Dance films in which the film knows what to do with the dance: reader recommendations (UPDATE SATURDAY)

Videographer and dance-on-screen fanatic Anna Brady Nuse, who’s got a blog within a blog on Doug Fox’s Great dance site, seconds Counter Critic’s recommendation of Edouard Lock’s “Amelia” and offers these other informed recommendations:
There are a few more exceptional dance films out there that were adaptations of stage works. In all of these cases, I’ve only seen the films, so can’t comment on whether they rival the live shows, but I can say that I was fully satisfied by the cinematic viewing experience.
They are: all the dance films by DV8 (UK) — “The Cost of Living,” “Enter Achilles,” “Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men,” “Strange Fish;” “Blush” by Wim Vandekeybus and Ultima Vez (Belgium); “Hit and Run” by David Bolger and CoisCeim Dance Theatre (Ireland); and “Opium” by Suddenly Dance Theatre (Canada). These are just a few off the top of my head. They electrified me, and I’m a very jaded dance viewer.
Every year there is usually some gem of a film like these at the Dance On Camera Festival in New York (and elsewhere).
By the way, “The Cost of Living” will be screening this Saturday Oct. 6 at Tinker Auditorium as part of the Alliance Francaise’s Fall Festival, Crossing the Line.
Apollinaire responds:
Anna, thank you so much for your recommendations. I’m with you on the DV8 films. They’re amazing. And Dance on Camera has a lot of great stuff–and some junk! That’s the trouble–knowing how to pick wisely. I’m hoping to write a preview recommendation piece for Newsday to help direct people’s attention, but I hope you also offer your recommendations here–or for us to link to.
And yes, people should check out the French Institute Alliance Francaise’s Crossing the Line Festival, in its various venues across the city.
Belly dancer Natalia sent this comment a while ago, at the end of a comment I’ll be posting next week. She seconds the general emotion here, that dance on film is its own genre–as Tonya would say, you can’t just plop a camera in front of a dance and expect it to work. Here’s Natalia:
About dance translating to the screen, I do think it is possible to do well, I just don’t think it is being done well very often. Just think of the last time you saw a video of a play being performed on a stage –I have never seen a good one. When the camera pans out to the whole stage, the action looks vague and lost, and when the camera zooms in, it seems like actors are never in the well-lit parts of the stage, people are standing too far apart, sets look chintzy and fake, etc. And yet when those same plays are adapted to the screen and filmed as movies, they are almost as vibrant and engaging as a live performance.
These same issues show up in putting dance on video. A lot of musicians have come out with crummy live albums; there is nothing wrong with going into the studio to record; I think dance companies should be open to that, too.
More from Anna Brady Nuse :

Thanks for the shout out, Apollinaire! I will definitely be blogging on the line-up for this year’s Dance On Camera Festival, so hopefully viewers will be able to pick out the programs they like. I agree that it’s usually a real grab bag.
I also just thought of another dance film I loved as a film more than as a live dance: “One Flat Thing (Reproduced)” by William Forsythe, shot and directed by Thierry de Mey. The film is sooo gorgeous, and it gives you an intimate look at the dancers that you can’t have in a concert hall. The trade off is that you don’t feel the whoosh of air and the rumble of 30 to 40 tables being run towards the front of the stage. Still, the film is a masterpiece on its own.
P.S. to readers:
I received another great comment re: Pavarotti, which I’ll probably post early next week, with my and other regular Footers’ responses. And I haven’t forgotten countercritic on Morris’ musicality in “Mozart Dances.” I know there hasn’t been too much going on here. See the column on the right, Elsewhere, for some of why: reviews! reviews! I love writing reviews!

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  1. says

    Hi. I don’t know if this is stating the obvious. Maybe it will be new for a lot of younger dancers and dance afficionados: Maya Deren made some hauntingly beautiful films of dance and even her non-dance films sometimes feel like dance. For those who don’t know, Maya was the queen of American avant-garde filmmaking, and her films are often shown at Anthology Film Archives. They are also available for sale on VHS and DVD online.
    Apollinaire responds: No, not the obvious–and for those of us who are familiar with her name, always good to be reminded. Thank you, Christopher.

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