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Dance on Camera Festival


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#1 Morris Neighbor

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Posted 18 January 2003 - 08:39 PM

The 31st annual Dance on Film Festival wound up today at Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theatre, under the joint aegis of the Dance Film Association and the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

I caught two of the six internationally flavored programs: the "American Moderns" program, which highlighted the works of Molissa Fenley, Sean Curran, and Elizabeth Streb, and the "Stravinsky/Balanchine," of which more in a moment.

The Fenley and Curran films offered illuminating (if conventional) insights into the creation of dance. Streb, on the other hand, is very articulate and offers a wide-ranging rap on the nature of dance, the role of women, and on and on. We also get to meet the dancers willing to take on her very risky manoeuvers. For what it's worth, no one in her company has suffered a serious injury, perhaps due to the intense physical discipline she imposes on her dancers.

The much balley-hooed Balanchine/Stravinsky film proved to be a major disappointment. It is, essentially, a detailed scholarly monograph, written by Stephanie Jordan, and published on video.

Jordan offers a lot of interesting insights, but they are buried in a deep, deep bed of boring theory. When even the dancers she has engaged to demonstarte her points look sleepy, you know she has gone over the line.

The primary focus is certainly important: the shifting and often amazing uses of rhythm by Blanchine and Stravinsky. But after the 7th or 8th demonstration of polyrhythm in Agon, especially the contrast between music and dance counts, I got the message and didn't need anothr 15 or 20 demos fo the same points....

#2 Farrell Fan

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Posted 19 January 2003 - 02:48 PM

I too was disappointed in the Balanchine/Stravinsky film. It grew tedious after about an hour, but went on for at least another half-hour. As Morris Neighbor says, the same basic points kept being reiterated, often by the onscreen Stephanie Jordan herself, looking earnest. And I can report that sheet music, even Stravinsky's, does not make for visual excitement. Some redemption was provided, unsurprisingly, by Suzanne Farrell. She was seen, with Balanchine and d'Amboise, in some old (and too dark) rehearsal footage of Movements for Piano and Orchestra. Today's Suzanne was seen and heard commenting on Movements and on Agon. There was also a nice bit of old film of Violette Verdy in Agon. Nothing against Wendy Whelan, Albert Evans, Peter Boal, Jennifer Tinsley, Kathleen Tracey, or Alexander Ritter, all of whom were seen in a ballet studio demonstrating Jordan's points, but the film could have used many more of those old performance and rehearsal segments.

#3 atm711

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Posted 23 January 2003 - 05:56 AM

There isn't much I can add to the above comments---it was too pondereous. Ms. Jordan had the perfect audience for her film---but I believe she lost them. After a while, even 'Agon' seemed boring (!!!). Unfortunately for Ms. Jordan, the program started on a high note with a delightful Canadian short 'Pretty Big Dig'. In this short film (under 4 minutes) three tractors waltzed in perfect unison, as gracefully as any pas de trois you have seen.

#4 Morris Neighbor

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Posted 23 January 2003 - 10:34 PM

Having recently purchased a DVD player, I see a great future for this technology in the dance world. There's the obvious "Fast Forward" choice -- an easy way to skip Jordan's longueurs -- and the possibility of multi-lingual soundtracks.

Even more interesting is the chance to record the same movement from several perspectives at once. The viewer can choose a point of view, go back and forth, switch point of view at will, and analyze every move. In practice, this would mean that a battery of digital cameras would record the same performance; software would integrate the different views on a single disc. This is not pie-in-the-sky, by the way; the technology exists today.

Clearly, this would be vastly superior to the "archival" tapes most ballet companies depend on, which are usually recorded by a single camera in the back of an autorium or in a rehearsal studio -- tapes that require the additional interpretation of a dancer with first-hand knowledge of a work to re-create key details. A well-planned DVD recording could be at least as useful to future Balanchine dancers as written scores are today's Mozart musicians. And digital discs outlast tapes by decades.

I hate to see this discussion close on a negative note, since the future of dance film and dance video is very exciting indeed.

#5 Amy Reusch

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Posted 29 January 2003 - 11:18 PM

The Dance on Camera festival will tour around the US, although I don't know if it is the entire program that is touring but a "best of" version. If it is, don't miss the documentary on Anthony Dowell, particularly if, like me, you didn't get to see him on stage. People decry what happens to the energy of dance when it is recorded on video but when I think of the wonderful performances I have only had the chance to see on television, it still seems a wonderful invention. I could never afford a seat close enough to see some of those artists the way the camera can. I agree, the larger stage picture is still hard to get, but pas de deux seem to fare pretty well in the transition to 2D.

Also thoroughly enjoyed "The World Turned Upside Down". The dogs were the dancers, the people the set. Talk about technique!

"Guguletu Ballet" was awe inspiring.... not perhaps in the technique of the dancers but in how ballet thrives in some of the least likely places. A study of inspiration perhaps. It was the first time I've ever enjoyed the performance of the traditional "chinese" section of Nutcracker.

Was it "Minou" or "Sancesse" that happened in the girl's apartment with all the animation, etc.? I've lost track now... but I did find it very imaginative, more ideas packed in to it than most things that length. Very enjoyable & recommended.


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