There is a well-spring of videodance activity bubbling up in New York City recently. It seems like every day I see or hear of a new artist or event happening. In the next few posts I’ll give a run down of the latest news, and will share more in the coming weeks.
NYC Dance Artists in Kinetic Cinema
First, a report of the Kinetic Cinema screening that happened on May 5th, curated by Levi Gonzalez. This screening was eye-opening for me, because I didn’t realize there were so many choreographers in my midst that are working in video so extensively now. The evening included videos by Sarah White, Melanie Maar, Theo Angell, Yasuko Yokoshi, Hedia Maron, and ChameckiLerner.
Sarah White’s “Interference” is an experimental study on perspective showing two people moving at the junction of a wall. Sometimes the camera is upside down, making it look like the duet is on the ceiling, other times it is right side up and superimposed with the upside down image to create a quartet. The piece has a very consistent and almost relentless quality: the only sound is the constant drip of water, the image is grainy and blown out, and the space gritty. I liked the feeling of the piece, but it was a little long and rambling for a sit down screening. It could probably work well in an installation setting.
Melanie Maar’s “Lower” is a video adaptation by filmmaker Eric Breitbart of a live solo piece she performs. The solo is about a rare psychosomatic brain disorder that makes movement disjointed and uncontrollable. For the video, Breitbart decided to depict Maar as the silent film Vamp, Theda Bara (see picture). The combination of the severe black & white Theda Bara character with Maar’s quirky and spastic movement was surprisingly poignant and emotional.
Theo Angell’s video “Piscean Anomalite” was inspired by mutant and deformed fish he saw while on an artistic retreat in the wilderness. The resulting film is beautifully constructed with haunting Native American chanting, images of rushing water, and disturbing shots of the mutant fish superimposed over moving human bodies. It was eery but cool…
Yasuko Yokoshi showed a 20 min documentary of her latest performance project “Reframe the Framework DDD“, which was made and shot over two years with nine high school students from Brattleboro, VT and was recently performed at the Kitchen at the end of April. Now I really wish I had seen the performance, because the documentary was completely riveting. Yokoshi set out to remake David Gordon’s 1984 piece “Framework” and place it in the context of today from the perspective of the Vermont teens. Every moment of their process was documented on video, and the candid drama of their everyday lives, emotional upheavals, and sometimes life-threatening concerns felt heart-breakingly real. Part of the emotional thrust of the piece comes from the self-consciousness of the participants. The strange set of circumstances that brought a downtown experimental dance artist from Japan to work with rural teens is not lost on the participants, in fact it’s discussed openingly and thoroughly. At one point Yokoshi says to the girls “I’m not afraid to piss you off.” And one of the girls asks Yokoshi “Why did you want to make this piece with us?” Over the course of the process everyone undergoes an amazing transformation of self-awareness and discovery, routing through pain and fear and coming out stronger and more mature in the end. This is a brilliant example of the positive aspects of experimentalism.
Hedia Maron’s “Untitled” and “Dance Dance Dance” both looked like artifacts found in someone’s attic. “Untitled” actually was found footage of a friend’s mom performing with a dance company outdoors sometime in the ’70’s. The grainy 8mm film is silent, and seems like a strange flickering beacon from the past. “Dance Dance Dance” was shot by Maron in 2007 on 8mm black and white film, and depicts a modern club kid dancing in his dorm room in stocking feet. Again, the footage is messed up to look old and grainy, and in silence, making the familiar YouTube-esque scene look distant, like a strange relic from bygone days.
The final piece of the evening was Roseane Chamecki and Andrea Lerner’s “Flying Lesson” made in conjunction with filmmaker Phil Harder. This piece was shown in January at the Dance on Camera Festival where it won the Jury Prize, and if you have seen it you will understand why it deserves major props. The film has a simple plot, two women show you how to fly, but the way to do it is extremely difficult. All you need is a still camera, and very strong legs, because you will need to jump about 10,000 times and take a picture at the top of each jump. Then you go to an editing studio and put all the picture frames together to make them animated (film rate is 24 frames/sec, video rate is 30 frames/sec), and viola! you are flying! Chamecki & Lerner make it seem easy with their cute wings and colored boots breezing up the city sidewalks and frolicking in the park, but trust me, don’t try this at home!
Stay tuned for up-coming events, new submission opportunities, workshops, social networks, and more great things for videodance artists to take advantage of here in New York City!