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An International Feast of Film.

Occasionally a dance film takes a brief entry from an encyclopedia or a name in a yellowed performance review and magnifies that minimal, impersonal information on a personage or event. Serge Peretti, for example. How many American dancers, choreographers, and teachers even know his name, much less his role in twentieth-century French ballet? Serge Peretti: The Last Italian, a 1997 feature-length film directed by Dominique Delouche made shortly before Peretti's death, ensures the preservation of his legacy. The work's charm lies in the man himself. With his raspy voice and animated gesturing, he cajoles dancers in rehearsals or delights them in his memorabilia-laden apartment with passionate and irreverent recollections of his formidable career--dancing with Olga Spessivtseva, creating a role for Serge Lifar, forming a partnership with Yvette Chauvire. Peretti breathes new life into archival clips of past performances and old photographs by providing details that instruct and delight.

Born in Venice in 1910, he studied at the school of the Paris Opera, becoming a premier danseur at the Paris Opera Ballet in 1930 and its first Italian etoile in 1941. A much-loved teacher to generations of dancers at the Paris Opera Ballet School, his last performances were as Dr. Coppelius.

This film was shown at a Dance on Screen festival event at Florence Gould Hall in New York City, presented by the French Institute Alliance Francaise, the Cinematheque de la Danse, and the American Friends of the Paris Opera and Ballet in November 1998. Also screened was Yvette Chauvire: Une Etoile pour L'Exemple, a 1988 film by Delouche about Peretti's great partner. Produced as an archival film, it is distinctly different from his later work. The camera keeps an impersonal distance--or perhaps Chauvire keeps the camera at a distance--as she rehearses, coaches, and comments on her famous roles. There is none of the intimacy and warmth of the Peretti film. Maybe Delouche simply got better at creating documentaries on dancers over the next ten years.

Tango (Sony Pictures Classics) is the latest film by Carlos Saura, who has featured dance in many of his works. This one has a loose plot: Mario (Miguel Angel Sola), a disenchanted, middle-aged Argentine filmmaker, finds a new love, dancer Elena (Mia Maestro), mistress of the gangster-backer of his new movie. This movie-within-a-movie becomes the meager framework on which Saura hangs many opportunities for dancing the tango, such as the dream sequences of Mario's ex-wife (Cecilia Narova), his scouting for dancers in the milonga bars of Buenos Aires, and the auditions and rehearsals for Mario's movie.

As in his 1995 Flamenco, Saura uses factory-sized expanses of empty space for performing and employs extraordinarily dramatic lighting to exaggerate the passion inherent in the tango. The rich color cinematography by the great Vittorio Storaro outlines performers with a three-dimensional intensity that emphasizes their every nuanced move; his camera lingers on feet, arms, and faces so that the full extent of the dancing can be experienced. (Balletomanes will spot Julio Bocca in a cameo role as one of the lead dancers in Mario's movie.) Vibrant swaths of color on the backdrops ignite the foreground, changing abruptly to signify concealed emotions and subliminal tensions.

These potent contrasts between colors and between light and dark insinuate the political subtext of the film. The choreography, by Juan Carlos Copes, Ana Maria Stekelman, and Carlos Rivarola, dramatizes that dark period of official terrorism that dominated recent Argentine history. Ultimately, political, romantic, and artistic concerns collide in this evocative film.


Stephanie Herman's Artistry of Fitness series includes three tapes--Esprit de Danse, Stretch and Feel It!, and Fitness Through Conscious Movement--for people who want to work out effectively and efficiently. Contact (800) 775-1580 or

Pleasures of the Dance and Voltaire's Temple of Glory, performed at Jarvis Conservatory's Baroque Ballet Workshops and Festival, are being distributed by Dance Horizons Video, 614 Rte. 130, Hightstown, NJ 08520 ($39.95).

In African Healing Dance, members of Wyoma's Damballa performance group introduce the healing tradition and expressive movements unique to Africa's dance heritage. Available from Sounds True at (800) 333-9185 ($29.95).

Gypsy Heart documents the passion, mystery, and struggle of the flamenco way of life with performances by Omayra Amaya and vintage footage of Carmen Amaya. Available from Jocelyn Ajami at (617) 266-0190 ($34.99).

Feet of Flames features Michael Flatley and 80 dancers in an outdoor performance at the Route of Kings in Hyde Park, London. Available from Polygram Video at (212) 333-8113 ($24.95).

Rose Anne Thom, a contributing editor of Dance Magazine, is a member of the dance faculty of Sarah Lawrence College and is currently an associate dean of the college.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:dance films
Author:Thom, Rose Anne
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Apr 1, 1999
Previous Article:Jazz at New York City Ballet.
Next Article:Project Motivate.

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