Passing the Time at Next Dance Cinema 2012

Written by Irene Beausoleil
From Choros by Michael Langan and Terah Maher
Most audiences can count the number of times they’ve seen exceptional dance film on one hand. Thanks to the collaboration between VelocityDanceCenter and the Northwest Film Forum, on December 10, 2012 the audience at Next Dance Cinema had their hands full of fantastic dance film by both local and international filmmakers. Next Dance Cinema concluded a weekend of performances held at Velocity’s Founders Theater called Real/Time, in which choreographers investigated the concepts of time and duration. The directors of Next Dance Cinema made a conscious effort to select films that, though broadly ranging in style and premise, reflected this focus on the perception of time.

Choros, by director Michael Langan, was a standout piece for its use of a mirror-like effect that duplicated the image of dancer Terah Maher thirty-two times. The choreography of Choros initially seemed simple, but as the number of Mahers multiplied, the shape of the movements were superseded by an overpowering kaleidoscope effect. Each movement folded into the next like pleats of an accordion, highlighted by luminous spots of light not unlike fireflies. Similarly ethereal was Jenisa Ubben’s film, Branches in the Clouds, featuring soloist Sarah Butler. Atop a windy plateau, silhouetted by golden sunlight and purple clouds, the gentle manipulations of Butler’s torso and spine were indicative of a tree blown by the wind. Butler’s choreography was complemented by Ubben’s style of filming, which cradled the scene with soft transitions and conscious use of negative space.

The director and performers of 1922 (Adam Sekuler, Daniel Mimura, Shannon Stewart, Rosa Vissers, David Wolbrecht, Aaron Swartzman, Meredith Horiuchi, and Jeff Huston), must be commended for their fantastic use of the single-shot concept. The average duration of a screen shot is about four seconds, so to watch an entire film that never cut away to another image was almost unnerving. The film explored the memories of past inhabitants that echoed through an empty house. “Timing” was the most difficult part of the process, said Sekuler, as he explained that the film featured six vignettes that all occurred sequentially in separate rooms. Director Flick Henderson met the same challenge of timing in his film, A Moving, which documented the choreography of Rob Kitsos from a multitude of perspectives in non-traditional environments. The visual effects and rapid changes in perspective were distracting at times, and prevented the audience from focusing on the choreographed sequences that were painstakingly edited back together to form a whole piece.

From 1922 by Adam Sekular et al. 
Amidst the more somber works were strewn shorter films that utilized tongue-in-cheek satire and blunt sarcasm. Sea Tac Toilette by choreographer and director Alice Gosti was set in a public bathroom stall at SeaTacAirport. Gosti’s deliberate and meticulous movements were framed by the confined space and ambient sounds of the airport bathroom, which brought self-conscious giggles to the audience as Gosti stared perplexedly into the camera at the sound of a flush. Kate Wallich’s Yacht Club similarly used wit and sarcasm to poke fun at the reality TV show, The OC. Dancers costumed in bathing suits and polo shirts competed for attention from the camera with aggressive, linear movements and suggestive gestures. Not to be outdone by stereotype humor was Happiness Machines, an excerpt of a full work, Moustache, by Katherine Wolf and Lara Paxton. The film was set in a 1930s assembly line and juxtaposed glamorously coiffed dancers with an industrial setting and robotic movements. Happiness Machines explored the aesthetic and industrial ideals of the 1939 New York World’s Fair with a heavy dose of irony and a pinch of absurdity.

Several films reflected an international influence, especially The Gardnerplayed by Joan Laage and PROTOTYPE:XXXXX by Robert Tyree. The Gardnerwas a stop-motion film inspired by Butoh dance and envisioned by Norwegian photographer Karolina Bieszczad. Set between two trees on a snow-covered lawn, Laage played a black-clad crone framed by a black lace hat. The most compelling component of the film was the wide range of facial expressions made by Laage, which were both grotesque and profound. Tyree also used a foreign set as the backdrop for his film, PROTOTYPE:XXXXX, in which he played a visionary dreamer lost in memory inside an abandoned Romanian school. As the daylight faded, the shadows grew longer, and so did the dreamer’s memories.

Room with Themes by videographer Jacob Rosen and choreographer Wallich was a visceral opportunity for the audience to enjoy unabashed dance that increased in intensity and personality. Set in an unfinished basement cellar, the film focused on the sensation of dancing in a confined space and waiting for the opportunity to realize one’s full potential. Unrealized potential seemed to be a shared concept for other filmmakers, such as Jeff Huston in his work, NonLinear.InTheTube. Inspired by the difficulties of working alone, the film focused on the process of self-discovery through multiple scene changes, repetitive slapping gestures, and awkward facial expressions.

In his film, Sides, director Rodrigo Valenzuela successfully melded the mediums of dance and film into a documentary of a day in the life of dancer Molly Sides. Valenzuela used natural light to accentuate this brutally honest investigation of an average day in the life of dancer, portraying her lonely moments with a sense of solitude and distance from reality. Director and performer Eric Eugene Aguilar also graced the audience with a heaping dose of truth in his work, The Veil, which consisted of a series of movements performed underneath a large, white sheet. The Veil prompted the audience (and the director) to define their understanding of dance and the relationship between dance and time.

The works presented at NextDanceCinema2012 added meaningful dialogue to the greater question of how dance and time are intertwined. Although no two pieces were alike, each film created its own time warp that swallowed up the audience into moments of beauty, passion, and despair. Next Dance Cinema reminded audiences that Seattlehas a thriving field of dance filmmakers that will continue to create exceptional work if given the opportunity and little bit of time.