Craving Dance Films? There's a Festival for That.

January 29, 2017

What do Justin Timberlake, swing dance, Martha Graham and a ballet school for the blind have in common? They’re all subjects of films being shown at the annual Dance on Camera Festival. Co-presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Dance Films Association, this year’s festival kicks off this Friday, February 3, and the lineup for the five-day event is pretty delectable. Opening night alone boasts the premiere of Anatomy of a Male Ballet Dancer, a much-anticipated portrait of American Ballet Theatre principal and all around good guy Marcelo Gomes, and a Q&A with Gomes and the filmmakers, plus short film Our Five Senses (which features dancer/choreographer Selene Muñoz with NYCB’s Ask la Cour and Amar Ramasar). And that’s before we even get into the short films. Or the photo exhibition. Or the VR installation. Are you excited yet?

Ahead of the festival, we got a sneak preview of the closing night program: In the Steps of Trisha Brown, a documentary following the staging of Brown’s Glacial Decoy at the Paris Opéra Ballet, and Between Stephen and Yvonne, a short film in the form of a conversation (fittingly, about Brown) between postmodernists Stephen Petronio and Yvonne Rainer. Both are necessary viewing for any hardcore fan of Brown’s work, but in case you need a bit more convincing, here are some of the most delightful moments from the two films.

A stage rehearsal of Glacial Decoy captured for In the Steps of Trisha Brown. Courtesy Icarus Films.

In the Steps of Trisha Brown

Watching Paris Opéra Dancers learn how to be grounded.
Okay, watching POB dancers do anything is a treat, but seeing them progress from semi-awkwardly trying to drop their weight to laughing as they purposefully fall off balance to executing Brown’s work seamlessly is amazing.

Lisa Kraus’ mini-lecture on why Brown’s work
to be transmitted dancer to dancer.
“Everything is sequenced…It travels internally,” Lisa Kraus explains, physically demonstrating the way Brown’s idiosyncratic movements are more of a chain reaction than anything else. Carolyn Lucas, co-associate artistic director of Trisha Brown Dance Company, constantly tells the dancers how lucky they are to have Kraus teaching the movement, and it makes a visible difference. When Kraus takes off her glasses to demonstrate a wildly whipped jump or a stumbling forward run, the shift in the dancers’ understanding is immediately apparent.

The treasure trove of delicious archival footage of Trisha.
From creating the movement to performance, clips of Brown with her dancers are scattered throughout the film. You feel like your understanding of her work is increasing at the same pace as the POB dancers being put through their paces in rehearsal.

Stephen Petronio and Yvonne Rainer in Between Stephen and Yvonne. Courtesy Kevin Hayden.

Between Stephen and Yvonne

“We were out to topple the palace gates.”
Yvonne Rainer is utterly matter-of-fact talking about the Judson movement, never mind that it completely changed the course of modern dance in the U.S.

Petronio teaching Rainer a movement from Brown’s seminal
Set and Reset
One minute Petronio is explaining a directive Brown gave him to create a specific moment in the work, and the next Rainer is holding his arm for support and trying the phrase snippet herself. And then Petronio physically lifts her off the ground, because why not?

Sold yet? Check out the full lineup (and grab your tickets) here!