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'Dance for Camera'

'Dance for Camera 2'

DVDs reviewed by Carmel Morgan

February 2008


Two dance DVDs worth watching, especially for modern dance fans, are “Dance for Camera” and “Dance for Camera 2,” available from First Run Features.  Both DVDs are compilations of dance films from around the world. 

“Dance for Camera” is the better of the two DVDs.  It is also considerably longer than its companion volume, lasting 95 minutes versus only 50 minutes for “Dance for Camera 2.” 

The best dance films in the bunch are two by filmmaker Pascal Magnin of Switzerland that bookend the contents of “Dance for Camera.”  My favorite is “Reines d’un Jour” (“Queens for a Day”).  It is a stunning work that begs for repeated viewings.  The opening sequence features three couples tumbling down a Swiss mountain side.  They throw themselves downhill and toss themselves into the air with joyous abandon.  In addition to the dancers’ heavy breathing and the thud of their bodies hitting the ground, the clanging bells of the largely oblivious cows nearby provides background noise. 

The six dancers seem to be on a mission to bring the magic of dance to the isolated Swiss village they visit.  Likewise, the filmmaker successfully brings the magic of dance to those who see this film.  There are too many fantastic moments in this particular film to mention.  The couples stuck head to head shifting their weight to battle like bulls; a female dancer sensually slipping her feet into multiple pairs of shoes; the amazing blowing and sucking routines, where through the breath from their comically pursed lips the dancers control each other’s movement; and the final scene in which the three women walk into a body of water and sink beneath it.

Magnin’s other film, “Contrecoup,” is equally as engrossing.  Rather than a bucolic Swiss village, however, the setting is a cityscape and the interior of an apartment of a couple in crisis.  The set morphs like something out of a modern-day Alice in Wonderland.  The couple’s arguments are passionately danced, and their struggles are amazingly powerful.          

Most of the films in “Dance for Camera 2” are not as strong as those in the original volume.  The opening film “Boy” by Rosemary Lee and Peter Anderson from Great Britain perhaps makes the biggest impact.  A young boy leaps and dives over sand dunes, chasing his imaginary twin.  The thrilling freedom of childhood is perfectly captured in the boy’s ebullient, militaristic games. 

Another standout in “Dances for Camera 2” is “Horses Never Lie,” by Kathi Prosser and Caroline Richardson of Canada.  The film primarily takes place in a horse ring, complete with clouds of dust.  A woman’s wet hair flings like the mane of a horse in motion.  Her footwork does not quite mimic that of a horse.  Instead, her dancing tells the story of what it might feel like to actually be a horse.  It is exhilarating and also a touch sad. 

These DVDs each present masterful camerawork and editing, even if the dancing is a bit uneven.  In these films, the camera is clearly the star, not the dancers.  These short experimental films are less about documenting dance and more about creating a cinematic vision in which dancing plays an integral part. 

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