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Dance For Camera 1 and Dance for Camera 2 (2007) - Movie Review

The Camera is a Dancer, Too

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Dance For Camera 1 and Dance for Camera 2 (2007) - Movie Review

Dance For Camera 1 on DVD

First Run Features
Documenting dance on film presents an unique challenge: should filmmakers use a stationary camera to record choreography frontally, or should their cameras, too, join in the movement of the dance? Two First Run Features dance DVDs present a superb selection of award-winning dance films from around the world. Each is an exquisite short piece in which different directors and cinematographers use their unique techniques and sensibilities to successfully capture the full dynamic flow, spatial tension and emotional depth of dance. These films not only document dance, they are an art genre in their own right.

Dance For Camera 1

This DVD, presenting six short dance films in all, including Geneva-based filmmaker Pascal Magnin's Reines d'un Jour and Contrecoup, which begin and end the program. These are my favorites.

Reines d'un Jour follows a modern dance troupe to the mountains surrounding the Swiss town of Evolene, where six young, robust dancers--three women and three men--frolic in pastures of wind-churned dancing grass, run up and roll down hills, always exploring the effects of gravity on their choreographed movements. While emulating the horn-engaged sparring of local cows, they translate those movements into wonderfully ritualized human interaction. Similarly, and with good humor, they play with the villagers, joining their daily activities: herding cattle, drinking wine and folk dancing.

The choreography itself is experimental and engaging. So is the cinematography, which alternatively accumulates significant moments and gestures as dancers to move into and out of frame, or moves with dancers to capture the full range of specific movements, or respectfully flirts with the customs and behavior of the villagers. The editing is similarly sensitive and sophisticated.

Dance, cinematography and editing add up to a wonderful experience for viewers. You are transported into the midst of the action, and the locale, for an uplifting, energizing and enjoyable journey. Also important to note: Dance technique and discipline are all about using the body to overcome the effects of gravity, and this film really makes you--dancer or not--aware of how that is done, and magnificently so.

Dance For Camera 1--Take Two

Dance For Camera 2

First Fun Features

While Reines d'un Jour is an artistic expression that seems based on a socio-cultural experiment, Magnin's Contrecoup, the finale on Dance for Camera 1, is quite different in intent and tone--but equally engaging and meritorious. The first difference is that it is city-centric, set in confined, sometimes cluttered spaces and places and in urban boulevards and bistros.

Choreographed by Guilherme Botelho, the dance itself has a narrative line, albeit not always presented in a linear fashion. It is a love triangle. The choreography, replete elements suggesting flamenco, tango, bullfighting and other Spanish influences, exudes internal sexual tensions.

The story and all the innuendo is effectively played out through brilliant cinematography. For much of the film, the camera's positioning is frontal, recording the dancers' movements without selective vision or interpretation. But there are many segments shot with a camera that is fully engaged in the choreography: it follows the dancers into the streets, integrating ordinary movements--such as walking or drinking at a bar--with more complex choreography. It redirects attention one dancer to another, pulls focus in such a way that defines spatial dimension and depth with extraordinary clarity and accuracy. And it delivers a wisdom of vision that, it must be said, seems to transcend the impressions garnered by the unguided eye. In other words, it heightens your experience and understanding of dance. It not only documents this choreography, it becomes it's own artistic expression.

Dance For Camera 2

The second DVD in this First Run Features series, and ideal and necessary companion to the first, presents seven short films made by directors from the US, Canada, UK, and Iceland.

My favorite is Motion Control, in which UK directors Liz Aggiss, Billy Cowie and David Anderson make the camera an integral part of presenting choreographed impressions of an aging diva. The camera's point of view varies frequently, ranging from from frontal to overhead shots, with other angles that give the audience enhanced views and greater appreciation of the dancer's relationship to the limits of her physical space, and the borders of the filmic frame. The resulting profile of a character whose personality and emotional reality are expressed exclusively through posturing and gesture is fascinating.

Similarly, Kelly Hargrave's Cargo is a powerfully provocative short in which choreography and camera become equal partners in expressing an emotionally-charged moment in the life of a young man who, while placed within the confines of a light blue 1969 Buick Skylark, explores the physicality of his inner feelings.

Boy, a third favorite on the DVD, expresses the free flowing exuberance of youth. The camera tags along with a boy who runs, tumbles, leaps over sand dunes, playing at being an explorer, warrior and conqueror. The brilliant cinematography captures the explosive flow of energy in the boy's body, while presenting the patterned, architectural dunes as a stage that's ideal for dance.

These DVDs are musts for anyone who loves dance, and especially for those who wish to film it.

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