Screen adapters: DV8 & Ultima Vez

There are many approaches to making videodances, but one of my favorites is the adaptation of live performances for the screen. There are a few choreographers that have adopted this approach with gusto, and have made some of the best dance films of recent times. Lloyd Newson of DV8 is perhaps the best known of these. DV8 is one of the few dance companies that is committed to both dance and video and the interconnection of the two as part of it’s core mission.

The Cost of Living

Still: The Cost of Living by DV8

From DV8’s Artistic Policy:

 DV8 (Dance and Video 8)’s strong commitment to film and video continues. This reflects its ongoing interest in how two primarily visual media can enhance one another and reach a crossover audience from within both forms.

To date DV8 has produced 15 stage works and 5 films, all of which are
visually arresting, provocative, and moving explorations of the human
condition. Their second and third films Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men and Strange Fish
were collaborations between director David Hinton and choreographer
Lloyd Newson. Both pieces are quite dark and disturbing, and you can
see vestiges of the stage work in the sets and choreography, however
it’s interesting to see Newson’s development as a choreographer for the
camera’s frame in these early works. In their fourth film Enter Achilles Newson teamed up with the Dutch director Clara van Gool. Enter Achilles
is also about the darker side of human nature, but Gool’s attention to
color and humor brings out more nuances in the characters and Newson’s
choreography is more fluid and dancy. Their most recent film, The Cost of Living (2004) was Newson’s first time as sole director, and his eye for filmmaking has become well developed. The Cost of Living
has been a tremendous cross-over success appealing to film audiences as
much as dance fans, and has achieved something of a cult status.

Another choreographer who has fully embraced filmmaking is Begium’s Vim Vandekeybus. With his company Ultima Vez
he’s made video adaptations of almost all of his live performance
works, as well as extensive video to go along with the stage
productions. His 2005 film Blush screened at the 2006 Dance on
Camera Festival 4 years after the stage show toured the New York area
at Montclair State University. Blush is like a rock ‘n’ roll
acid trip. I loved the audacity of the work and its incredible settings
shot in Corsica and Brussels. It runs the gamut of human emotion and
definitely shows that videodance can rock hard.

During the 2006 Dance on Camera Festival I recorded this interview with Bart van Langendonck the producer of Blush about the film and the challenges of making it.

I’d love to see more American contemporary choreographers making edgy, cool film adaptations of their work. I think films like Blush and The Cost of Living
have exponentially increased the audiences for DV8 and Ultima Vez.
Videodance gives choreographers a means of distributing their work to a
wider range of people, and breaking out of the insular ghetto of the
po-mo dance scene. Both of these choreographers have benefited from
major European television commissions for their work, which the US
doesn’t have. (Ever since PBS’ Alive from Off Center ended in
the 80’s edgy dance films haven’t had support in this country.) But,
the internet is opening up new avenues for distribution that are
accessible to anyone with a computer and a broadband connection.
Perhaps we just need to introduce Spike Jonze to Nicholas Leichter, and a fire will spark!

What would your fantasy director/choreographer match up be? I think mine would be Michel Gondry with Ohad Naharin.
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