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ADF Preview 2006: Dancing screen

Exploring the new art of dance on video

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LineAge - VIDEO STILL BY JILLIAN PATTERSON
  • Video still by Jillian Patterson
  • LineAge

Midway through the American Dance Festival, the focus will shift to the image of dance on screen. But those attending the offerings of "Dancing for the Camera: International Festival of Film and Video Dance," July 7-9, shouldn't expect a revue of Busby Berkeley numbers.

In fact, curator Doug Rosenberg finds it easier to define screen dance in the negative: "Dance and documentation go hand in hand," Rosenberg said in a recent telephone interview. "Companies will make a videotaped record of their pieces. This is not that."

Speaking from Madison, Wis., where he teaches at the University of Wisconsin, Rosenberg explained that the film series--which represents the 11th year of film programming at ADF--seeks to develop a new, hybrid art. "Throughout the history of film, people have turned the camera on movement. Dancing bodies and video produces something entirely new."

Twenty-one dance films from around the world will be divided into four separate programs screened over the three-day festival. Two are U.S. premieres and four are world premieres. The films were programmed according to four considerations: the quality of choreography for the camera, the film's documentary value, the film's experimental objectives that render its existence only possible on film or video, and student work.

Three of the films have already been given Certificates of Distinction: Your Lights Are Out or Burning Badly by Gaelen Hanson (screening in Program One, Friday at 8 p.m., Richard White Lecture Hall), Greuw by Chris Cameron (Program Two, Sunday at 3 p.m., Nasher Museum of Art) and Boombox by Dana Katz (Program Four, Saturday at noon, White Lecture Hall).

About half of the films are American, but there are several from Canada--a hotbed of the form--as well as Belgium, Netherlands, Israel and elsewhere. In length, they range from 1 minute, 45 seconds to the full feature length of Bessie: A Portrait of Bessie Schönberg, which will be shown in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the famed teacher's birth.

Bessie is an as-yet undistributed work by D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus that was completed in 1998. Schönberg began her career dancing with Martha Graham. After a knee injury ended her career, she embarked on a 70-year teaching career in which her students included Jerome Robbins and Merce Cunningham. According to Rosenberg, the film resembles other films by the prolific Pennebaker-Hegedus duo. "It's a verité portrait of a woman who was very important to many people. They followed her around for many years up until her death."

Preceding the screening of Bessie will be a sneak peek at an as-yet untitled collaboration between Rosenberg and Canadian dance artist Allen Kaeja.

This year, for the first time, the film programming at ADF will take on the trappings of an academic conference. Numerous papers will be presented in consideration of the state of the Screen Dance art. Ranging from the theoretical to the practical, the papers are the work of top scholars, according to Rosenberg. "It's a small field, but the people here are pretty important in the field."

A full schedule is available at www.americandancefestival.org.

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