Dance on Camera's Deluge of Films

January 31, 2016

It seems like everybody is making dance films these days. You can get a lot of quick hits on YouTube or Vimeo, but the annual Dance on Camera festival gathers heavy hitters from the dance community. This year, the festival packs 56 films into five days, starting Friday, February 12. They range from documentaries on Ted Shawn, Luigi and Bessie Schonberg to brand new films on a passionate tango couple and a death-defying trapeze act.

On opening night, Dance Films Association, which co-presents DOC with the Film Society of Lincoln Center, will honor Pat Birch, choreographer of the movie Grease, with a talk from Pat Birch herself. On February 14, famous Balanchine ballerina Merrill Ashley will be on hand to discuss The Dance Goodbye, a film that documents her farewell from NYCB.

The three films in the festival that I’ve seen are all stirring, and each has a sense of humor springing up through the heavy stuff.

Enter the Faun
follows choreographer Tamar Rogoff and her work with charismatic actor Gregg Mozgala, who has cerebral palsy. Rogoff is a kind of miracle worker, and Mozgala is a funny, witty guy who is pretty much at peace with being “differently able.” They will both appear at the post-show talk on February 14.

The documentary on Yvonne Rainer, Feelings Are Facts, is revealing to those who know nothing about her as well as those of us who have followed her choreography and her “difficult” feminist films. Let’s face it, she’s a legend. This film, directed by Jack Walsh, shows us why, in the most charmingly modest ways. (Full disclosure: I’m one of the commentators in the film, which was shot about seven years ago.) Join Rainer and Walsh for a talk on the last day of the festival.

In an effort to give all NYC school kids the gift of dance, Jody Gottfried Arnhold, this year’s honoree of Dance Films Association, has created a program to boost dance in the schools. This delightful film samples five master teachers who know how to turn kids on to dancing—all kinds of kids. When it was screened last spring, I loved seeing how resourceful the teachers are and how vulnerable or joyful the children are. This film is essential viewing for anyone interested in dance education. A panel discussion will follow the February 13 screening.

Although I highly recommend the above three films, I think everybody should go and discover which of the 56 are their favorites. What a bonanza! It’s equivalent to a semester-long course in dance history or dance media. Click here to see the full schedule. Some events are free.