASCENT. We might devote an entire program to the subtle but completely choreographed movement antics of a master from early cinema, like Jacques Tati, or, an homage to a “great visual, symbolist poet,” to borrow from Anna Brady Nuse, like Sergei Parajanov. We include articles in the journal about the You Tube DIY-dance video, the big budget mainstream film with equally impressive audience appeal, and the ubiquitous dancing commercial, that showcases everything from waltzing cars to anthropomorphized basketballs. But we also love films that “dance” in the traditional sense, that evoke strong kinesthetic reactions in the viewer, films that make it difficult not to upturn our popcorn and dance in the aisles. During the screening panels leading up to programming the festival, we often nostalgically wonder where the submissions with the astounding virtuosic movement have gone, whether it be jaw-dropping pirouette or gravity-defying headspin. It seems we value a dance for the camera that either impresses through its sheer magnificence of movement or by its triumph of originality, one that forces the viewer that has literally watched thousands of dance films to conceptualize “dance” at least a little differently. But all of this proffers the questions, how exactly can we present the sheer diversity of dance for the camera for these audiences who obviously have such differing expectations? How do we lure the dance traditionalist to stay after the screening of a restored SPARTACUS to watch an animated graffiti-man dance his way around Paris (LA VIE EST BELLE)? How do we provide a point of entry for the viewer who is enraptured by video and performance art who thinks he has no interest whatsoever in dance, only to discover after a program of shorts by Pierre Coulibeuf that he wants to stay for the next three screenings, buy a poster and DVD, and write an article for a future Dance on Camera Journal (which really happened this past festival!) Is there a way to market dance for the camera that is potentially inclusive for all and is this even a feasible or worthwhile pursuit? Or should we curate a festival around themed programs so that a viewer can easily locate what she wants but perhaps never challenge herself to see something that falls outside of her own expectations? I had a recent experience that made me understand more clearly what neophyte dance film audiences might be undergoing. There has been discussion about structuring the Dance on Camera Festival 2009 around the topic of music, by emphasizing the role of this essential element of the dance for the camera. Of course, many of the winning films and perennial favorites have dynamic scores, with finely crafted original music, tightly edited ambient sound and, at times, text and even ecstatic moments of well-placed inclusion of pop music (e.g. Cher’s “Do You Believe in Life After Love” in THE COST OF LIVING). One of the considerations during these ruminations was to include some music films in the next festival. I had one of those fateful moments of thinking—“what exactly is a music film?” I could only imagine a filmic take on a live convert. I had seen many great music videos that were cinematic works of art, by the likes of Michel Gondry and Chris Cunningham and others. I had not seen, however, anything that would constitute a “music film” in the sense that I understand a dance for the camera. I simply could not imagine what one might look like. This was a real “aha” moment for me, in the way it allowed me to understand this great hurdle in our efforts to woo new dance for the camera audiences. Latika Young is a graduate of Swarthmore College and Florida State University and has worked for DFA as the Festival Coordinator for 2 years. Choreographing Vision: a dancer takes up the camera by Lily Skove The eyes, a delicious site of receptivity, had always ranked dead last in the hierarchy of my body parts. My list of daily concerns and complaints were itemized across my body, omitting the eyes completely. When I wasn’t dancing, however, my eyes ascended in order of significance as I watched other people move; still, I drew little connection between what I was seeing and the possibilities within my own moving limbs. It took years for me to appreciate my vision as a powerful tool while performing, let alone as a place to draw inspiration for my dance films. As I began to notice visual sensations, perception became the jumping-off point for my choreography. Somewhere in those formative years of visual discovery an aesthetics of vision took shape which later led me to pick up the camera and create video dance. It’s night, I’m in high school, probably sixteen. Lying in bed restless, I watch the leaves outside squirm and wiggle, morphing into shapes and characters, a trick of the dim street lights on my eyes. A bird lands on a branch and quivers into abstract shapes and lines, teasing me in the darkening light. The shadows and their faint shapes beckon me to feel for the almost, the passing, allowing me to notice the slippery grasp my eyes have on what I can actually see. Squinting in a flurry of snow, the constant stinging and the blurry white coat on everything as I watch my brother hurl a snowball, stimulates a new visual sensation. His motion blipping in and out of comprehension with every blink, I struggle to piece together where he is, ducking just in time. I discover pleasure in the image of him coming in and out of view, relishing the moments of darkness when my eyes flutter shut, and the blinding shock of finding him closer, his arm poised to throw. Despite the numbing cold snow on my eyelashes, I play with the danger of seeing and not seeing him, enjoying the gleeful terror of not knowing exactly where he is. I am in a dance studio observing two women who repeat a movement phrase over and over. It is difficult to keep from screaming, “Cut up the symmetry, skew the sweet mirroring curves!” Reining myself in, I cover my eyes instead and watch the movement through the spaces between my fingers, playing with covering up pieces and parts of my view to create slanting fragmented shapes with their bodies. The first time I remember seeing a dance concert in a theater I was backstage, pressed up against a wall. From my limited vantage point, I was captivated by the way the glistening bodies passed in and out view. All the obstructions to my vision framed the movement in unusual ways. Surprised by the sudden appearance of an arm swinging into view, I found that the unseen, the barely glimpsed, the suggestion of a motion, compelled me to continue to watch, longing for a resolution that always eluded me. Breathless, I strained to catch a duet between two lighting stands, eager to flesh out the gaps between their motions as both the appearance of the two bodies and the vacated space weaved a story charged with the anxiety of departure and the comfort of return. I finally had the chance to watch the same dance from the front of the stage one night, in a proper seat, and discovered that what had entranced me backstage produced a boring picture. Overstated and predictable, the motion had none of the mystery of the almost-realized and still-in-progress action, none of the bittersweet pleasure of having a movement suddenly end simply because it had passed out of sight. Memories of stimulating visual experiences continued to shape my emerging interest in creating imagery. I recall beginning to notice a fragmented image of my neighbors across the street as they moved between rooms; glimpsing the sinking and rising of the horizon as I lay outstretched at the bottom of a boat; catching the flicker of an oncoming train passing underground so close I could see a girl attempt to fix her hair in the reflection of my window before we dropped back into the darkness of the tunnel — visual mines of images and perceptions of motion that eventually lured me to pick up the video camera. Composing my own vision below and above, in and around the body, it was freeing at last to be in control of framing the movement. The angle of my head and the placement of my feet now served my eyes, which were glued to the lens. Having played for so long with the crafting of my own gaze, I was ready and eager to choreograph the audience’s perception through the medium of the camera. I am still taken with the tantalizing restraint of not seeing everything — a face smothered in shadow, a fragment of a torso as it bends out of frame, an arm harshly lit as it flashes across the screen. The inability to see a movement in its entirety invites me to imagine the unseen. Some things are felt more vividly in the dark, in the hint of the out-of-frame and off-screen trail of motion, in the mere suggestion. Lily Skove is a choreographer whose dance film “light slip,” made in collaboration with TJ Hellmuth was released in March, 2008 with The Chandelier’s on Pickled Egg Records in Europe and Obey Your Brain in the States. Skoveworks, will present SPLIT this summer at the Time To Dance International Contemporary Dance Festival in Riga, Latvia.