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Mixing ballet with film


brbropus39

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I recently read an essay by Daniel Nagrin about choreographers incorporating the use of film into their works. He said that he expects to see more of this in the near future. He used pop music as an example, claiming that the next obvious step from stage performances was the music video, and that it is possible that dance will take the same path.

I've always considered film to be nothing more than a substitute for live performance, but after reading Nagrin's essay, I have been thinking about it more and more, pondering the possibillities. I wouldn't be interested much in using special effects or anything like that, but I thought using film might allow for the choreographer to accent a specific aspect of his or her piece, furthering what they want to convey to the audience.

Does anyone have any opinions about this?

-W.B.

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I think it depends on what you mean by “the next step.” If we’re using that phrase as a synonym for “progress” then I would disagree, heartily. I’m grateful for all the dance that has been committed to film, even unsuccessfully, but dance is unavoidably a three-dimensional experience that will always lose something when not experienced live.

If I were a choreographer, I’d certainly be interested in exploring the possibilities, though – not only for memorial purposes but to investigate the aspects you mention. Dance can be flattened or distorted on film, but it can also be enhanced.

The pop music example is interesting. I wonder if the rise of highly theatricalized and choreographed pop concerts, with singers blatantly lip-synching to recordings, has something to do with the music video influence -- you’re seeing something resembling a music video on stage, rather than a warts-and-all live performance.

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Mr. Johnson, in what way did Loie Fuller and Jean Borlin incorporate film into dance? Or was it the other way around, incorporating dance into film?

I had trouble finding much information online about Fuller's use of film in her dance. I did find out about her innovations in stage lighting and her other explorations in the field of science (she was even a close friend of Marie Curie), but no luck with with her usage of film. Do you know where I could learn more about it?

Thank you,

W.B.

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She made use of magic lantern slides and other odd projections including shadow puppets onto backdrops or panels onstage as she danced. I'm not sure if there's a standard biography of her, but a search of Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature should fetch up articles on her career. Borlin created "Relâche" with a "cinematic entr'acte" by René Clair.

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I had trouble finding much information online about Fuller's use of film in her dance. I did find out about her innovations in stage lighting and her other explorations in the field of science (she was even a close friend of Marie Curie), but no luck with with her usage of film. Do you know where I could learn more about it?

Thank you,

W.B.

Loie Fuller: Goddess of Light

Richard and Marcia Current

Northeastern University Press 1997

It just happened to be sitting (out of order!) on my bookshelf next to something about Nagrin!

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There is a choreographer, Kathy Rose, who has done some wonderful work with animation & dance... (I remember one piece in which the dancers' costumes were projections of animation). Last I heard she was working out of NY. Has anyone seen any of her work lately?

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I went to an Art Nouveu exhibit in D.C. a few years ago (sorry to say I don't even remember where it was) and while my mom was looking at all the acres and acres of furniture (boooring) I found a room where they had a short film of Loie Fuller on continuous repeat.

Considering that I stood there, entranced, for well over an hour I don't have a very vivid picture of it, but it was a moth/insect fluttery thing going on, and I remember thinking that lighting was very studied and emphatic.

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Back to the general topic of film and ballet. Off the top of my head: Rene Claire's film Entre'act was made originally for the Ballet Russe production of Relache. Robert Joffrey used film and other projected images in Astarte in the 1960's. At Pacific Northwest Ballet, Kent Stowell had Iole Alessandrini design the projections (mostly of text) for his version of Carmen, and a couple of years ago they performed Lynne Taylor-Corbett's "The Ballad of You and Me" (Pete Seeger songs) that included slide projections (WPA era photos onwards) on a social justice theme.

If you extend your gaze to dance in general, rather than focussing on ballet alone, the numbers jump astronomically: Oskar Schlemmar and the Bauhaus artists, Alwin Nikolais, of course Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown (who wears a functioning film projector in her work Homemade) and the current experiments with computer generated images all over the map.

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If anyone is interested here are some links about the ballet Relâche and the film by Rene Clair, Entr'acte, that was shown between acts of the ballet. I have been told that the music for the film by Satie was the first example of music that was composed to a film and not a pastiche of already composed music.

The film Entr'acte (1924): Entr'acte

Documentary with Rene Clair: Rene Clair

Go to page 2 of article by Samuel Dorf for "The Ballet Relâche: Entr’acte in Context": Relâche

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