SCENE ON SCREEN
International Video Dance Festival of Burgundy
International Video Dance Festival of Burgundy
| 16-19 October 2019
Note: some videos below will no longer be viewable 3 months after publication of this article
The 11th edition of the International Video Dance Festival of Burgundy took place in the town of Le Creusot in France 16–19 October 2019. Curated by Marisa C Hayes and Franck Boulègue, the rendezvous screens a selection of films chosen via a themed open call: this year, Surrealism.
Hayes and Boulègue are committed to sharing the versatile medium that is dance on film, and bring a rich programme to this small town. On Friday night the screenings take place in Le petit théâtre du château de la Verrière, a small theatre in the style of Le Petit Trianon in Versailles that once made crystal glasses for Marie Antoinette. The stucco and painted angels adorning the ceiling are the perfect decor to welcome the surrealist programme.
This year, the festival showcased the groundbreaking work of Maya Deren – an important figure of experimental cinema in the 1940s, auteur of a dozen films which she often directed, wrote, starred in and edited – enriched by the live composition of the band Mona Kazu, improvising on the three films presented. A Study in Choreography for Camera (1945) can be seen as an entry point into her visually fascinating work.
This carefully constructed short film is a study on dance and camera in dialogue. Deren uses the frame, editing and the dancer’s moves to disrupt a normative apprehension of time and space in order to focus on pure movement. A développé begins in a forest and ends in a living-room, a grand jeté brings the dancer from the forest to the seaside. Choosing close-ups that isolate body parts (the dancer’s pointed toes or face) appears as a trick to transition from one space to another. Repetition is also used as a jump-cut device, like a pirouette being repeated and accelerated until the frame changes. The choreographic vocabulary and direction choices convey the feeling of research in motion.
This way of shaking up time and space as it is experienced on screen appears repeatedly in the festival’s international selection of films, suggesting a thread connecting films of the 1940s to more recent works. Whether by gliding from one element of decor to another; drifting without any sense of gravity or physical barrier, as in a dream; or breaking free from any narrative logic or creating a whole world out of disparate elements, the films presented open up imaginary worlds where the curious and the bizarre lead the way.
The Unpainted Woman by American video artist and performance maker Kathy Rose is made in the collage aesthetic. The faces of two women float around in a striking submarine-like environment of bright neon colors. Jellyfishes, manta rays but also eyeballs – a Surrealist motif leading right back to Luis Buñuel’s traumatic scene in Un chien andalou – also swim across the frame; the floating faces borrow the aquatic bodies and become hybrid creatures. The aquatic creatures form garments for the women, evoking Loie Fuller’s use of veils in her Serpentine Dance, and her use of the camera as an optical illusion. The two performers (Rose herself and Liang Yu), resemble two ocean priestesses, their inanimate, mask-like black and white faces reminiscent of the aesthetics of Noh theatre.
In Flying Lesson by Rosane Chamecki, Andrea Lerner and Phil Harder, two women in green and red boots wear wings pinned to their backs like a proper Icarus in training. The lesson begins as a tutorial on how to fly. The duet shows basic steps on the ground: bending the knees and spreading both arms at the same time, doing a lunge and tilting the arms, counting and naming each step out loud. After a minute or so, cinema takes over to fulfill the flight dream: the performers are magically lifted up in the air, spinning around as if on a carousel. As they blur, the women look almost like angels. In The Flying Lesson the cinematographic tricks take over from the limits of choreography, bringing to completion an impossible desire. When the protagonists leave the studio, swirling above the city and then escaping into nature, we can imagine Wings of Desire by Wim Wenders and its angels in a fleeting superimposition.
In Cerise Lopez’s Les Aimants (which means both ‘the magnets’ and ‘the lovers’), images overlap to reveal sections of sceneries, worlds, objects that weave together the uncanny adventure of a flower and a bee. The film starts as if we are looking through a peephole into a meadow, where a bee is foraging in a flower. The image is blurred around the edges, and the humming of the bee begins to distort, initiating our journey. Here again, body parts have a life of their own: an eye detached and stored in a box, a hand-shaped door-knocker transforms into a real hand made of flesh. The game of textures and techniques used in the film – animation, light painting, digital images – reinforce an effect of juxtaposition. The decor reveals reversible sides, doors open onto new dimensions, windows pass across the frame, a man sitting at a table, apparently in a painting, turns out to be trapped into a snow globe. If ‘dance’ itself is not at the centre of the film, choreography is, precisely in this constant circulation and interactions between the objects, the characters and the frames, creating an ongoing peregrination.
In Polish Dance Theatre’s Inicjacja, we open on bare, raw concrete and pillars. The camera begins a circular sweeping movement through the space and we are caught in this hamster wheel motion for the duration of the film. Characters begin to appear in separate vignettes, giving us glimpses into their domestic scenes, the way we might catch a slice of life when apartment windows light up at night in the city. A man at an office, a couple in a dining room, two women in a dressing room, another one in front of a religious altar… all seem frozen in their actions. Gradually, movement is breathed into the bodies and strong feelings put the characters into action: a violent argument, intoxication, scenes of confrontation. Things go haywire little by little as madness takes over until most of the decor is wrecked. The progressive tension brought to a breaking point recalls the anxiety that can ooze from some Surrealist works. We do not know where violence comes from but it infiltrates the continuum of Inicjacja until wreaking havoc.
French choreographer Kitsou Dubois’ work has been situated at the crossroads between science and dance for many years, as she is conducting ongoing research into weightlessness, and experiments with the effects of zero gravity. A pretext for the creation of Aquafoot was the 2016 Euro Cup, held in France, a context cleverly appropriated to fit Dubois’ enquiries. Here she uses water to relieve the performers’ bodies from the pull of gravity. The two performer-players, Jorg Muller and Bertrand Lombard, are engaged in a subaquatic slow-motion football game, breaking the technical expertise of their movements down until the game appears as a collection of spicy moves that provoke the clamour of the crowd. On the green mock-lawn, every play – running towards the ball, shooting – is stretched to an extreme. The use of slow motion produces a kind of fascination, as does the final scene, when one player shoots and dives, turns over and seems to bounce back out of thin air, erasing any sense that he is surrounded by tangible matter. The background is pitch black and there are no air bubbles. We forget they are in water; this might as well take place in outer space.
[Video no longer viewable: Kitsou Dubois: Aquafoot]
Time Subjectives in Objective Time by Kati Kallio opens with a match being lit, marking the beginning of its temporal and spatial exploration, We progress from one space to another in a circular motion: each shot slides to the left to reveal the next, like a magic lantern revealing the next image. Three dancers start to walk, carrying pipes in the room of an abandoned factory. The frame starts to slide and the walk shifts into a dance. Two performers engage in a pas de deux, spinning around while the third goes out to the door in the background and appears through a window in the next frame. She is soon joined by the couple, and the round dance becomes a trio. Synchronised runs and jumps, and a choreography working on curves in the upper body circulate throughout the different rooms. Sometimes the splice is perfect and one dancer really seems to jump from one frame to the next, but sometimes it glitches and dancers appear in multiple frames. This collusion reflects our distorted and subjective visions of time in a dreamlike atmosphere, giving flesh to this feeling of confusion.
[Video no longer viewable: Kati Kallio: Time Subjectives in Objective Time]
Overall the selection clearly moves the bar for what we consider a priori as dance films, giving space to works where the camera takes advantage of every element: decor, bodies, objects, lighting and space; and where cinematographic techniques become a strong choreographic tool. ●
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