En Route Dance Festival & upcoming



Below find a review of a dance film festival brought straight to your computer by Sam Hanson. While the nature of an online festival bridges the gap between the Wasatch Front and other dance communities, it’s nice to know the festival carries a lot of connections to artists based in, or recently brought to, Salt Lake City. After checking it out consider looking at what else is up in Utah, including a casting for RDT’s LINK series presentation by Graham Brown and a Movement Forum fundraiser.

Dance’s Made to Order is an online magazine– every month it brings subscribers three new dance films. As a frequent viewer and one-time artist (March 2012 edition!), I can broadly endorse their work. Some of the films are quite good, and it’s a great way to see diverse perspectives in dance from all over the country and beyond.

Immersion in the outside world was precisely what I sought and received in watching their latest effort. Dances Made’s annual En Route Dance Festival, which ended this Sunday, is part of a growing trend in stage choreography and screen dance: temporary online exhibition (another recent example). The only piece I’d seen before was Simon Fildes and Katrina McPherson’s The Time it Takes, an homage to lush, wet Scottish landscape that screened in conjunction with the couples’s’ visit to the University of Utah earlier this year.

I found myself comparing McPherson’s work to Axolotl Collective’s Panspermia, a sci-fi work where “two aliens perpetuate a cosmic lineage”. The locations chosen for Panspermia were likely in the Mexican state of Puebla, where the Collective is based, but wherever they shot reminds me of desert lake beds of my own experience in the Western United States. It feels appropriate that aliens would do business here and that they would look at turns like orphans of the sea and animated plastic refuse. The excellent performances here remind one of the best of Alwin Nikolais’ work, though here the abstraction of the body seems less about erasure and more about the playful questions about ourselves we have always asked through imaginary animals and extraterrestrials.

A much more approachable effort, Turn Around Tango comes from Canada. There’s not much to say save that a tango performed back to back is much more fascinating than it sounds. This filmmaker has all the stylish dance-in-a-void bravado of Edouard Lock, without being so heavy handed. It’s left to Pas, a brief farce on the use of French nomenclature in ballet to further critique the supercilious. Courtney Harris and Charli Brissey make fun of classical dance in a way that only those versed in it could.

The festival also featured some work where the connection to dance was a little more obtuse. British choreographer Siobhan Davies and David Hinton brought All This Can Happen, a structuralist feature which juxtaposed creatively reframed found footage with excerpts from “The Walk”. The text, a novella by Swiss writer Robert Walser, deals with the raptures and horrors of every day life as an artist. It’s great that work like this is being reframed in a dance context, and I hope lots of people see it in this way, which beautifully demonstrates the simple choreography of the cut– the beginning and ending of a movement taken out of context becoming the way we construct the unitary power of “a singular move(ment)”.

Also very strong was Melting Justice, which was described in the program notes as “a film from the Democratic Republic of Congo…a mediation on agency vs. voyeurism that simultaneously captures instances of embodied critique while confronting the viewer with challenging questions about the passive consumption…” Petna Ndaliko Katondolo’s work was nothing like it’s art-speak byline, but his work is worth researching––  here is an artist who uses the conventions of documentary film in the age of the video to make an audience feel physically implicated as we watch (among other things) a man literally dance through oblivious traffic.

Samuel Hanson contributes regularly to loveDANCEmore and SLUG mag

dance-dance review


Dance, in its video form, comes across as tyrannical and forceful, a selective service. loveDANCEmore’s dance dance illuminates an investment that viewers make in order to experience the luster of a piece, whether they contort their own body to see it, or sit hypnotically after gleaning the last leg of the piece in order to faithfully imbibe the entire video. Dance for the camera implores us to give ourselves to its respective States, to situate us in its hierarchy.

“Blue in Tunisia/Dance in a Window,” by Andrea E. Woods, displays a woman in a white dress who dances playfully with the musical accompaniment, in a window frame. As she works within the confines of the frame, the camera-angle subtly induces me into my own verisimilar, uncomfortable confinement: I see the frame at a tilted angle where the dancer’s relationship to my sense of gravity is skewed, and I either acknowledge this discomfort, or perhaps crane my neck to comply with the screen’s logic. If I meander away from this large projector, the section in closet-like areas called “some other things” offers a chance to submit to the physical placement that each dance mandates—Adrienne Westwood’s “small films” casts me as the croucher above the stage as I peep inside a box. This microcosm ensconces two women who rearrange a table, chairs, and a rug atop pavement then switches to a clip of a woman on a hill whose skirt blows in the wind. Once I retract from the footage, I see transpositions of the furniture segment all in single instant of time in front of me in the form of five flip books that lay in front of me. I flip through each one in order to experience the dancer’s precise repetition of their rearrangement-movements; the dance’s structure tricks me into believing that I enable its five repetitions of movement to occur—yet, I only can because I’ve submitted to my role in its structure.

dance dance entertains the illusion of my privilege further: “NOBODY’S DARLING,” by Marta Renzi, depicts a man and a woman in an intimate dance with each other. Though sexually charged dance is commonplace, the setting generates a heightened sense of closeness between me and the dancers: Their sterile, rehearsal-like room simulates an actual rehearsal in a studio at which I am not present, physically. As the dancers caress each other with their movements, the woman in her sports bra, the man in his underwear, I experience the simultaneous sexual tension and comfortability that can (and often) occur between dancers who prepare for a piece, the foreplay that becomes the epilogue for a dance. In this way, the dance beckons my investment in it in the same way as pornography—I internalize its private sensuality through a conceptual, non-physical bridge. I can choose to watch, but “NOBODY’S DARLING” directs the ebbs and flow of my faculties once I do.

Karinne Keithley Syers’ piece, “Untitled (Perth Dickinson),” fabricates the fiction of soccer action figures dancing through the technique of stop action filming. The headless of the two highlights the absurdist nature of the piece, a dance of the paralyzed and the dead; it sections off a pure dancing lexicon, devoid of the act and performance of dance, yet stands, unequivocally, as dance—a poem on paper, the absolute word. Additionally, Betty Skeen perpetuates video dance’s absolutism with her piece, “Eidolon.” Although this video exhibits a real dancer, Skeen’s reversal of the dancer’s slides and rolls in a concrete skate park, in contrast to the forward motion in the piece, indicate the dance’s materialization of the impossible and its ability to dictate the fallibility of my own logic. Despite that, in historical reality, the work is comprised of different, forward-moving clips that Skeen has manufactured to move backwards, the piece nonetheless directs my viewing through and around the dimension of time. Thus, the components where the dancer’s feet lead her to slide up a cement quarter pipe momentarily jerk me to and fro in linear reality, where I am at the mercy of “Eidolon”’s world of mirrors that mandate one visual-temporal perception.

Alexander Ortega is a contributor to SLUG magazine as well as a musician about town.