On Friday, I went to see a retrospective of the work of the main draw of the festival, screendance legend Katrina McPherson. Her work brought up a lot of interesting issues and a lively, valuable discussion ensued with the artist after the show. Eric Handman, a professor in the dance department who also makes work for stage and video, asked McPherson to elaborate on the role of repetition in her work, which was evident in the first three abstract dance shorts of the evening This is a place, Moment and Sense-8 (which offered a glimpse at a partially blind contact improv group). McPherson ruminated on the difference between repeating movements on stage and repeating the same piece of footage in a film. This got me (and the friends I was with) thinking in new ways about how the filmic idioms of montage versus the kind of reality-fracturing mis en scene Maya Deren did function and interact as screendance develops through the years.
McPherson also showed a documentary piece about a dance company in Addis Ababa founded by a British ballet teacher who taught largely homeless Ethiopians “contemporary dance”. There was a lot to discuss here too, in the lobby, and in the car on the way home. We started to dissect what we thought of the film and of the project. It seemed undeniable that he’d done a lot of good by bringing new ideas and opportunities to these kids and also that a lot what he said suffered from some Colonial attitudes toward the value of “contemporary” versus “native” dance. That said, it got us all thinking, both about issues of culture, poverty and dance and about the idea that dance could change the world for the better.
Sam Hanson holds a BUS from the U & makes dances & films about town