In its myriad styles and variations, the art of dance is truly one of the most beautiful forms of physical expression. And whether you’re watching a performance live on stage before you or captured on film, the emotionally engaging and stunning work of dance is always a sight to behold. And in 1971, the Dance on Camera Festival had its inaugural run, presenting a vast array of films that crossed over from documentaries and experimental works to shorts and music videos. It began as a celebration of “ immediacy of dance combined with the intimacy of film.”
And now, in its 42nd year, Dance Films Association have again collaborated with Film Society of Lincoln Center to present 2014’s festival—and this time around, its scope is just as broad and fascinating as we’d hope for. Beginning this Friday, they’ll be showing films that highlight dances modern “trend toward unusual collaborations (dance and skating, dance and horses, dance and circus) and a recognition that dance thrives best in the bosom of a creative community.”
From rare retrospective screenings such as Chantal Akerman’s 1983 Pina Bausch documentary One Day Pina Asked… to brilliant world premiere’s like Miss Hill: Making Dance Matter, this is one festival you’re going to want to throw yourself into completely. So to celebrate, we’re giving you a taste of what will be playing at the Walter Reade Theater beginning this weekend. So peruse the films below, slip into something you can move your body in freely, and enjoy.
ONE DAY PINA ASKED…, Chantal Akerman (1983)
A fortuitous encounter between two icons of film and dance, Pina Bausch and Chantal Akerman, One Day Pina Asked… is Akerman’s singular look at the work of the remarkable choreographer and her Wuppertal Tanztheater during a five-week European tour. More than a conventional documentary, Akerman’s film is a journey through her world, a world composed of striking images and personal memories transformed. Capturing the company’s rehearsals and including performance excerpts from signature works such as Komm Tanz Mit Mir (Come Dance with Me, 1977) and Nelken (Carnations, 1982), the director applies her unique visual skills to bring us close to her enigmatic subject. Writing about the film, Richard Brody in The New Yorker, said “”With her audacious compositions, decisive cuts and tightrope-tremulous sense of time-and her stark simplicity-it shares, in a way that Wenders film doesn’t, the immediate exhilaration of the moment of creation.” An Icarus Films release.
MISS HILL: MAKING DANCE MATTER, Greg Vander Veer (2014)
Miss Hill: Making Dance Matter tells the inspiring and largely unknown story of a woman whose life was defined by her love for dance. Martha Hill emerges as dance’s secret weapon, someone who fought against great odds to establish dance as a legitimate art form in America. Through archival footage, lively interviews with friends and intimates, and rare footage of the spirited subject, the film explores Hills’s arduous path from a Bible Belt childhood in Ohio to the halls of academe at NYU and Bennington College to a position of power and influence as Juilliard’s founding director of dance (1952-1985). Peppered with anecdotal material delivered by dance notables who knew her, this revelatory story depicts her struggles and successes, including the battle royal that accompanied her move to the Lincoln Center campus. (Photo by Thomas Bouchard.)
PAUL TAYLOR: CREATIVE DOMAIN, Kate Geis (2013)
Paul Taylor is one of the dance world’s most elusive and admired choreographers. For over 50 years, he has only given glimpses into his creative process, but for his 133rd dance, Three Dubious Memories, he opens the door and allows the filmmaker into his creative process. The dance he is choreographing is a Rashomon-like exploration of memory, three characters entangled in a relationship, each believing only in his own dark memory of it. The dominant voice in the documentary is Taylor’s, and it is alternately soothing, demanding and amused. Between the guarded and unguarded moments, the viewer is witness to a mysterious work ethic that has created some of the most iconic modern dances of our time.
ALL THIS CAN HAPPEN, Sioban Davies and David Hinton (2012)
A flickering dance of intriguing imagery brings to light the possibilities of ordinary movements from the everyday which appear, evolve and freeze before your eyes. Made entirely from archive photographs and footage from the earliest days of moving image, All This Can Happen follows the footsteps of the protagonist from the short story “The Walk” by Robert Walser. Juxtapositions, different speeds and split-frame techniques convey the walker’s state of mind as he encounters a world of hilarity, despair and ceaseless variety. Hinton is an award-winning director who has worked with some of the best known names in contemporary dance, including DV8 Physical Theatre, Siobhan Davies, and Russell Maliphant.
THE FABULOUS ICE AGE, Keri Pickett (2013)
The exciting journey begins in 1915 when a young German skater ignites America’s love with dancing on ice. The Fabulous Ice Age chronicles a century of theatrical skating, from Berlin’s Charlotte, to America’s Ice Follies, Ice Capades, Holiday on Ice, and the Sonja Henie shows, illustrating how these big spectaculars dominated live entertainment for decades while simultaneously depicting one particular skater’s quest to share this history. Never before seen footage, photos and rare archival material introduce us to a handful of skaters, producers and entrepreneurs who helped change their world.
GISELLE, Toa Fraser (2013)
Director Toa Fraser brings The Royal New Zealand Ballet to the big screen, capturing their acclaimed production of the ballet classic Giselle. Ethan Stiefel and Johan Kobborg have re-staged the production (after Petipa) with an eye toward the inherent drama of the tragic romance. The two-act ballet has been reimagined by Fraser, who interweaves the filmed stage performance with behind the scenes moments that hint at a romance between the dancers. ABT principal Gillian Murphy and RNZ’s Qi Huan perform the doomed lovers with impressive conviction and the second act captures the haunting essence of this enduring masterpiece.
HASTDANS PA HOVDALA, David Fishel (2013)
Imagine a life devoted to blending the artistry of dance with the physicality of horsemanship! That is exactly what the unconventional choreographer JoAnna Mendl Shaw has done with Equus Projects. Her previous large-scale works for dancers and horses have been produced throughout the United States. Now, she takes her company to Sweden to work with new elements and new friends in the rural countryside. Ulrike Michels Nord, director of Klinten Kultur, a company of young adults with autism, opens the way for the American choreographer to create a magical piece that expresses the joys and challenges of bringing together unfamiliar beasts (the new horses), trainers, professional dancers and autistic individuals to make a work of art in a mystical setting—the Hovdala castle and library ruin deep in a forest. The challenge is to accomplish this feat in just 12 days.
HOW LIKE AN ANGEL, Yaron Lifschitz (2012)
This bold collaboration of music and movement blends Circa’s exhilarating brand of contemporary circus with the exquisite sound of I Fagiolini’s choral singing. How Like an Angel, commissioned by the London 2012 Festival, celebrates the beauty and grandeur of three stunning English cathedrals while displaying the artistry of the circus performers. Polyphonic Films captures the live performance brilliantly, catching the essence of this ground-breaking collaboration. Film commissioned by The Space in association with BBC.
LA PASSION NOUREEV, Fabrice Herrault (2013)
From the moment of his dramatic leap to freedom at Paris’ Bourget Airport in 1961, Rudolf Nureyev was embraced as a ballet idol. On the 20th anniversary of his death, Fabrice Herrault, a notable New York ballet teacher and film collector trained at the Paris Opera Ballet and the Conservatoire, has assembled an impressionistic tribute film that showcases this Byronic artist in some of his peerless early performances through archival footage, much of it previously unseen, revealing “Rudi” at the peak of his powers. As director of the Paris Opera Ballet, Noureev guided the careers or rising stars, among them Sylvie Guillem and Isabelle Guérin. Former Paris Opera Ballet star, Isabelle Guérin, will join the filmmaker and French dance historian Helene Ciolkovitch, to share memories of her mentor.
THE MAN BEHIND THE THRONE, Kersti Grunditz (2013)
Until now, Vincent Paterson has remained the dance world’s best kept secret, avoiding the spotlight and concentrating on the work itself. So it may come as a surprise to learn that he is, as the film’s title suggests, the man behind the careers of superstars Michael Jackson and Madonna—in fact, the inventor of some of their defining dance moves—as well as the choreographer who created the ensemble dance numbers for Björk and dancers in Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark. Through previously unseen rehearsal footage from Paterson’s own private collection and iconic films clips that made history (Smooth Criminal, Blonde Ambition and more), the film looks at the private Vincent. From his family oriented Catholic boyhood in suburban Pennsylvania to the glamor factory of Hollywood and the heady experience of choreographing for Cirque du Soleil’s Viva Elvis!, this is a personal and professional journey to be savored.
PRIMA, TATYANA BRONSTEIN (2013)
Prima is a moving portrait of Larissa Ponomarenko, prima ballerina of the Boston Ballet, who has recently hung up her pointe shoes to pursue new avenues of self-expression. Through flashbacks to her journey from a difficult childhood and rigorous ballet training in Russia to her emergence as the prima ballerina of a leading American ballet company, the film captures Larissa’s uniqueness as an artist of many emotional colors. Now, as she transitions from prima ballerina to mentor to aspiring dancers, she also magically re-invents herself as a dancer, showing a new expressivity and a more modern approach to her art in filmed improvisations in unexpected settings—a field, a forest, even a subway station!
THE UNSEEN SEQUENCE, Sumantra Ghosal (2013)
The Unseen Sequence finds new meanings and renewed vigor in India’s classical dance tradition through one dedicated disciple. Malavika Sarukkai is a celebrated Bharatanatyam dancer rooted in that tradition but imbued with a uniquely contemporary sensibility that she exerts on this prescribed form, turning each performance into a new, revelatory experience. As a superb interpreter of Bharatanatyam’s rhythmic and expressive aspects, she is the perfect guide for this investigation of an ancient art that has evolved from temple dance to court entertainment to a new, more universal model. Beautifully shot in temples and sacred sites, the film blends interviews, historic footage, and performance to create a truly mind enhancing experience.
DANCE ON CAMERA SHORTS PROGRAM, Various
The short form is gaining ground as the ideal platform for exploring the relationship between dance and film. These filmmakers dare to push the envelope in original ways.
MEET THE ARTIST WITH JONATHAN DEMME ANNIE-B PARSON
Director Jonathan Demme and choreographer Annie-B Parson join Dance on Camera for the recurring Meet the Artist series, a program which provides audiences a dynamic opportunity to learn from a filmmaker’s expertise with a particular focus on the influence and inclusion of dance film within the filmmaker’s body of work.
SEBSASTIAN RICH: BULLETS TO BALLET
After 30 years of filming and photographing the world’s most violent wars and conflicts, award-winning British photographer Sebastian Rich is turning his lens to something more beautiful but no less powerful—the world of dance. Rich will join choreographer Igal Perry and Dance on Camera co-curator Liz Wolff to explore his photography and his journey from bullets to ballet.