February is the month of love, whether you’re down with the idea or think it’s trite Hallmark trash. This month, in honor of the sentiment of love, (which is a beautiful thing when it’s not being commercialized beyond recognition) I went in search of new things to fall in love with, beginning with this first installment: 5 Dance FIlms to Love. I hope they make your heart beat just that little bit faster, as they did mine.
Ballet 422. If you’ve ever wondered how ballets are created, this is the film for you. Choreographer Justin Peck has made a name for himself as one of the youngest resident choreographers for New York City Ballet, arguably the most prestigious ballet company in the world. At only 25, Peck was commissioned to create the company’s 422nd ballet( thus the film’s title). He was given two months.
Independent Filmmaker Jodi Lee Lipes takes viewers behind the velvet curtain to reveal Peck’s process. When Lipes shot the film, Peck was still a corps dancer with New York City Ballet, getting a chance to choreograph after showing a rare talent during an institutional workshop. The film doesn’t use interviews and dialogues, and includes only a few pieces of on-screen text to explain who Peck is and what he’s doing. For the most part, Ballet 422 simply gives viewers a fly-on-the-wall approach and leaves it to the audience to figure out what’s going on and how to process it.
Something to look forward to: Ballet 422 will be released in theaters February 11th.
Shapeshifting. Filmmaker Crystal Moselle took ballet to the streets when she created this video for the band Color War, just months before she won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for her documentary, The Wolf Pack. The video centers around three teenage dancers (Cassiel Eatock, Isabel Ball and Elizabeth Van Genderen) who turn the parks, streets and underground parking garages of New York into their own ballet stage.
More about the video and dancers in an interview with director Crystal Moselle here.
Bandaloop Dancers Soar and Swoop on Marin Cliffs. Project Bandaloop dancers have long been taking dance to a new level…literally. Through the use of rock-climbing equipment, the group has performed on Seattle’s Space Needle, Mumbai’s skyscrapers, the cliffs of Yosemite, a cathedral in Mexico and dozens of other unusual public stages around the world—sometimes for audiences numbering in the tens of thousands. For this particular film it was just dancers, seabirds, and KQED’s cameras, on the cliffs of Red Rock Beach, near Stinson Beach, California. This was the first time artistic director Amelia Rudolph and dancer Roel Seeber performed this dance called “Swing Duet” on this rugged stretch of Marin County coast. At times the dancers seem to defy gravity, giving new meaning to how dancers interact and stretch boundaries and limitations in dance. Says Rudolph, “We want to energize urban and natural spaces so that people see these places in new ways,” she says. “We want to spark the imagination of people who would never otherwise experience modern dance—and challenge preconceived notions about what dance can be.”
Rectify. A global music and dance tribute to bring people together in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., featuring the world’s top performing artists: Usher, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Common, La Santa Cecilia, Joan Armatrading, Seattle Symphony, LA Opera, Skillet, Ahmir, English National Ballet, Compagnie Käfig, L.A. Dance Project, Los Angeles Ballet, Houston Ballet, Alabama Ballet, Afghan National Youth Orchestra, South African Youth Choir, the inter-Israeli/Palestinian Jerusalem Youth Chorus, Massar Egbari (Egypt), Beygairat Brigade (Pakistan), and Tanjaret Daghet (Syria).
Born to Fly: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity. Known as the “Evel Knievel of dance”, choreographer Elizabeth Streb says she has always wanted to see humans fly. Watching this film it’s obvious her dancers are not only fearless but on a deeper quest for meaning. As one dancer says in the film, “There is magic. It doesn’t exist everywhere, so you do have to catch it when it comes.” When an interviewer expressed his doubts about Streb’s approach, saying, “It doesn’t sound safe” Streb’s response was: “Anything that’s too safe is not action.”
This film was just one segment of Dance on Camera (Jan 30th -Feb 3rd , 2015), which honors ballet and contemporary dance personalities through documentaries and narrative films to show how dance changes lives. The festival is produced by the Film Society of Lincoln Center.