Savage Film, Red Mullet, WArd/waRD (2010)
Director: Mike Figgis
Choreography: Ann Van den Broek
Winner, Best of Festival Award, Dance Camera West Festival 2011 (USA); Best Dance Film, Cyprus International Film Festival 2011 (Cyprus); Le Prix du Film sur l’Art, 11th Festival du Film sur l’Art (Brussels)
Watching Mike Figgis' film of Ann Van den Broek's provocative, award-winning dance production, Co(te)lette (2007), reminded me of how a colleague had raised an objection after a showing of Nicholas Leichter's work-in-progress, Twenty Twenty. This critic thought that aspects of that dance too often verged on the pornographic. I walked away thinking, Hmmm... Well, even if that were so, what exactly would be the problem with a choreographer dipping into this other site of the body's vulnerability and power? Twenty Twenty, as a lot of folks will readily tell you, is growing into an outlandish duet (with Leichter's amazing young dance partner, Bryan Strimpel), but if Twenty Twenty makes you squeamish, you're simply not ready for Co(te)lette.
Van den Broek has her three female dances start out down on all fours in short, lightweight skirts and sparkly ballroom shoes. Backsides to the camera. Butts twitching in precise, mechanical rhythm. A metronomic trio panting industrial breath. Butts sloshing like a washing machine's agitation. Torsos swerving with the big swoosh of a cleaning rag or scrub brush in a cleaning woman's sturdy and determined hand. Gazed at as if from directly behind, from overhead, from one side or another and... But wait: The camera pulls away to reveal that there are others coolly watching the women's all-in, increasingly ferocious action from the sidelines as if visiting a cage in a zoo.
Concert dance shies away from much of what follows in Co(te)lette but, by doing so, sidesteps its potential to illuminate this treacherous, ambiguous, suspended place between the real and the artificial, the danger of being embodied and sexual, particularly embodied and sexual as female in a world where straight men hold the lion's share of power. This idea might be usefully conveyed by words alone. But dance must also be there, and this dance is there.
Click here for The Co(te)lette Film from TenduTV.