Apollo’s Girl

Film Society Lincoln Center
Dance Film Association

Dance on Camera: Triple Play and Wow

The problem with Dance on Camera is that it’s only once a year, it runs for only five days, and some of its most memorable programs are only shown once. The Pilobolus event (their 40th anniversary) was a perfect example. Envisioned by Joanna Ney and longtime Eye On Dance host/producer Celia Ipiotis, the idea was to pair Ipiotis’ original 1987 Eye on Dance interview (with Pilobolus founders Jonathan Wolken and Moses Pendleton), and Still Moving: Pilobolus at 40—a new film by Jeffrey Ruoff. And to include a conversation about both.

On paper, it sounded promising. In reality, it was sensational! We learned that Ipiotis’ program was a feat of virtuoso arm-twisting to get Wolken and Pendleton to appear together in the same studio, let alone to talk to one another. The two had undergone an acrimonious split, and Pendleton had formed his own company, Momix. But good exposure is good exposure, and they finally arrived (rather well-lubricated) as agreed. Their interview is tense and barbed, and all the more interesting for it. Ipiotis doesn’t miss a beat, but hangs on every word, alert for signs of impending disaster, and decides to pull the plug early to avoid the rapidly approaching meltdown. This was live television: always on the edge, full of surprises, sorely missed.

Ruoff’s film was a perfect counterpoint: beautifully made, essentially a history of the company, which Wolken continued to run. It was fascinating to see the evolution of the Pilobolus style: part dance, part gymnastics, part physics. And equally fascinating to see the human side of its collective creativity in action. In case you’ve forgotten how truly witty their work could be, or how touching, it’s all here, along with the impact on the company of Wolken’s death, just before filming began in 2010.

The prelude to Pilobolus was a new short, ORA, by French-Canadian virtuoso filmmaker Philippe Baylaucq and choreographer José Navas, whose arm-twisting required obtaining permission to use top-secret thermoluminescent technology from the US military and attracting support from the National Film Board of Canada. (The lion lying down with the lamb?) The results are unique and breathtaking, with brilliant cinematography and editing. The dancers express a “story” combining Darwin’s theories, the legends of Narcissus and Prometheus, create images that reference amoebas, Japanese texts, Kinetoscope discs, and move to a propulsive score by Robert M. Lepage. The light source is as original as the entire film; it’s the heat of the dancers’ bodies. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z25hisBlTCA

Check Your Body at the Door

This delicious hour, made the hard way for 20 years, is a dynamic record of an ephemeral subject (the pyrotechnics of underground club dance, hip-hop, and voguing) that turns unexpectedly into a timeless work of art. Filmmakers Charles Atlas and Michael Schwarz have devised an irresistible piece that marries pure entertainment with equally pure deep and abiding passion. Their patience is equaled by the skill with which the film is recorded and, most especially, structured and edited. And the on-camera presence that wraps, and holds, it all together is one Archie Burnett. What a find! If he ever decides to turn in his sneakers, he can have his choice of roles and venues. So, let’s just say that while these dance forms are not usually high on my agenda, I’ve had an object lesson in humility and seen the light! This show definitely has legs, and I will henceforth remember to check my ‘tude at the door. A closing night screening at the Walter Reade Theater is scheduled for January 31 at 9:00 p.m. Of course it’s sold out, but worth a stint on the standby line. Unless the powers-that-be declare an encore….http://vimeo.com/34645478


One Response to “Apollo’s Girl”

  1. Jeffrey Ruoff Says:

    Still Moving: Pilobolus at Forty will be shown at 11am, Sat., Nov. 10, 2012 as part of the DOC NYC Film Festival at the IFC Film Center, 323 6th Avenue, NY, 917-670-2094, http://www.ifccenter.com.


    Best wishes,

    Jeffrey Ruoff, Producer/Director, Still Moving: Pilobolus at Forty


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