projection 7:

Dance Play Ritual
With guest filmmakers John Super8 Porter and James Hosty

4pm / 26 Oct 2008  
Upstairs at the Ha'penny Bridge Inn (Dublin)

The theme of this month's programme came out of an interest in the crossovers between dance and film. Most of the filmmakers on this programme, with the exception of John Porter, come from a dance background and made the transition into film. Each filmmaker has approached this transition in a different way. Maya Deren works collectively composing/choreographing multi-layered abstract films. Yvonne Rainer uses pared down movement as the base for films with political and social connotations. Morleigh Steinberg refers back to her experience as a dancer whether filming, editing, lighting or directing. James Hosty uses video in a basic way to document spur of the moment dances in diverse locations. John Porter expands his filmmaking practice to include the body and movement. Each of these artists explore the crossover in dance in film in unique ways. By showing this selection of films together and initiating discussion, it is hoped that some insights into the working process and possibilities in dance and film are revealed.

The work of Maya Deren (1917-1961) is the starting point for this programme. As a highly trained dancer and skilled filmmaker, Deren epitomises dance-film. Her films, in which she usually appears, are quite unique in their particular use and exploration of both mediums. Deren equates the filmmaking and particularly the editing process with choreography by using techniques such as superimposition, multiple exposures and jump cuts that emphasise a feeling of trance or ritual. Films such as Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) and At Land (1944) combine abstraction with poetical structures, which she describes ‘vertically’ and ultimately link to surrealist narratives. Deren works with time, slowing it down and de-constructing it. In this way she examines movement and social ritual. She uses a non-literary approach and yet her films are multi-layered and complex. In Ritual in Transfigured Time (1945-46) she seems to explore the fear of rejection and the freedom of abandoning ritual. She worked closely with such contemporaries as John Cage, Anais Nin, Andre Breton and Marcel Duchamp.

Both Maya Deren and Yvonne Rainer are key figures in the dance film crossover. Yvonne Rainer is an American choreographer and filmmaker, whose work in both disciplines is frequently challenging and experimental. Her piece Trio A (1978) is a good foundation point for exploring her practice further. Trio A has been performed by numerous dancers in many locations but here you see the original dance filmed in a straightforward way. Her work is linked to Minimalism, she strips back dance and uses everyday movement. Her later film works use text and are critical social commentaries. The sparse de-construction of movement seen in her performance of Trio A is an important element within the development of her later work. Each of the artists chosen for this programme explore the shift between dance and film.

Morleigh Steinberg used to teach Body Weather dance class in Dun Laoighaire, and her films have been shown in different spaces around Dublin. Xing was screened as part of GAIN -an art programme curated by Mark Garry- in The Fringe Festival in 2000. The film was projected onto the side of the civic office. Morleigh’s commitment to dance and her creative relationship with Oguri form her film practice. Oguri’s lifework and investigation is both revealed and complemented by their collaboration. In Xing Oguri dances with the traffic, improvised and feeling for the gaps, the spaces in traffic flow. This relates somehow to James Hosty's Tunnel RawCuts, which takes part of this month's EFC programme too, as both works re-interpret in their own way urbanised settings through the body and film. In Tunnel RawCuts, Hosty has spontaneously chosen a disused tunnel for a gestural dance.

Amusement Park, Firefly and Down on Me reveal John Porter’s performative filming process in which camera and bodily movement often overlap. ‘Amusement Park’ is part of Porter’s ‘Rituals’ series and shares certain elements with ‘Firefly’ and ‘Down on Me’. The latter films take some of the same explorations of light and spiralling circular movement while they all approach these notions in different manners.

(1945-46, 14’, USA, b/w, silent, 16mm)

"In Maya Deren's Ritual in Transfigured Time we have gestures that invite us to move into step with them, abandoning the comfort of the known and giving ourselves over to so many strange partners. This silent short begins in a domestic environment, moves to a party scene, and ends with modern dance performed in an outdoor setting. The film's continuity is established by an emphasis on gesture and/or dance throughout.

(...) Maya Deren is most commonly discussed in relation to the history of avant-garde filmmaking and the significance of her role as a woman working in a male dominated industry. Examining Deren's work in light of her connections with, and interest in, dance, foregrounds aspects thus far overlooked in critical approaches, such as corporeal performance in her films, the privileged role given to the moving body, and the influence of choreographed performance on the techniques, aesthetic and overall structure of her films. Beyond this, the gestural operations at work in a film like Ritual… can be read as a dancerly exchange between the on-screen figures that open up the action to the spectator, drawing us into the dance." (Erin Brannigan, Maya Deren, Dance, and Gestural Encounters in Ritual in Transfigured Time, in Senses of Cinema, September 2002).

(1978, 10.30’, USA, b/w, silent, 16mm)

Trio A was originally performed at the Judson Church in New York, as The Mind is a Muscle, Part 1 in 1966 by Yvonne Rainer, David Gordon and Steve Paxton. Rainer, along with other members of the Judson Church in the 1960s, rebelled against some of the characteristics of the established modern dance, Cunningham and ballet. With Trio A her objective was to eliminate such aspects as phrasing, development and climax, character, performance, virtuosity, the fully extended body and variation in dynamics. Instead she used every-day, "found" movement, task-like activity and a deadpan performance style that drew attention to real body weight and time.

Yvonne Rainer (born November 24, 1934, San Francisco) is an American choreographer and filmmaker, whose work in both disciplines is frequently challenging and experimental.

(1996, 11’, USA, colour, video, sound)

Known for her work as a dancer, choreographer and lighting designer, Morleigh co-founded ISO Dance, along with Jamey Hampton, Ashley Roland, and Daniel Ezralow, and was a formative member of Momix. She toured the world extensively with both companies and with her solo work. She won an Emmy award for best screen choreography in “Episodes”, a PBS presentation of ISO repertory. Working as a choreographer and performer in numerous music videos and feature films served as a natural progression in her move to directing film. Morleigh is a native of Los Angeles and lives between LA and Dublin, Ireland.

“What has filmmaking brought to my dance practice? I can’t get away from the fact that dance/ movement has been the center of everything I have done creatively. Certainly filmmaking has inspired me to see dance cinematically, like, “now that I have an idea for “ a dance”, how would I film it?” But, it always seems that the dance comes first. I guess filmmaking has made me question more closely “what is the essence of this movement that might be captured intimately on film?” Also I get inspired seeing dance set in real life settings that film can capture and bring to an audience if the real life setting is not conducive to a live audience.
Creating dance on film is incredibly enticing and fascinating for me; almost more so than me creating work for the stage. But having said that, there is nothing like seeing a great live performance. I love that too, because it is alive!” (Morleigh Steinberg, from a conversation with Aoife Desmond).

(2007, 4.38’, IRE, colour, video, sound)

"My films are best described as ‘body haikus’ or ‘satori moments’, moments of inspiration, of something comes, to be, if you stop waiting they happen, try not to try, to be instinctual, getting in the car with the camera and just finding a place. Like free writing, writing without thinking. This is a new process, ‘Raw Cuts’ I would like to develop them later with higher production values but for now I enjoy their roughness, the basic camerawork, just set up the camera and dance, simplicity.” James Hosty (from a recent interview with Aoife Desmond)

‘Through the agency of WDD (Walking Dope Designs), I challenge both myself and the viewer in reference to voyeurism, sensationalism and authenticity, by using performance and filmmaking. One aspect of these live performances is the activity in itself, the act of creation, marks of identity and the moment being a collective and transparent experience. Another area of investigation is body fabric sculpture and absent traces, the imprints the body leaves behind and the contrasts of the physical manifestation and the spiritual. There is an aspect of “the stroke of an artists brush’ the spontaneous, the evoked, informing the process. Sound, movement and lighting come from immediate reactions to the surrounding space, each informing the other. An essential element of this process is the practice of the art forms on a regular basis (without the act to meet a deadline), through a rational discourse and nurturing under the heading of WDD.” (James Hosty)

(1978/79, 13.5’, CAN, colour, silent, Super 8)

Amusement Park documents different thrill rides at Toronto's historic, annual Canadian National Exhibition, all shot at night, at one frame per second, using one-second time exposures. In Firefly, John improvises a performance for the camera, spinning a bright, pinpoint light on a long cord, around himself in a variety of patterns, against a black background. A one-shot film, shot in one hour, at one frame per second. Down on Me is a camera-dance film which uses time-lapse/pixilation. John dances with, and is led by, the camera, which is running at one frame per second and turning its own way on the end of a fishing pole line while being raised and lowered from rooftops and bridges. Throughout the film, the camera is looking down at John on the ground, who's looking back up at the camera and turning with it.

“Film & video were once distinguished by the term "time-based", but I said dance, theatre, music are also time-based. I always have people in my films because I like the innate beauty & humour in human movement. Even uncontrolled crowds seem to be "dancing". And I think both silent dance and silent film are "musical" in structure. (John Porter in conversation with Aoife Desmond).

Curated by Aoife Desmond.