Saturday, June 4, 2016

Dance Film Festival

Last night was a mini-screening of short films featuring the talents of SFB dancers sponsored by the Museum of Performance and Design and the San Francisco Dance Film Festival. And when I mean talents, I mean dancing, choreographing, directing, photographing - the works. What emerged from the evening were distinctive voices, taking ballet beyond its opera house formality, and into spaces as diverse as the sacred quiet of the Presidio to the post-apocalyptic ur-urban warehouse. 

I couldn’t help but be reminded of 70s feminist film theory, Laura Mulvey and her “scopic pleasure” or how the camera directed the eye to gaze upon, and consume, the female body. Last night the male body was more on display, particularly in “Lion,” - choreographed and performed by Garen Scribner and another equally god-like fellow (forgive me, I don’t have my program notes!). In contrast, Dana Genshaft’s choreography for Emma Rubinowitz - a radiant and slightly mysterious pixie in a yellow crew neck sweater skipping about to George Harrison - allowed a more conversational feel with the camera. Sometimes she runs up to it, and looks straight at it, other times skips away and resumes her dance. She invites our gaze and then refuses it. (The first half of this piece I found more interesting than the second, where our yellow pixie (of course) finds her yellow man-pixie complement in the forest. Why did that guy have to come along, even if it was Esteban Hernandez? She seemed to lose her quirk when he showed up.)
Julia Adam’s piece, “Restless” was my favorite, even though there wasn’t a ton of dancing in it. As Julia pointed out, it’s kind of “Game of Thrones” - ish. Maybe more like Lady of the Lake meets Arwin. There’s a lovely lass, with long, flowing hair, in a long, flowing dress, darting about in the forest, hiding in trees, being spooky and ethereal. A neo-wili. I found the whole thing delightfully creepy and slightly subversive, especially with the Natalie Merchant fractured fairy-tale lullaby in the background. This lady is NOT a good Mom - she clearly can’t find her children, and she’s acting like a squirrel. 
Overall, film as a medium is providing developing artists a venue beyond the black box for exploring visual ideas. The same medium however also sometimes makes it hard to “see” the choreography - it scrambles the temporality and spatiality of the traditional concert stage, giving us a new definition of “choreography” altogether. 
I’ll be at the SF Dance Film Festival this October - hope to see you there!

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