Dioramas–Motion Beyond Dance

 

Dioramas by Gonzalo Castro
Image courtesy of BAFICI
Part fiction and part documentary, the independent film Dioramas was directed, filmed, produced, edited, and scored by the renowned Argentinian cinematographer Gonzalo Castro in 2012. The Northwest Film Forum, as part of their Argentinian weekend “Cine Independiente: Discoveries From Argentina” presented the film Saturday, April 13, 2013. Dioramas has also played in the Independent Film Festival of Buenos Aires.

 

Resembling the meaning of diorama–a full-size or scale model replica of a landscape–the film exposed the movement research process of choreographer Mariano Pattin’s small contemporary dance company in Argentina. In this case the diorama was not only the full-size scale model of the movement research process of many contemporary dance companies across the globe, but also the replica of moments found in real life. Castro exemplified these real life moments by diving into the intimate relationship of two company dancers: Marcela Castañeda and Eugenia Frattini.

 

Inside the company’s long and narrow studio, Pattin directed his dancers to move from the pelvis, yet allow silence to occur, during which time they were asked to think of four different options to resume motion, but decide to not do any of those options. He turned solos into partnering to give more information to each dancer of what else there was to explore in their movement phrases. Pattin’s voice continued throughout the film as a narrator’s voice, pointing out natural occurrences that evolved from the dancers’ improvisations, and demanding simplicity and clarity in the physical and emotional intention of every instant.

 

Unlike other dance documentaries, where the rehearsal process or technique class is depicted, and people talk about their work experience, Castro kept close to the dancers and moved with them with a hand-held camera. He didn’t allow for a story about the story to be told; he simply presented the unadulterated sequence of exercises lead by Pattin. One exercise called for the dancers to purposefully maintain as many areas of the head in contact with the floor while letting the rest of the body maneuver the problem. No explanation of any exercise was ever given, and to the viewer’s knowledge no production was being created. Yet, when Castro portrayed Castañeda and Frattini kissing in bed, an interpretation came to light. As their bodies worked frantically to undress one another while keeping their lips in contact, it became evident that Pattin’s exercises happen naturally everywhere. Pattin simply researches those movements and accentuates them, giving them value. This seems an especially important exercise in today’s society, where verbal and written communication takes precedence over physical communication.


Dioramas by Gonzalo Castro
Image courtesy of BAFICI
The entire film was naturally lit, which added shadows and highlighted different parts of the dancers’ bodies as they created new relationships in their improvisations. The scenes presenting the couples’ lives were mostly filmed in water, the lake or the ocean, and revealed different qualities of movement that were also explored in the studio. Castro focused in on Castañeda’s foot in the water as the couple rowed, or framed Frattini reaching her hands to her feet in the lake, investigating the texture of her hair as it coiled in the water.

 

It is unfortunate that such a beautiful film was only shown once.  It is eye-opening for a dancer to view from the outside–as a diorama–the work of manipulating motion in the body. And dancers would surely benefit from watching the unfolding research process of the Argentinian company and the clear connections it has to everyday encounters through Castro’s beautiful cinematography. Non-dancers would also have enjoyed watching Pattin’s process, as it shows an aspect of dance that is rarely screened: the investigation of movement on it’s own and the analysis of the improvisations that occur. Hopefully, the Northwest Film Forum will continue to show films that engage the dance community and offer another way for viewers to access movement.