The main thing about seeing dance on film is feeling the intimacy of the performer. We can see details that probably cannot be achieved in live performance. The director can be uber specific and clear with communicating their intention to the audience. The editors can evoke feelings by the sheer choice of fading or jumping to the next audio/visual cue.
We feel this in Formidable Dreams, co-directed by Sara Zalek and Eugene Sun Park, the title itself invites the viewer into a dream-like mindset. Dried paint peeling on faces and skin, otherworldly, but still earthly beings pull us into another world--a world perhaps only accessible in a dream. We traverse through space and time as if in a dream: we see half of a face here, an arm there, we are in a small corner for a few seconds, and outside by a pond for the next few seconds. Parts are revealed to us in a way that allows us to piece things together, create our own associations, to make sense of what is happening in this world Zalek has created.
At one moment, the eyes of a pale face envelop the entire screen. This is the intimacy achieved by dance on film.
In another film, Separate Sentences, co-directed by Austin Forbord & Amie Dowling, the camera runs alongside feet on what could be gravel or sand (difficult to distinguish in this black-and-white feature), giving us a rush of adrenaline in 30 seconds.
We feel this adrenaline, and perhaps a sense of fear, in INSAN by Tommy Pascal as warriors chase each other through an abandoned building donned in graffiti and broken windows. One man sees a target, his enemy, approaching slowing and quietly. The other is unaware of his pursuit, and when she is confronted, the man freezes, and we are caught in their intense connection.
This connection manifests through trustworthy partner work between the two dancers, feet supported by knees, hands functioning as legs maneuvering around the dusty ground. They could care less about getting dirty—the only thing happening was relation, connection between these two bodies and their individual experiences. We could interpret this as sharing, if only for a few moments, between enemies, the humanity that is revealed when two people from different worlds confront each other. The pain, struggle, weight of war--they feel the same things, but there is only one way this can end.
Seeing dance on film allows the audience to be taken to different locations as well. Separate Sentences takes place outdoors on a sandy/gravel-like dune, inside jail cells, and outside of a building against a fence, all in the same film. The all male cast dances in similar ways in each locale. The camera follows a young boy who either watches or is carried by the cast--he is the subject experiencing what could be a historical remembrance of these men.
At one point, many dancers lean against the door of the holding cell, elbows tucked between poles. The camera jumps from inside the cell, to outside, as the men move together throughout the tiny cell. It’s crowded, but they share a story that the young boy witnesses.
On the sandy dune, we see younger men paired with older men. This could be interpreted as a familial relationship--father-son, brother-brother, friend-friend… they seem to get into an altercation with their partner, that resolves in an embrace. We feel comfort witnessing this long, caring connection between two men.
The young boy experiences the men in all these places and relations in black and white, which then fades to color as we see him walk up a grassy hill away from the men, as if back to his life from a dream.
ALL by Loyola University of Chicago professor of dance and In/Motion Dance Film Festival founder Amy Wilkinson, follows the memories and stories of elderly people in their homes. Made in conjunction with the Parkinson’s Project at Hubbard Street Dance Center, these dancers gesture and move within their most sacred spaces: kitchen counters, living rooms decorated with family photos, hallways and staircases. We hear their individual stories overlap and highlighted at different points… we feel full, especially at the end when we see them all together outside, hands by their faces as if blowing their stories, memories, feelings to us.
Cast/Creatives List for Films:
Directed by Sarah C. Prinz & Danny Rosenberg
Produced by Amy Wilkinson
Movement Coaching by Sarah Cullen Fuller
Co-Directed by Sara Zalek and Eugene Sun Park
Directed by Tommy Pascal
Co-directed by Austin Forbord & Amie Dowling
Gallery hours for Video Corpo at SITE/less are:
Wednesdays-Saturdays, 11/21-12/7, 1PM-5PM. Or by appointment.
See more information on Video Corpo in this Zephyr, Defibrillator, Pivot Arts present VIDEO CORPO Preview.
For more information on Pivot Arts, visit Pivot Arts website.
Photos courtesy of Zephyr, Defibrillator, Pivot Arts VIDEO CORPO, unless otherwise indicated
Sarah Stearn, a native of Chicago, is a dancer and videographer. She has recently graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a BFA in Dance, and is excited to be back in the city. Currently, she works with Tuli Bera as an administrator for J e l l o Performance Series.