By Dawn Paap with Anna Brady Nuse
At our last Kinetic Cinema screening on April 8th, guest curator Lisa Niedermeyer presented dance films to be seen through the lens of professional sports. She featured the work of dance film makers: Charles Dennis, Alan McIntyre Smith, Lemeh42, Miriam King, Kristi Faulkner and Sylvain White.
Alongside special guest, sports videographer Ray Wenzel, Jr., six films from the above mentioned film makers were showcased to illustrate sports elements, including speed, effort, kinetic response, spectacle, competition, and endurance.
There are many shared elements between Dance and Sports. This screening offered several suggestions of utilizing professional sports as a lens to help see heighten aspects of dance in film.
There are a number of ways to draw in the viewer to elicit a response to movement on screen. Lisa, speaking from a performer, videographer and editor’s standpoint, felt most drawn to the aspect of kinetic response for both dance and sports on film. For her, it is important to connect with what the performer is experiencing internally to understand the story of the film maker and she illustrated her point with the film Illusion of Movements by the Italian duo, Lemeh42. In this film a woman is filmed in extreme close-up (hands, feet, chest) while she is having [what looks like] an epileptic seizure. Through the fragmented views of the woman’s convulsing body, the viewer gets a taste of what it must feel like to suddenly loose all muscular control.
I feel that the internal experience of the performer is important, but when I think of professional sports, I find myself drawn more to the “atmosphere” or dramatic flair of an event. I respond to the important actions during certain moments of a sporting event, and I think of capturing speed, danger and the emotions of the spectators. Spectacle was one of the Points of View presented in the evening, and it was illustrated by an excerpt from Sylvain White’s Stomp the Yard in which two step crews battle it out on the dance floor in front of throngs of hyped up fans. For me, of all the works shown, this piece came the closest to evoking the feelings I get when watching sports. I felt connected to the situation of the competition, to groups of performers and spectators, and to the intensity of the moment.
Ray, speaking from the point of view of a sports videographer, shared his preference for capturing images to enhance the storyline of whatever sport event he’s shooting. With each film presented, he pointed out specific details of the film making that gave life to the stories.
One of the most compelling narratives of the evening was Miriam King and Anthony Atanasio’s DUST, commissioned by South East Dance in the UK. Here a woman in a bathing suit and googles slowly breast strokes her way through a desert landscape, battling heat, dust, and time to reach water. The film captured one of the hardest things to show on screen, the inner game that goes on inside every performer and athlete, but which lies at the heart of every great story.
Ray shared a story about a niche form of car racing called endurance racing, which he shoots every year. In endurance racing, the team that travels the greatest distance around the track in 24 hours wins. He talked about a race in Florida last year where the top two teams were only 10 seconds apart from each other after 12 hrs and only a few minutes apart at the very end. This is like crossing the country in 24 hrs, leaving from New York and ending up neck and neck at the finish line at the Pacific Ocean. For Ray, the drama lies in how well the teams work together and their ability to endure and battle fatigue to be the fastest, most efficient racers over a long period of time. This is not easy to capture on film, however it is his task as a camera-man to tell a captivating story for the viewers. He also shared ways he works to capture “behind the scenes footage” of games and races, such as the choreographed and skillful moves of a race crew changing a tire and refueling a car in 15 seconds flat, or how hockey players maneuver around the player with the puck to set up the perfect pass. All of these details are hidden gems of information that help to bring a sporting competition (or a dance) to life on screen.
Regardless of the preferences one may have for viewing sports or dance films, there are many interesting areas of overlap between the two. This screening offered insights into a few of these areas of intersection. A companion program to this screening would be to look at sports on screen from the point of view of dance. For instance the balletic leap of the wide receiver making a catch in the end zone and replayed in slow motion. Elements of grace certainly seem to come up in sports footage all the time. I’m sure there are many more lenses to find! Anyone have suggestions for the sequel: P.O.V. Dance? List them here, or relay your own experiences seeing a dance on film that evoked a response normally associated with sports viewing…