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DEBATE SURROUNDING DANCE FILM IS HARDLY NEW, BUT IT SEEMS FROM THE FORUM, CUTTING FILM FOR THE BODY HELD IN PERTH (AS PART OF ARTRAGE AND IN ASSOCIATION WITH REELDANCE), THAT THE DISCUSSION IS HOTTING UP.

This passionate and crucial debate is about the hybridisation of art forms and the role dance film plays. Does the human body need to be ‘present’ in dance film? Should there be an emphasis on the role of film rather than dance in critical analysis? There was choreographical dissent in the forum. Multiple voices interjected, chuckles and scoffs from frustrated participants and a dancing around the potential for offence. Unfortunately, the Body Cuts selection of local dance films following the forum was, with several exceptions, less provocative and stimulating than the debate surrounding the medium.

The 14 films, curated by Edith Cowan University Research Fellow Jonathan Marshall, was a mixed bag of student and professional choreographer and filmmaker excursions to the very boundaries of dance film. An Apple a Day (director Jeremy Stuart, choreographer Emma Chatt) is influenced by the choreography of bygone musical cinema. Dirty Laundry, by DJ Childsplay and Tanja Visosevic, provocatively stretches the limits of what might be considered dance film with a furiously repetitive movement of a fist in a washing machine. Scene (led by Tanja Visosevic) is a series of still images of bodies: an armpit, an ankle, a painted toenail, a body mounting a body. However, in some films the camera seemed to be removed from the moving performer as though the filmmaker, or choreographer, was scared of the potential of their own embodiment.

In opposition to the dislocation I sensed in Body Cuts is the extraordinary repertoire of dance film by the ReelDance award finalists. Watching these films was like witnessing a living, breathing, dancing painting. Each finalist creates a dialogue between (notions of) landscape, the corporeal and narrative. However, three of the films in Body Cuts did achieve this sense of dialogue. Threads, directed, choreographed and performed by Claudia Alessi, is about a solitary woman in a confined domestic space caught on a super-8 camera, giving the impression of a fading memory. The film incorporates a lovely manipulation of light, repetitive and scattered movement with some fabulous choreography against a window—a possible escape from isolation and confinement—which ends with Alessi sewing together the loose ‘threads’ of her dress, a closure of the foggy and frenzied, yet remarkably warm, moments of memory.

Lapsang, with cinematography, editing and direction by Andrew Ewing with a remarkable soundscape by Found: Quantity of Sheep, is a masterful excursion into the embodied movement and temporal score of water, death, light and touch. The film is of a woman dying in a bath, and then later in the ocean, interrupted by shots of a man frantically removing bloody evidence while dressed in an anti-toxin suit and mask. The film plays with repetitious movement—an extreme close-up of a revolving eye, the man scared to touch the plastic body bag, the woman sucking in air bubbles underwater, a frenzied gesture of wiping her face and smearing her makeup. As the film progresses the score incorporates more instruments until a crescendo matches the turbulent movement and fast paced editing. Lapsang is fleshy, dynamic and rich.

The untitled film directed by Zena Loxton and choreographed by Jessyka Watson-Galbraith is as subtle in its choreography as it is playful with light and space. Two neighbours meet. The first, wearing a white pleated skirt that reflects a silhouette like a window blind along her corridor wall, moves with spiralling extensions of her elbows and arms. We see the neighbour: she wears a black pleated skirt. She is all ankles and pointed toes. The score is a fluid mix of soft jazz and as the two meet winding up the stairs, it is as if they embrace. These three films captured a conversation between dance and film by exploring movement, light, sound, space and time in a way that left me aware of the potential for such a visceral and emotive experience.


Forum: Cutting Film for the Body; Body Cuts, A Selection of Short Dance Film from Western Australia; curator Jonathan Marshall, presented in association with ReelDance, Artrage, PICA and Edith Cowan University; Cinema Paradiso, Perth,
Nov 5

RealTime issue #76 Dec-Jan 2006 pg. 34

© Renee Newman-Storer; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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