Meredith Monk's Girlchild Diary
Sashay over to the Film Society of Lincoln Center for the 43rd Dance on Camera festival. The dance-centered film event spotlights a diverse array of narrative, documentary, and experimental features and shorts, including U.S. and New York premieres. Returning to the Film Society for the 19th consecutive year, this year's edition opens January 30 with the U.S. premiere of Meredith Monk's Girlchild Diary. In the doc, interviews with Monk and the cast about the process and past performances and are woven together with music, photographs, and performance footage to create an inside look at an artist at work. This year, Monk is celebrating her 50th season of creating and performing work in New York.
The festival closes with Richard Raymond’s musical Desert Dancer, a dramatic feature set against the 2009 riots against the Iranian regime, based on the true story of Afshin Ghaffarian, who dreamed of being a ballet dancer despite a government ban and forms an underground dance group. The film stars Freida Pinto, Reece Ritchie, and Tom Cullen and is choreographed by Akram Khan, who created the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics in 2012.
“The best thing that has happened out of this experience is that I have stopped judging myself,” Freida Pinto told Digital Spy about making the film. “As soon as you have a mirror in front of you and you start dancing, you kind of think, 'Oh I look so silly.' I can't believe I'm doing this and that is the biggest hindrance, and once you get over that hurdle it gets a lot easier.”
The role of movement and dance in the lives of teens and children factor heavily in this year's lineup. James Pellerito and David Barba’s American Cheerleader is an in-depth look at how cheerleading has evolved into an athletic sport that combines physical prowess and musical routines. The documentary follows two high-school teams as they go from regionals to the national competitions. Norwegian director Kenneth Elvebakk’s doc Ballet Boys follows teenagers at the Norwegian Ballet School as they navigate competitive world of dance. Irene Chagall’s Let's Get the Rhythm: The Life and Times of Miss Mary Mack pays homage to the hand-clapping games of inner-city playgrounds and beyond. The film delves into the movement's background and empowering impact by showcasing three 8-year-old girls engaged in the hand-clapping experience. Young Dancemakers spotlights New York–based teens in Young Dancemakers Company who channel their personal struggles into choreographed works performed around the city. The film screens for free.
“It’s a festival with lots of surprise elements,” said Joanna Ney, co-curator of Dance on Camera. “We’ve got unsung ballerinas, dance pioneers, and a crossover virtuoso. We’re also exploring new genres—cheerleading and girls’ hand-clapping games that have an empowering effect on young women. There’s definitely an accent on youth this year, as well as an appreciation for dance’s staying power.”
Contemporary dance companies also take the spotlight at this year's Dance on Camera fest. Catherine Gund's Born to Fly: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity takes a look at a motley troupe of flying and crashing dancers who defy the laws of physics to perform daredevil, breathtaking works. David Iverson’s Capturing Grace follows members of the established Mark Morris Dance Group as they join forces with Parkinson’s patients to demonstrate the power of dance to transform and heal. Louis Wallecan’s Dancing Is Living: Benjamin Millepied is an intimate portrait of the founder of L.A. Dance Project—and newly appointed director of Paris Opera Ballet—as he works with his own company in LA and collaborates with a variety of artists including Lil Buck, Nico Muhly.
“It is the year of the narrative dance film, with two new titles in this year's program—Desert Dancer and Fall to Rise—and a reprise of the great All That Jazz,” noted Liz Wolff, co-curator for Dance on Camera. “For so long dance has had the power to tell a story that words cannot. Using dance to tell narratives about experiences and the meanings they have in people's lives is proving a powerful tool in filmmaking.”
Dance on Camera takes place January 30 – February 3, 2015.
[Tickets go on sale Tuesday, January 13. A pre-sale to Film Society and Dance Films Association members begins Thursday, January 8. Single screening tickets are $14; $9 for students and seniors (62+); and $8 for FSLC and DFA members. See more and save with the $99 All Access Pass or the 3+ film discount package. Visit filmlinc.com for more information.]
Richard Raymond’s Desert Dancer
Films, descriptions, and screening times follow (Unless noted, screenings are in the Walter Reade Theater):
Girlchild Diary (Opening Night)
Meredith Monk/The House Foundation for the Arts, USA, 2014, HDCAM, 86m
In her 50th year of creating work that combines voice, movement, and image, Meredith Monk revisits her iconic piece Education of a Girlchild for this evocative documentary centering on the 1993 Joyce Theater reunion of that production’s brilliant cast. Girlchild Diary offers a unique look at Monk’s unconventional creative process, interweaving music, photographs, interviews, and performance footage to illuminate a crossover artist still radical after all these years. U.S. Premiere.
Lori Petchers & Susan Jacobson, USA, 2014, HDCAM, 4m
Sifting through photos and memories, a woman revisits her past, saying goodbye to what was while contemplating what will be.
Friday, January 30, 8:00pm (Q&A with Meredith Monk and cast member Lanny Harrison)
Desert Dancer (Closing Night)
Richard Raymond, UK, 2014, DCP, 104m
Set in Iran, this powerful, incredible yet true story follows the brave ambitions of Afshin Ghaffarian. During the volatile climate of the 2009 presidential election (when many cultural freedoms were threatened), Afshin and some friends (including Elaheh, played by Freida Pinto) risk their lives to form an underground dance company. Through banned online videos they learn from the likes of Michael Jackson and Rudolf Nureyev—icons of dance whose resonance crosses all cultural divides—while also teaching themselves, and in the process embracing their passion for dance and for one another. This special advance screening is courtesy of Relativity Media.
Tuesday, February 3, 8:15pm (Q&A with Richard Raymond)
All That Jazz
Bob Fosse, USA, 1979, DCP, 123m
“It’s showtime, folks!” That’s the refrain of anxiety-ridden and unhealthfully driven choreographer Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider) at the center of Fosse’s semi-autobiographical musical extravaganza, also featuring star turns by Ann Reinking, Ben Vereen, and Jessica Lange. Scheider is never less than captivating in his portrayal of Gideon, a complicated figure not so secretly patterned after Fosse himself. Long out of circulation, the Oscar-winning tour de force is back on the big screen after a 15-year 4K digital restoration by The Film Foundation.
Sunday, February 1, 5:45pm (Preceded by a panel discussion featuring assistant choreographer Gene Foote, Fosse’s daughter Nicole, and several other Fosse dancers)
James Pellerito & David Barba, USA, 2014, DCP, 89m
An in-depth look at how cheerleading has evolved from a sideline activity preceding a football game to an athletic event that highlights physical skills and musical routines—synchronized tumbling, flips, pyramids—unimaginable in the past. This engrossing documentary follows the journey of two high-school teams from regional competitions to the Nationals as they compete for the coveted cheerleading championship. Twelve girls from New Jersey and 12 from Kentucky, empowered by families and devoted coaches, redefine what it means to be an American cheerleader today.
Saturday, January 31, 1:00pm (Q&A with James Pellerito and David Barba)
Kenneth Elvebakk, Norway, 2013, HDCAM, 75m
Norwegian with English subtitles
Lukas is a teenager dreaming of success in the rarified world of ballet. Together with pals Syvert and Torgeir he trains at the Norwegian Ballet School. In this heartwarming documentary, the trio navigate the competitive world of dance and their last years of high school, encountering a variety of new challenges and opportunities along the way. New York Premiere
Det Skal Danses Vaek
Maia Elisabeth Sørensen, Denmark, 2014, DCP, 5m
A high-school boy’s infatuation with dance erupts into a full-scale “performance,” in which his classmates become a chorus of movers who catch the fever.
Friday, January 30, 1:00pm
Born to Fly: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity
Catherine Gund, USA, 2014, DCP, 82m
The “Evel Knievel of dance,” Elizabeth Streb pushes her dancers to trade fear for “extreme action” as they walk on walls, spin from cables, and aim for the sky. Director Catherine Gund provides close access to Streb and her daredevil company, allowing viewers to share her life at home, in rehearsal, and on the road, including a breathtaking performance in London just prior to the 2012 Olympics.
Benjamin Epps, USA, 2014, HDCAM, 7m
A dance work exploring the anxieties of modern life, set in site-specific locations that incorporate large-scale sculptures and paintings in the Houston area.
Sunday, February 1, 3:20pm (Q&A with Catherine Gund and Elizabeth Streb)
James Pellerito and David Barba's American Cheerleader
David Iverson, USA, 2014, DCP, 60m
When the Mark Morris Dance Group joins forces with Parkinson’s patients, magic happens. Under the guidance of former Morris company dancers Daniel Leventhal and John Heginbotham, this film’s engaging subjects forge a close-knit community, demonstrating art’s power to transform and to heal.
Stacey Menchel Kussell, USA/Israel, DCP, 40m
Renewal profiles a group of dancers—the Vertigo Dance Company—in their pioneering eco-arts village on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Under the imperative of becoming more sustainable forces, these dancers, many of them extended family, reconsider their art, their values, and their place in the world. U.S. Premiere
Sunday, February 1, 1:00pm (Q&A with David Iverson and cast members)
The Dance of the Sun
Ami Skånberg Dahlstedt Folke Johansson, Japan/Sweden, 2013, DCP, 58m
Swedish and Japanese with English subtitles
Ami Skånberg Dahlstedt is a Swedish choreographer immersed in Japanese mythology. She is drawn to the haunting legend that serves as the basis for much of Japan’s dance and theater, both classical and contemporary: The Sun Goddess, who hides in a cave, plunging the word into darkness, until the Goddess of Laughter lures her out with “crazy dancing” and the world returns to light. Dahlstedt’s journey also takes her to Kyoto, where she practices alongside her teacher, the beautiful Nishikawa Senrei. We also meet shrine maidens, a flutist who plays a 600-year-old instrument, transgender artists, and many others. New York Premiere
The Realm of Nothingness
Kathy Rose, USA, 2013, DCP, 7m
A dance of puppet-like figures and mesmerizing forms accompanied by percussive rhythms. Kathy Rose, fascinated by Noh and Japanese theater, creates a magical spectacle in which figures flow and drip in a universe of their own.
*Monday, February 2, 3:30pm
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
Dancing Is Living: Benjamin Millepied
Louis Wallecan, France, 2014, digital projection, 57m
French and English with English subtitles
This engaging documentary chronicles Benjamin Millepied (choreographer of Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan), the newly appointed director of the Paris Opera Ballet and founder of L.A. Dance Project, as a globe-trotting ambassador for dance: in rehearsal with his company in L.A., hanging out with Lil Buck, and sharing his ideas about life and dance. New York Premiere
Louis Wallecan, France, 2012, HDCAM, 53m
Italian, French, and English with English subtitles
An intimate look at the historical and cultural roots of the Italian and American kinships with grand opera, featuring profiles of numerous notable figures, from renowned tenor Roberto Alagna to legendary Amato Opera Theatre founder Tony Amato. With the generous support from the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York. New York Premiere
Saturday, January 31, 8:00pm (Q&A with Louis Wallecan)
Fall to Rise
Jayce Bartok, USA, 2014, DCP, 91m
A multilayered drama following a famous dancer as an injury forces her out of her company and into the uncomfortable role of a new mother. With her world turned upside down, a former company member with her own emotional issues unexpectedly provides her with support. The film stars former Martha Graham principal dancer Katherine Crockett and actress/dancer Daphne Rubin-Vega (the original Mimi in the Broadway musical hit Rent), and features a powerful performance by the charismatic Desmond Richardson (co-director of Complexions Contemporary Ballet). New York Premiere
Stella & Tom
John Resner, USA, 2014, HDCAM, 7m
Stella & Tom features two of American Ballet Theatre’s finest dancers—Stella Abrera and Tom Forster—in a specially choreographed dance on film.
Sunday, February 1, 8:45pm (Q&A with Jayce Bartok and cast members)
Ghost Line and Other Celluloid Antics
A program that features the world premiere of Shona Masarin and Cori Olinghouse’s new experimental dance short Ghost Line (USA, 2013, DCP, 15m), which merges the rhythmic and comedic timings of silent film and vaudeville with the absurdist impulses of Dada and Surrealism in a kinetic spectacle of light and shadow. This 78-minute program will also include films that illustrate Ghost Line’s affinity with cinema’s past: two early Buster Keaton shorts, The Playhouse (USA, 1921, 35mm, 20m) and Back Stage (USA, 1919, 35mm, 19m); Hans Richter’s Ghosts Before Breakfast (Germany, 1928, digital projection, 9m); and James Broughton’s Four in the Afternoon (USA, 1951, 16mm, 15m). This program will be moderated by former MoMA curator Jon Gartenberg of Gartenberg Media, a film archivist, distributor, and programmer with a special interest in silent and experimental film and film preservation.
*Monday, February 2, 6:00pm (Followed by a discussion with Shona Masarin and Cori Olinghouse)
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
David Iverson's Capturing Grace
Here Now with Sally Gross
Douglas Rosenberg, USA, 2014, DCP, 46m
Here Now with Sally Gross documents the achievements of dynamic New York choreographer Sally Gross as she creates a site-specific work with a group of students for an exhibition by the renowned digital artist Leo Villareal. An original member of the Judson Dance Theater in the 1960s, Gross remains a powerful presence as she engages with her young performers and reflects on her enduring career in dance. New York Premiere
Ze’eva Cohen: Creating a Life in Dance
Sharon Kaufman, USA, 2013, HDCAM, 32m
This documentary spans some 70 years in the career of the noted title dancer/choreographer, virtually encompassing all phases of her richly creative life. World Premiere
Tuesday, February 3, 3:00pm
Jiri Kylian: Forgotten Memories
Don Kent & Christian Dumais-Lvowski, France, 2011, HDCAM, 52m
World-renowned Czech choreographer Jiri Kylian, always a reluctant subject, finally agreed to participate in this film, the only record of his personal history and artistic life. Narrated by Kylian, it covers his school days in Prague, as well as his apprenticeship in London and Stuttgart, where he began his choreographic life. Through interviews shot largely in the Netherlands, home of the Nederlands Dans Theater, which he guided for more than 30 years, and gorgeous excerpts of some of his best-known works, a picture emerges of a singular artist whose vision has inspired dancers and choreographers around the globe. U.S. Premiere
Ryan Fielding & Loughlan Prior, New Zealand, 2013, DCP, 17m
A number of New Zealand Ballet’s prominent dancers create dramatic solos and duets that evoke memories of the past. U.S. Premiere
Friday, January 30, 6:00pm
Let’s Get the Rhythm: The Life and Times of Miss Mary Mack
Irene Chagall, USA, 2014, DCP, 55m
The wondrous hand-clapping games of inner-city playgrounds in New York City and the remote corners of the world alike become a music genre and a fertile subject for exploration in this delightful homage to the beauty of the beat. Three 8-year-old girls charm with personal insights of the hand-clapping experience, while archival footage collected by Alan Lomax and choice observations by ethnomusicologists, folklorists, and just plain folks stress the empowering impact of the practice on the lives of women.
John Kirkscey, USA, 2013, HDCAM, 17m
Bookin’ explores the idea of dance fusion with two jookers (urban street dancers) and two ballet dancers who merge their styles to a soundtrack that mixes hip-hop beats and cello at a famous Memphis juke joint.
Friday, January 30, 3:15pm (Q&A with Irene Chagall)
Mia, A Dancer’s Journey
Maria Ramas & Kate Johnson, USA, 2013, DCP, 55m
A daughter’s promise to tell her mother’s story serves as the starting point for this documentary on the life of the celebrated Croatian ballerina Mia Slavenska, which becomes a fascinating and moving reflection on historical memory, national identity, and the power of dance. The film retraces Mia’s journey from tumultuous prewar Europe through her emergence as a glamorous ballerina of the Ballets Russes and a star attraction on stages across America, culminating with her return to her homeland. New York Premiere
Nancy Allison & Paul Allman, USA, 2014, DCP, 8m
Jean Erdman came up with the choreography for “Hamadryad,” a vision of a passionate wood nymph, in 1948 while walking through a forest and hearing a lone flutist practicing Debussy’s “Syrinx.” The filmmakers creatively re-create the Erdman piece using Martha Graham dancer Miki Orihara, taking her from the Manhattan streets to her studio where she rehearses the solo conjuring herself into the very forest where the dance was first imagined.
Saturday, January 31, 3:30pm (Q&A with Maria Ramas and Kate Johnson)
Perpetual Motion: The History of Dance in Catalonia
Isaki Lacuesta, Catalonia, 2013, DCP, 57m
Catalan with English subtitles
A living history of dance in Catalonia—home to legends like Carmen Amaya, the repository of many dance genres, and a region where dance has flourished since the early 19th century. Archival images, interviews, and reconstructions of works bring this rich heritage into the present. Thanks to La Termita Films and Televisió de Catalunya TV3, in collaboration with Arts Santa Monica, Institut Ramon Llull, and Mercat de les Flors. U.S. Premiere
Frédérique Cournoyer Lessard, Canada, 2014, DCP, 15m
An imaginative exploration of one woman’s relationship to dance through close encounters of the third kind. World Premiere
Tuesday, February 3, 6:00pm (Q&A with Perpetual Motion: The History of Dance in Catalonia subject/choreographer Cesc Gelabert)
Blanca Li, France, 2015, DCP, 61m
This radical vision from choreographer/director Blanca Li involves eight dancers whose extraordinary flexibility and expressivity are demonstrated as they explore the relationship between humans and machines. They are aided by mechanized instruments shaped like musical notes (created by Maywa Denki, a Japanese artist group), and witty movement by NAO, a playful, highly developed humanoid robot capable of interactivity. A performance that will surprise and amuse anyone interested in how the future of dance might look. U.S. Premiere
Tom Rowland, UK, 2013, DCP, 29m
Choreographed and performed by acclaimed contemporary dancer Dane Hurst, this narrative, told entirely through dance, explores creativity, violence, and loss via one man’s intense spiritual journey, cast against the moody backdrop of nocturnal London. U.S. Premiere
*Monday, February 2, 8:30pm (Q&A with Tom Rowland and Dane Hurst)
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
Irene Chagall's Let’s Get the Rhythm: The Life and Times of Mary Mack.
Shorts Program, Walter Reade Theater, 165 West 65th Street
This year’s crop of short films is particularly diverse: from dances inspired by Stephen Sondheim and created for the iPhone, to complex stories that unfold through choreography designed to heighten narrative tension. This program demonstrates that there is no shortage of imagination among the filmmakers who seek to explore dance’s relationship to film.
A Juice Box Afternoon
Lily Baldwin, USA, 2014, DCP, 8m
Through her own writing, Anne Morrow Lindbergh comes of age, meets Charles Lindbergh, and experiences flight in more ways than one. The first in a new series entitled “The Paperback Movie Project.” New York Premiere
A Tap Dance on the Pier
Geoffrey Goldberg, USA, 2014, DCP, 2m
A Tap Dance on the Pier introduces the “tap stalker,” a man who finds unsuspecting people and dances with them. World Premiere
Daphna Mero, Israel, 2012, DCP, 13m
A female laundry worker desperately attempts to abort the fruit of a violent encounter. When the consequences of her action are revealed, her repressed memories reemerge. U.S. Premiere
Dancing Sondheim (selections “Children and Art” & “Every Day a Little Death”)
Richard Daniels, USA, 2014, DCP, 7m
Charting new territory in bringing dance to a wider audience, choreographer Richard Daniels, the creator and producer of “Dances for an iPhone,” continues his pioneering work for the small screen with a new collection of dances created for his iPhone and iPad app. We present two selections from the Dancing Sondheim series : “Children and Art” with Carmen de Lavallade and “Every Day a Little Death” with Deborah Jowitt. World Premiere
Well Contested Sites
Amie Dowling, USA, 2012, DCP, 13m
Developed and shot on Alcatraz Island, this film explores the issue of mass incarceration and the complex experience faced by the incarcerated. New York Premiere
Thomas Pollard & Nathan Smith, Australia, 2013, DCP, 6m
A man sits alone in a room. Three boys entertain each other with scary stories during a sleepover. The narrative gains momentum as a link becomes apparent between a fictional man’s life in solitude and the future of one boy’s reality. New York Premiere
Marites Carino, Canada, 2014, DCP, 9m
Like two molecules unknowingly affecting each other in space and briefly crossing paths, conceptual hip-hop dancers collide and share fleeting moments of intimate synchronicity on the streets of Montreal. New York Premiere
Danielle Kipnis, USA, 2014, DCP, 6m
Graffiti-painted dancers move through the private and public domains of New York City. New York Premiere
Martin & Facundo Lombard, USA, 2014, DCP, 4m
A powerful new piece from the Lombard Twins, a “Dance Scene” set to music by Astor Piazzolla. World Premiere
Joey De Guzman, New Zealand, 2014, DCP, 6m
A dark, poetic dance film depicting a girl’s obsession with a butterfly. U.S. Premiere
Shantala Pèpe, Belgium/UK, 2014, DCP, 7m
A man and a woman share a suspended moment of intimacy sitting before a vast ocean. U.S. Premiere
Saturday, January 31, 6:00pm
Free Events, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center Amphitheater, 144 West 65th Street
Black Ballerina is a documentary-in-progress that uses the overwhelmingly white world of classical ballet to take a fresh look at race, diversity, and inclusion. Narrated by black women of different generations but united in their passion for ballet, the film asks if anything has changed and why diversity in dance matters.
Tuesday, February 3, 4:30pm (Followed by a panel featuring producer/director Frances McElroy, Dance Theater of Harlem artistic director Virginia Johnson, and former Ballets Russes ballerina Raven Wilkinson)
Capturing Motion NYC
For a fourth year, Dance Films Association invites high-school students throughout the five boroughs to submit dance films between one to five minutes in length for Capturing Motion NYC, a student film competition. This program will feature the top juried films and a panel discussion about the students’ processes. The winning work will be screened on closing night of Dance on Camera.
Friday, January 30, 4:00pm
Filmmaker Services Panel
Invited organizations dedicated to providing filmmaker services, including Fractured Atlas, AbelCine, DCTV, and VHX, will join Dance on Camera to engage in a lively discussion focused on getting a film made—sharing tactics from pre-production to distribution, and all the important steps in between. In addition to the panel, we are offering a free field trip to AbelCine (609 Greenwich St.) on Monday, February 2, from 12:00pm-2:00pm. RSVP required, open to attending filmmakers and DFA community.
*Friday, January 30, 5:00pm
Meet the Artist
Critically acclaimed immersive theater company Third Rail Projects, creators of the award-winning production Then She Fell, will join Dance on Camera to offer audiences the opportunity to learn about the influence of dance film on their large body of work. Artistic directors Zach Morris, Tom Pearson, and Jennine Willett will be joined by filmmaker Lucas Smith to discuss their recent collaborative film project produced by Dance Films Association with funding received from the Rockefeller Foundation.
*Monday, February 2, 5:00pm
Young Dancemakers Company, founded by Alice Teirstein, is a unique summer dance ensemble of NYC teens dedicated to creating their own original choreography and performing it in concerts citywide. Young Dancemakers (USA, 2014, 28m) follows three members of the company, mentored by Teirstein, as they deal with their personal struggles and ultimately learn to express themselves through dance.
Saturday, January 31, 5:00pm (Followed by a discussion with Young Dancemakers director Greg Vander Veer, Alice Teirstein, and subjects from the film)
Art Exhibit, Furman Gallery, 165 West 65th Street
First Breath by Travis Magee
New York City–based photographer Travis Magee specializes in dance, fashion, and fine-art imagery. His dynamic and explosive photography of ballet and modern dancers, like all his work, is based on the concept of capturing real-life kinetic movement in order to elicit complex emotions. As a result, Magee’s photography is achieved in one choreographed shot, and he never uses Photoshop to manipulate or construct his images.
“Transformation is a beautifully traumatic process—physical and emotional—the pain of change and the joy of discovery. First Breath is a collection of images of transformation. The restless frozen moments in time when we grow and change and leave behind the people we once were. Too often, photography of dancers focuses just on a beautiful image of a beautiful body, idealizing the obvious and ignoring the past and the future that lie on either side of the moment.
Like tides carving out the slope of the sand or wind sweeping across the dunes, I asked the dancers to feel the elements changing their bodies and shaping their movements. The forces that transform us are invisible. All we can recognize is that First Breath as we emerge.”