when Alla Kovgan and I gave a workshop in St. Petersburg, we
explored the potential of creating dance for the camera with
three modern dance companies from Poland, Estonia, and Russia.
Much to our delight, the workshop inspired a flurry of creative
energy and curiosity from the press. However, to our dismay,
each of the eight television crews who came to interview us
always asked pointedly, "Why are you here? Don't you like
the way we film the ballet?"
them that over the last hundred years, ballet had been well
documented around the world and that the grace of the Russian
cameramen was evident particularly in the filming of the soloists.
What was not apparent was any collaboration between the choreographers
and the directors. The mere mention of collaboration seemed
odd, if not bizarre to them, almost as strange as asking an
athlete how he would like to be filmed.
journalist to seek us out persisted in asking what more could
be done to capture the ballet on film? I ventured to say that
if a choreographer were engaged to adapt the ballet for film,
perhaps for a variety of locations and settings beyond the proscenium
stage, the ballets could be distilled down to the passages that
contributed to its narrative thread and new ones --possible
only on camera perhaps-- could be added so that the ballet would
vibrate with a fresh energy.
answered many a need with his 19th century ballets. His audience,
he supposed, yearned for beauty and power, for an escape from
the known, exoticism and a touch of eroticism all while admiring
gravity-defying feats. No doubt the visions of order and conformity
provided by the formal lines of the corps reassured the royal
family of its importance and perhaps the audience of its majesty.
we still yearn for an escape from the known, or do we? It's
not so easy--or wise-- to make a sweeping statement. With all
the realism in commercial cinema, one might think that we are
simply too fascinated by ourselves or too bewildered to consider
anything other than a kind or cruel mirror. But the independent
film world is eagerly exploring alternatives to that idea. As
part of that movement, dancers and film artists are discovering
a new language in the course of bringing the two arts together,
creating a form that cannot be experienced live. This provides
a stretch for everyone, a departure from feature films but also
the traditions of the stage.
ingenuity of Russian filmmakers as well as the virtuosity of
the dancers, the clarity of purpose as presented almost a century
ago by film pioneer Sergei Eisenstein, Russia is ripe, in fact
over due, for a new generation of dance filmmakers, set and
costume designers, editors, and producers. Dancers in Russia
now --are they not free now to express not only the positive
but the mysterious, ambiguous, and dark side of being? What
better way to engage an audience but to have a filmmaker work
hand in hand with the choreographer to play with the shadows
of life. Choreographing with the mind of an editor, one can
leap from one environment to another or invite the camera to
capture the subtle expressions of the face or hands so that
the viewer can emotionally connect with the characters.
can be re-thought given the options possible with today's technology.
For example, one could present a pas de deux with the man supporting
the woman not only physically but imaginatively. What if the
screen suggested not only the body but the mind and the soul
of the dancers. Film can bring to dance the charm of intimacy,
the machinations of the unconscious. It can imply so much with
so little. The visual medium combined with the abstract, visceral
art of dance can help one to wake up to the invisible magic
in any one moment.
As a touring
festival, we can help open "the doors or perception,"
to quote the writer Aldous Huxley. The dance on camera workshops
provide some basic tools as to how to specifically bring dance
and video together so that each artist can create his own maps
into territories known previously only by him or her. Selected
screenings can not only educate but goad on local artists to
take on the challenge of making a video dance. Dance Films Association's
on-going collaboration with Kannon Dance School and Company
and Pro-Arte is a committed effort to keep today's Russian artists
abreast of new opportunities and facilitate their contribution
to the global art community.
and comments, please contact Deirdre
Towers at firstname.lastname@example.org
© KinodanceRussia, 2004