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Existential Moment in Dance Film | Videodanse Paris

I was at the opening projection of Videodanse Paris at the Centre George Pompidou. Videodanse is one of the five or six largest dance film festivals in the world. One of the most important.

The facilities are marvelous. The festival has the basement of the Pompidou Centre to itself for a month. There are a dozen external broadcast monitors, as well as a projection room with three good quality video projectors all projecting the same thing.

Total audience for the opening film d’Avant from Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Damien Jalet, Luc Dunberry and Juan DKruz dian de Garaio Esnaola: fifteen people. Of course this is at 11:30 in the morning.

But Paris is a city of ten million people. And a total audience for the opening film of 15 people. Last night at the reception there were almost five hundred people. So there is a public for dance film parties, albeit small. But for the art itself, almost none.

It does tell me that I am right not to want most of my own dance film work to become stuck in the genre of dance film. The idea of reaching out to a broader audience makes sense.

On the other hand, why bother creating something for which there is no public?

The film d’Avant itself and more particularly the piece of garbage that followed partly explain why there is no public for dance film.

While the performances in d’Avant were strong – particularly the stocky bearded blonde fellow with a beautiful voice – and the setting remarkable (it seemed to be inside some kind of industrial tower at least fifty metres high), the filmmaking was much less so. Just a single DV camera zooming in and out, mostly out.

Some of the dancing was amazing – two men with their hands locked together twisting and turning and lifting and falling, never losing their grip, sometimes at high speed. Innovative stagecraft to two men sharing two sportjackets back to back (it works amazingly enough, each one wearing half of the other’s coat).

But the video was documentation and not filmmaking. Interesting to dancers. Interesting to professionals in choreography, theatre or dance film perhaps. Of almost no interest to anyone else. As long as we project dance documentation as dance film we are only going to narrow the public rather than widen it.

Worse was the pretentious and vapid and self-indulgent tripe from Olga Messa: Suite au dernier mot: au fond, tout est en surface. I believe the Pompidou Centre was somehow involved in the production of this cheap catastrophe or it wouldn’t have been shown. From the hideous red credits at the beginning of the film, to the badly tuned camera (image was smeary and bright and pallid all at the same time), every aspect revealed an absence of taste and skill.

First closeups of Olga Messa reciting navel-gazing reflections without interest. Later her parading naked around a badly lit stage with a small grimace of seduction. Not seduced by either her thoughts or her physique I was glad to have the programme to read through most of this tripe.

One or two such films viewed by someone new to the genre would be enough to put them off dance film for life.

Fifteen people. Fifteen people.

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