Sunday, December 11, 2011

Moving images

Breath Made Visible (2009)
directed by Reudi Gerber
Argot Pictures
English; 80 min.

Anna Halprin
"My greatest love is dancing in the natural world. The birds dance and the clouds dance. Everything is in motion all the time," says Anna Halprin--movement shaman, the subject of this affecting portrait and chronicle by filmmaker Reudi Gerber.

Through vintage and more recent footage of performances and workshops as well as interviews with Halprin, her colleagues, her late husband, the landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, and daughter, the dancer and psychologist Daria Halprin, Gerber traces the arc of a life that remains, in this woman's ninth decade, open to the deep currents of the natural world, of society, of relationship and of the body.

Halprin's early-career decision to leave New York for California--to join Lawrence--removed her from the center of the dance world but presented intriguingly different environmental and social realties and rhythms to explore. Much later, a cancer diagnosis brought Halprin to another critical decision--to turn away from choreography and performance for the public and refocus her efforts on dance as a powerful modality for personal and societal healing.

Gerber has an eye for stunning imagery, a sensitivity for human feelings, and an awareness of the mythic quality of Halprin's narrative. He gives us a sweetly humble yet heroic woman whose concern for people and loving engagement with life are instructive and inspiring. Breath Made Visible brought me to tears.

Purchase Breath Made Visible here.

Find a theater screening of Breath Made Visible here.


Lovers of dance film, hang on. Next year, shockingly, is not that far off! The 40th Annual Dance on Camera Festival will open at Lincoln Center, January 27-31, celebrating "the immediacy, energy, and mystery of dance combined with the intimacy of film."

Look for director Ron Honsa's Never Stand Still--a grand, kaleidoscopic exploration of the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, down through the ages and up to the minute, narrated by Bill T. Jones and featuring...well, featuring just about everyone and every kind of dance you can imagine. It's a beauty. (2011. 74 min.)

If you've already enjoyed Check Your Body At The Door, producer Sally Sommer's fantastic documentary about underground house dancing, you might want to follow up with director Ina Sotirova's freedom2dance. Going to Dance on Camera Festival? See both on the same night--January 31. Far more conventional in structure than GYBATD, Sotirova's documentary puts the struggle around New York's nightlife culture and social dancing into historical and political context. (Yes, I'm looking at you, Rudolph Giuliani!) Check out the Facebook page for freedom2dance. (2011. 20 min.)

Mis Caminos a Través de la Danza (My Paths Through Dance), written, directed and produced by Daniel G. Cabrero, tells the story of a young Spanish girl's early training in classical ballet in 1920s Paris and the fortuitous diversion of her career from ballet towards the Bolero and diverse regional dances of her homeland. Influenced by the legendary Antonia Mercé "La Argentina," the youngster grew up to become Mariemma (1917-2008), performer, choreographer uncompromising educator and ensemble director of international renown. She was a dancer of great verve and warmth, dedicated to a dramatic, sculptural clarity of movement.

This film marks Cabrero's full-length feature debut, and he has a charming story to tell and a treasure trove of documentation--vintage photos, footage and prints--as well as contemporary interviews with colleagues, students and dance critics. Instead of injecting cutesy (and cringe-worthy) animated elements into the story's flow, Cabrero would have done well to place more trust in his wonderful historical materials. They are more than enough. If you can overlook these occasional lapses in taste, and the often awkward, sloppy English subtitles, there's a lot to learn and to enjoy. (2010. 90 min.)

For full information on the program and schedule of the 40th Annual Dance on Camera Festival, visit these links:

Dance Films Association

Film Society of Lincoln Center

Tendu TV's Dance on Camera channel on Hulu

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