The second weekend of the 2022 Dance Camera West (DCW) Film Festival, led by Executive and Artistic Director Kelly Hargraves opened on Thursday, March 31st at the beautiful and intimate Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz located on the campus of Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles. Program One featured five international documentary dance filmmakers from The Netherlands, Turkey, United Kingdom, Kuwait and Australia. The host of DCW’s International Dance Film Festival was Pierre Leloup, Executive and Artistic Director of the Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz. Leloup has been extremely supportive of Los Angeles dance and deserves more credit for his encouragement than he has received.
Chanel | Sharing all my colours with you (The Netherlands) is a beautiful story of the film’s choreographer Chanel Vyent finding her own voice as a black woman, a dancer and as a choreographer. Vyent is a gorgeous woman and mover living in The Netherlands with family roots in the Republic of Suriname, a country located on the northeastern Atlantic coast of South America. Her body flows like liquid mercury through the dancing that she performs on film, and although one catches glimpses of other dance styles, her way of moving is unique.
In the film, Vyent narrates her journey and relates how through dance she found self-confidence, self-esteem and a purpose in life. The cinematography by Daan de Graaff is stunning and although the editing and direction by Arjen Schotel takes Vyent through many different environments, the flow of her dance remains fluid.
Before When the Dance Creates the Music (Turkey) was shown, there was a short film of Leloup interviewing the Director Ahmet Onur Yildiz. Perhaps this would work for people with no knowledge of dance history but it is also extremely misleading. Yildiz related that the film came out of a master’s degree project at Boğaziçi University in Turkey. His description of how the musician and the two choreographers worked together and/or separately simply is not new or unique. Obviously Yildiz, nor his instructors at the university had ever heard of Merce Cunningham and John Cage who were working with these ideas in the early 1950s and whose work inspired generations of dance artists and composers.
I had a difficult time concentrating on this film after that interview, but what was beautiful in When the Dance Creates the Music was watching the dancers Miray Baci and Elenay Baci perform and listening to the incredible music composed by Duygu Demir. The brief section of the film in which Yildiz overlayed the two shoots of the dancers performing with Demir was quite wonderful. Special mention goes out to Cinematographer Fatig Dirag and Sound Designer Ali Arikok.
Troleibusas (UK), choreographed by Roberta Leščinskaitė and directed by Auguste Baltrunaite, was filmed in a Lithuania where Leščinskaitė was born and raised. Much of the film presents disjoined scenes of traditional Lithuanian dance students taking class, rehearsing and performing. One never gets to see an entire movement sequence which left me frustrated until the films surprise ending.
It was explained at the beginning of the film that traditional Lithuanian dance was adapted for the stage sometime during the 20th century and during that same era, trolley cars danced across Lithuanians cities, but that the two never shared a stage. Well, the surprising and thoroughly charming ending to Troleibusas was a very inventive dance choreographed by Leščinskaitė for those same students and performed inside a trolley car. It was well worth the wait. The Cinematographer was Christopher Speddings and the charming music was composed by Harrison Mullins.
There is not very much dancing that took place in An Evening with Laila (Kuwait) directed by Haya Alghanim and starring Kuwait born dancer, singer and musician Laila Abdulaziz, but it was interesting to learn a little about this talented and courageous woman. The film featured interviews with Abdulaziz, who was a pioneer of music in the Arabian Gulf and staple of Kuwaiti history, along with clips of her performing during the 1970s and ‘80s when it was highly unusual, if not forbidden, for Kuwaiti women to do so. In order to survive as an artist, Abdulaziz relocated to Europe and became quite the celebrity. It was interesting to see footage of her returning to Kuwait to perform for the first time since 1980. Another plus in this short documentary was seeing the ornate costumes and makeup worn by the Kuwaiti women of that period.
Behind Murmuring (Australia) was beautiful film Directed by Ann-Maree Graham and featured one roller-skater and 30 dancers of the Australian Ballet and 2020 Graduate Students of the Australian Ballet School. I do not think that Graham fully realized her vision of recreating on humans the murmuration of starlings that evoke awe from anyone watching them twist, turn, swoop and swirl while forming incredibly beautiful ever-shifting formations. Often there are so many of these birds that they appear to be a cloud that has taken on its own life.
The dancers learned the mostly unison movement on Zoom during the Covid pandemic, finally meeting up in small groups at an Australian pier where the film was shot by Cinematographer Brett Hunter from many angles on the pier and from the air using a drone. The editing comes close to creating the effect that Graham was seeking, but anyone trying to recreate one of nature’s phenomena would be hard pressed to do so. Her attempt was, however, very enjoyable to witness.
My only regret was that I was only able to attend two showing of the DCW2022 Dance Film Festival. I will not make that mistake next year. I hope that our readers will be there as well.
To learn more about Dance Camera West, please visit their website.
To learn more about Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz, please visit their website.
Featured image: Chanel | Sharing all my colours with you (Netherlands) – Choreography by Chanel Vyent – Directed by Arjen Schotel – Photo courtesy of DCW