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Dance on Camera Festival.

The twenty-seventh Annual Dance on Camera Festival, presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Dance Films Association, continued the festival's tradition of excellence by screening fifteen works from ten countries. A high standard was set from the very start by the opening work, Matthew Diamond's Dancemaker (U.S.A.), a stunning feature-length documentary on choreographer Paul Taylor.

The film covers the midnineties, when Taylor choreographs a new dance, rehearses an old one, takes the company on tour to India, and prepares for a New York City season. With breathtaking command, Diamond conveys the complexity, risks, and wonder of dancing, choreographing, and maintaining a company; and, unlike other documentary makers who allow talking heads to pre-dominate, he consistently builds his film around dance. For example, Taylor is shown rehearsing Patrick Corbin in Taylor's solo from Aureole (1962). As he talks about his muscle memory of the dance, clips of him dancing it at different times in his career are shown and commentary by others about his remarkable presence are also included as accompaniment. Francie Huber [see page 84], explaining her reactions when Taylor choreographs for her, muses about the balance between letting him know her thoughts and keeping quiet. We then see her telling Taylor that a particular turn would be easier if she went this way. He, of course, decides that it should go another way.

Diamond's alert crew also recorded an incident that unexpectedly demonstrated the soaring professionalism of the company. There is a sequence from the Indian tour in which the sound fails in midperformance. The dancers continue as chaos reigns back-stage where hysterical techies, communicating in a variety of languages, try to solve the problem. When the music is finally restored, the dancers are amazed to find themselves right on count.

Dancemaker is a substantial addition to the data trove of autobiography, interviews, and Labanotation that Taylor has generously provided dance historians. His tongue has often been in his cheek, but he has always been honest.

Fantasy was often found elsewhere at the festival. In Il Segreto di Pulcinella (Switzerland), director Carlo Ippolito and choreographer Bruno Steiner use five dancers, Stravinsky's music, and the full range of video techniques to create a visual delight. Multiple Pulcinellas frolic unimpeded by gravity through vibrant pastel landscapes. The images flow swiftly up, down, and sideways in dreamlike profusion. Among the many references to painting is one featuring Pulcinella arriving on a shell like Botticelli's Venus.

Flamenco Women (England), a black-and-white film with the spontaneous texture of a home movie, is part fantasy and part reality. The fantasy was the desire of director Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas), who indulged his love of flamenco by hiring a group of female dancers, led by Sara Bargas and Eva Yerbabuena, and filming their rehearsals and performance before a star-studded audience. The performance, with the dancers in haute couture fashions, is extraordinary.

It may be a genuine sign of the times or simply a fashion among today's choreographers--or a preference of the festival staff--but a number of the films display a strikingly similar movement style. Dancers fling their limbs about and drop to the floor; partnering is either passive or aggressive with little in between. Editing also tends to fast cuts from a variety of spatial perspectives. In Contrecoup (Switzerland), by director Pascal Magnin and choreographer Guilherme Botelho, violent interactions of men and women occur in a surreal, layered environment that veers from bedroom to street, with much of it occurring in a bleak cubicle, a metallic no-man's-land. Burnt (Germany), choreographed by Vera Sander and directed by Holger Gruss, contrasts the frenetic encounters of two men and a woman in a sleek, ultramodern office building with the perfunctory activities of the building's after-hours cleaning lady as she works her way through the empty edifice and emerges at dawn to walk barefoot through a wading pool. Whether the threesome represents some fantasy in the cleaning lady's mind or the true nature of the building's daytime occupants is not clear.

Human interaction is similarly dismal in Clara Van Gool's Nussin (Netherlands), with her dancers ironically using the tango as their means of expression. They give the film an air of mystery and absurdity right from the start by performing this sensual, heated dance in the dead of winter in a dreary Eastern European coal-mining town while wearing slippers, boots, socks, or heels--or while barefoot.

Belly Boat Hustle (Canada), a brief but richly developed fantasy, provided some rare unabashed humor. Five harried, technology obsessed office workers escape their workaday world to go belly-boat fishing, to the sounds of Tchaikovsky, in the glorious setting of the Canadian Rockies. Choreographer Nicole Mion and director Sandra Sawatsky inventively contrast visual and aural rhythms to create a wonderfully whimsical film. More raucous physical activity was provided by Hurtle (New Zealand); choreographed and directed by Shona McCullagh, this outrageous adventure follows two hysterical nuns--one male and one female--from the cloister to the outhouse.

For sheer beauty, the showstopper was Arena (Argentina), produced and directed by Margarita Bali, who choreographed the work in collaboration with her dancers. She uses superimposed and overlapping images to such effect that the activity of the dancers merely walking across sand dunes and beaches can create waves of motion that echo the natural surroundings. The contrasts in light on sunny or cloudy days add to the texture of this evocative, poetic film.

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 studies at the college.
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Title Annotation:dancing festival
Author:Thom, Rose Anne
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Mar 1, 1999
Words:928
Previous Article:Final Looks at the IED and Nureyev.
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