Capturing Dance – and Dancers’ Lives – on Film

Filming dance is a difficult enterprise, with many shifting elements. It requires complicated artistic collaborations amongst folks with various expertise, and typically requires loads of house and piles of cash. Add within the exigencies of a worldwide pandemic and you’ve gotten a recipe for chaos. It’s a type of miracle that this 12 months’s Dance on Digicam Pageant, taking part in February 10 to 13 at Lincoln Heart, could be very robust.

Co-curated by Michael Trusnovec, Shawn Bible, and Nolini Barretto, of the Dance Movies Affiliation (DFA), the venerable pageant, now in its 51st 12 months, assembles 30 films, lengthy and quick; documentaries; and filmed choreographies from world wide into greater than a dozen packages, nearly all rewarding consideration. A minimum of half are works by girls. Solely one among these, the pageant’s opening function, explicitly credit the group Girls Make Motion pictures, however the feminine type, girls’s emotions, and a sure sensuality permeate the entire enterprise.

Astutely assembled, Dance on Digicam (DoC) opens with Name Me Dancer, a movie about males made by girls and nurtured over years of preparation by DFA Labs, the affiliation’s personal work-in-progress initiative. Leslie Shampaine and Pip Gilmour’s 84-minute function paperwork the emergence of Manish Chauhan, a younger performer from Mumbai, son and grandson of taxi drivers, whose roots are in break dancing however who’s lured right into a ballet studio in his early twenties and quickly falls beneath the spell of an imposing Israeli instructor, Yehuda Maor, who grew too tall for a ballet profession however made his mark as a contemporary dancer and grasp teacher. Over 70 once they meet, having carried out and taught in Israel, San Francisco, and New York earlier than settling in Mumbai, Maor acknowledges Manish’s present and finds him the assets and connections he must construct a profession, even along with his late begin.

Name Me Dancer follows Manish as he trains and struggles and meditates on his obligation to his shut household, who dwell two hours outdoors Mumbai. Maor locates a patron who covers Manish’s residing prices; a suggestion of movie work permits him to contribute to his household’s bills and ultimately pay for his sister’s marriage ceremony. The movie juxtaposes dramatic studio footage with road scenes and interludes in Maor’s modest digs, the place, as time passes, Manish winds up caring for his getting older instructor. “Dancers are unique human beings,” opines Maor, who has shoehorned one other of his Mumbai prodigies into the varsity at London’s Royal Ballet. “In three years, we’ve done what takes nine!” he exclaims, talking of making ready these lads for skilled coaching. (That dancer, Amir, is now with the Miami Metropolis Ballet.)

Maor sends Manish to Israel’s Kibbutz Up to date Dance Firm, the place the younger Hindu observes, “They don’t want princes … they just want normal human beings.” He lives on a kibbutz, learns some Hebrew, and introduces his fellow dancers to the spicy wonders of Indian delicacies. We watch him nurse himself again from a shoulder harm, take care of the getting older Maor again in Mumbai, and, lastly, journey, mid-pandemic, to New York and then to Washington, D.C., the place he performs on the Kennedy Heart. While you watch this feel-good movie, keep by way of the pleasant credit — the parents behind the cameras stand up and dance.


When a choreographer shows a dance, it’s as much as every spectator to decide on the place to look. When that very same choreographer permits her work to be filmed, the cinematographer makes that call, directing the viewer’s eye to the alternatives made with the lens. 


Name Me Dancer represents the strongest slice of the movies on provide: works that interact the politics and economics of the dance world. These movies typically embrace speaking in addition to shifting; they stretch the style, the performers, even the viewers. One other subset consists of filmed dances. When a choreographer shows a dance, it’s as much as every spectator to decide on the place to look, and how a lot to soak up of the motion unfold throughout the stage. When that very same choreographer permits her work to be filmed, nevertheless, the cinematographer makes that call, directing the viewer’s eye to the alternatives made with the lens. The collaboration between filmmaker Jeremy Jacob and choreographer Pam Tanowitz is a chief and pretty instance of this course of. Their 26-minute I used to be ready for the echo of a greater day, filmed open air on the campus of Bard Faculty and a spotlight of Saturday night’s Program 6, of shorts by native artists, situates a few of my favourite dancers (Melissa Toogood, Lindsey Jones, and a number of others), in Reid & Harriet’s vibrant, translucent costumes, amongst bushes, vegetation, and stone partitions on the banks of the Hudson River.

One other standout on that program is Baye & Asa’s 12-minute Suck It Up, which explores male responses to a barrage of gestures of poisonous masculinity — it’s each humorous and very unhappy. Two of the works on this pageant not too long ago gained awards at Dance Digicam West’s (DCW) 2023 pageant, held final month in Los Angeles. Bridget Murnane’s Bella, the primary occasion on DoC’s second program, gained for greatest function documentary; it profiles Bella Lewitzky (1916–2004), a pioneering California choreographer who solid a profession even whereas quitting a number of high-profile assignments. The first muse of Lester Horton, who established fashionable dance on the West coast within the Thirties, Lewitzky left him to develop her personal work — he by no means spoke to her once more. The daughter of a socialist painter, she was known as earlier than the Home Un-American Actions Committee, within the ’50s, and refused to call names. “I’m a dancer, not a singer,” she famously advised reporters. Appointed dean of dance on the newly shaped California Institute of the Arts, she stop when she realized the campus didn’t have any performing areas, which her troupe desperately wanted. Within the late ’80s, an try by rich Angelenos to construct her a downtown dance middle went south when the moneyed supporters demanded a higher position for ballet, and she “knew I had to leave.” The painstakingly assembled constructing website is now a meals court docket and parking storage. Lewitzky danced, herself, till she was 62.

In 1990, the Nationwide Endowment for the Arts instituted an anti-obscenity pledge, required of all recipients of federal arts cash. (“None of the funds … may be used to promote, disseminate, or produce materials which … may be considered obscene, including, but not limited to, depictions of sadomasochism, homo-eroticism, the sexual exploitation of children, or individuals engaged in sex acts which … do not have serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”) Lewitzky refused to signal it, printed it on T-shirts with a purple line by way of the textual content, and sued the NEA. She gained, and ultimately obtained the cash, however the wrestle was the start of the tip of her firm, which closed when she retired, in 1997.

Extra highlights of the pageant embrace the opposite DCW winner, Ghostly Labor, a 13-minute movie by John Jota Leaños and Vanessa Sanchez depicting, in faucet dance, flamenco, and different percussive types, the historical past of agricultural labor within the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, with musicians and dancers deployed within the fields they until. One other is Maurya Kerr’s 23-minute Saint Leroi, a surreal meditation on Black historical past, violence, and American decay and a strong indictment of racism. Future Futures, a 38-minute work by Brian J. Johnson and Vancouver’s Firm 605, set on and across the campus of Simon Fraser College, is a chilling evocation of the place our digital obsessions might lead us: inflexible our bodies dissolve into pixels and burst into flame.

There’s far more, loads of it superb. An all-access go for the four-day occasion is accessible for $79 ($39 for college students). Use one to see the dozen or extra packages, culminating, on Monday, with a Fortieth-anniversary screening of Adrian Lyne’s Flashdance

51st Dance on Digicam Pageant
February 10 to 13
Film at Lincoln Heart
Full schedule obtainable at

Elizabeth Zimmer has written about dance, theater, and books for the Village Voice and different publications since 1983. She runs writing workshops for college students and professionals throughout the nation, has studied many types of dance, and has taught within the Hollins College MFA dance program.



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