Dance on Camera:
Can’t Get Enough of It!
This happens every year. The festival with heroic movement, big ideas, bodies on the ground, in the air, rhythm everywhere and sensory immersion. Incredible variety, breathtaking commitment. With 23 programs in the next five days, with every program shown only once. (No!) If a picture is worth a thousand words, Dance on Camera has enough of them to last a lifetime. (Yes!) What’s a girl to do? First, go to http://www.filmlinc.com/films/series/dance-on-camera-2015, print it out, take it to the box office and invest in tickets. (Ninety-nine dollars will get you an all-access pass. Do the math!) Second, prepare to be astounded. Here’s some of what you’ll revel in:
Girlchild Diary (Meredith Monk, 2014)
No one can manipulate the elements of past and present like Monk, and this film is a complex hommage to an earlier work, revisited and remounted — “a meditation on rites of passage,” as Monk describes it. A kind of global road movie that hypnotizes from its first sights and sounds, its communal movement and the singing of its elegant score remind us that ancient people expressed their spirit in just this way. And, as Monk reinterprets ith, the idea has lost none of its power.
Benjamin Millepied is the unmatched poster child for dance. And despite his obvious charm and bilingual smarts, a profoundly talented and musical choreographer with a large and growing palette. (https://apollosgirl.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/apollos-girl-30/) Dancing is Living follows Millepied’s peripatetic career as he moves at high speed from New York to L.A., to Lyons, to Russia, and back. His commitment to dance is focused on underserved kids in L.A., on the fascination of juking, and (among other things) on creating a safe haven where choreographers can collaborate and rehearse. Millepied is clearly at the top of his game; the film leaves you wanting to spend more time with him and his creative process–perhaps at a slower tempo.
Let’s Get the Rhythm: The Life and Times of Miss Mary Mack (Irene Chagall, 2014)
This is a debut film from a natural born filmmaker, who has moved seamlessly (and joyfully) from teaching music to children to sharing what she has learned from them by connecting the game of handclapping in its many incarnations to a primal, entirely universal rhythmic expression. The stories hidden in the verses that children chant or sing as they clap remind you of Mother Goose; there are meanings with resonance to be decoded. But mostly to be enjoyed. I dare you to sit still for this one!
For Born to Fly, on the other hand, you may want to hug your chair and hang on to its arms very, very tightly. Streb’s dancers, and Streb herself, not only fly through the air, but fling themselves at walls and floors, with seemingly no regard for personal safety. They are deeply committed to Streb and to her regimen, which simply takes no prisoners. You will be torn between marveling at the obvious passion and full-body pyrotechnics shared by the company and meditating on the fact that they work and live on the edge of subsistence, with no accident insurance.
A film that will not have you either wiggling in your seat nor clinging to it, but will definitely inspire you to admire the filmmaker and the subjects who are collaborating on the frontiers of medicine and empathy; they have discovered that dance is a potent agent for keeping the ravages of Parkinson’s at bay. All display the symptoms of the condition yet, when they dance, the symptoms abate. The program is run at Mark Morris’ studio in Brooklyn; teachers and students conquer the difficulties and exult in a final performance that climaxes months of rehearsal. You may need some Kleenex, but you will be exulting right along with the cast. As director Iverson (who has the condition himself) defines it, “This is a film about rediscovery, the rediscovery of a lighter step and the sweetness of motion. And it’s a story about a remarkable community of dancers—some professions, some not—but all coming together to move in space…and in doing so, rediscovering grace. And it is in that rediscovery that each becomes whole.”
And, finally don’t miss the newly-restored version of All That Jazz (Bob Fosse, 1979) on a big screen–the only way to savor this once-and-always miraculous capture of huge talents. If you want to know how many nominations and awards it garnered, prepare to spend some time on IMDb. But also prepare to keep gasping at Alan Heim’s editing, which propelled dancing into another dimension altogether long before digital would have made it easier. But not better, because it’s still as good as it gets. http://www.filmlinc.com/films/series/dance-on-camera-2015.
And here’s a 2015 good news update: last year’s Dance on Camera opening night favorite, Miss Hill: Making Dance Matter (now playing at the Quad Cinema in New York) has just been extended another week, through February 5th. (212) 255-2243.