During and in response to the past 18 or so months of the Covid pandemic, the Washington D.C. based Chamber Dance Project/Dancers & Musicians produced several dance films. Led by Artistic Director Diane Coburn Bruning and Principal Musician Claudia Chudacoff, on Thursday, October 7, 2021 the company will present New Works, New Places: An Evening of Dance on Film in the Justice Forum at the REACH at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts at 6:30 pm and again at 8:30 pm ET.

These films were shot in various locations in Washington, D.C. and around the country. One was filmed here in Los Angeles at the Sepulveda Dam, and over the past few days I was able to view four of these diverse films. The films not reviewed here include premieres of the vibrant ensemble piece Dwellings set on a local rooftop and Fate filmed in the historic Wilkes Street Tunnel in Old Town Alexandria.

Berceuse was choreographed by Diane Coburn Bruning to Benjamin Godard’s Berceuse (a lullaby) which is one movement from his opera Jocelyn. It was filmed in the stark but beautiful atrium of the Milwaukee Museum of Art in July 2020 and featured dancers Luz San Miguel and Davit Hovhannisyan.

Godard’s opera was based on one of French poet, historian and Statesman, Alphonse de Lamartine’s poems telling the story of a young man who intended to accept the religious life but instead fell in love. Sadly, this love was cut short when he was recalled to his seminary and decided to become a man of God. In 1838 Lamartine published the first fragment of this vast metaphysical poem under the appropriate title La Chute d’un ange (“The Fall of an Angel”). Bruning’s 6:53 minute film does not attempt to tell this tale of unrequited love, but it is a duet between a man obviously in love and a woman who appears unreceptive to his attention.

Berceuse contains beautiful performances by dancers Miguel and Hovhannisyan, and Bruning’s choreography was both musical and inventive. The contrasts in this film were striking – the atrium’s all white floor and walls and the all-black costumes; he in love and her stone cold response. This was especially evident against Godard’s lyrical and loving music.

The Videography and Editing for Berceuse was Rachel Malehorn, and Wardrobe was by Bekah Nettekoven Tello.

Over the past year I have viewed and often reviewed many virtual dance films and videos shown on Zoom, Facebook and other websites. a single light (conceived, directed and choreographed by Bruning) falls into that category of at home filming. Recorded often by the dancers performing the movement, sections either work or they do not. This is definitely true in a single light. What enhances and sometimes saves this film, however, is the editing by Salvatore F. Vecchio.

Dancers perform up and down several types of stairways, on and under tables in their living rooms and – no offense to Bruning or the performers – these are scenes that I have seen ad nauseum over the past year plus. I totally sympathize, understand and applaud the effort but this was nothing new or unique.

Chamber Dance Project - Davit Hovhannisyan and Luz San Miguel perform "Berceuse" - Photo by Ania Hidalgo

Chamber Dance Project – Davit Hovhannisyan and Luz San Miguel perform “Berceuse” – Photo by Ania Hidalgo

The two scenes that stood out in a single light are the two that together would make a beautiful dance film. One was shot in a grey room that truly represented the paranoia and fear that many have suffered during this pandemic. The other, a striking duet shot in black and white featuring Luz San Miguel and Davit Hovhannisyan. In these two scenes the camera became one with the choreographer’s vision.

The composer for a single light was James Bigbee Garver. Additional music for female duet was by Chris Biondo; Guitar: Mike Ault. Male stair solo: David Garver; Video Direction was by David Hamlin; Editing by Salvatore F. Vecchio; and Wardrobe was by Bekah Nettekoven Tello.

The cast of a single light included: Davit Hovhannisyan (Camera, Lighting, Rehearsal Assistance), Christian Denice, Julia Erickson, Austin Powers, Luz San Miguel, and Cooper Verona.

Sarabande, also choreographed by Bruning, was first created in 2006 on dancer Victor Quijada who was born and raised in Los Angeles, performed with Rudy Perez, THARP!, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and who became the Founder/Artistic Director/Choreographer of RUBBERBAND. This successful film was shot in July 2020 at the Sepulveda Dam near Los Angeles and features the exceptionally talented Christian Denice. The musical term for Sarabande is defined as a slow stately Spanish dance in triple time and was first used in 17th-century court dances, and thought the movement did not fit that description, Denice was indeed stately.

This solo gave me a sense of a man seeking flight but fated to be earthbound. Due to where it is shot, I could not help but think of the plight of immigrants trying to cross the border into safety. The movement was often restrictive or held back; although Denice in no way held back during his performance. He was barefoot in the desert dirt and on the cement that lines the base of the Sepulveda Dam. His white shirt and pants became dirty as he twisted, evaluated his wings, turned and repeated a tight series of footwork.

The music for Sarabande was from Benjamin Britten’s Simple Symphony; Videography and Editing was by Aaron Cota; and Wardrobe was by Bekah Nettekoven Tello.

Chamber Dance Project - Grace-Anne Powers and Austin Henry Powers performing "In The Silence" - Photo by Owen Scarlett

Chamber Dance Project – Grace-Anne Powers and Austin Henry Powers performing “In The Silence” – Photo by Owen Scarlett

In The Silence was choreographed by Cooper Verona and filmed in a forest near Columbus, Ohio in July of 2020. Performed beautifully by Grace-Anne Powers and Austin Henry Powers, this work spoke to love and loss. It’s only fault was the limited space provided for the dancers; a small square of white dance floor in a small clearing of lush and green forest. The dancers were also in all white which overall helped the viewer’s eye to focus on them and not on their beautiful surroundings.

Verona kept us in suspense as to who is about to lose a loved one, and I will not spoil that by revealing who that was. I enjoyed the choreography considering the space provided and it was extremely appropriate for a love duet. I send kudos to Jennifer Zumda for her videography and editing. The

wardrobe was by Bekah Nettekoven Tello.

If you are in the Washington, D.C. area, I highly recommend that you attend this event.

WHAT: Chamber Dance Project/Dancers & Musicians presents New Works, New Places: An Evening of Dance on Film

WHEN: You may select from the following screenings, each 80 minutes in length: Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021 at 6:30pm and at 8:30pm ET.

WHERE: Justice Forum at the REACH at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

For ticket information and purchase, click HERE.

To visit the Chamber Dance Project/Dancers & Musicians website, click HERE.

For more information about the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, click HERE.

Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle

Featured image: Chamber Dance Project – Christian Denice performs in Sarabande in Los Angeles – Photo by Owen Scarlett