British dancefilm in Brussels festival

I spent a couple of days in Brussels, where I attended the 6th International Dancefilm Festival L’Art Difficile de Filmer La Danse, which runs 4-7 October at the Cinematek, Danscentrumjette and Argos. The artistic directors are Stefanie Bodien and Wolfgang Kolb, who run the festival together with Roxane Huilmand.

This festival always has one day where it focuses on a particular country, and this time it showed a selection of historical and contemporary British films. Roxane Huilmand and Wolfgang Kolb visited the UK earlier this year where they viewed films at the Lux and the BFI, and met with Gitta Wigro and others. The final selection and curation of the screenings was done by Wolfgang Kolb and Stefanie Bodien, who invited Simon Whitehead to perform at the opening night and asked me to give an overview of dance film in the UK and to introduce the films.

The list of films is included below. It was a great pleasure seeing this selection of films that began with Mime Dance, a 2min film by Ms Mary Montgomery from 1928,  and proceeded via Len Lye’s work for the British, General Post Office (GPO) from the 1930’s and a film by the Rambert Dance Company from the 1970s to work from artists of the London Filmmaker’s Coop, to the more familiar screendance by Peter Anderson, Miranda Pennell and Lloyd Newson, to visual artist Mark Lecky’s Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore (1999), and finished gloriously with Charles Atlas and Michael Clark’s collaboration Hail the New Puritain (1986). The films were organised into four programmes which we watched one after the other, from 3pm to about 10.30pm. It was a feast and most engaging selection and we left hungry for more!

There were some unusual or even controversial works, in particular Dirty (1971), Steven Dwoskin, in which the camera scrutinises two female bodies not unlike most of his other work. A deliberately rough soundtrack and grainy image interfered with the visual consumption of the images to some extend, but more than any other work this film raises questions as to the cinematic gaze and our visual pleasure. Within the 20 or so films and historical narrative, this work was useful though to challenge our spectating. Another intriguing work was Imprint (1974), by Clive Meyer & John Chesworth and the Rambert Dance Company. The 70’s really did take the viewer on a journey and examined the film frame in spectacular ways. I had not seen this film and I found it spellbinding. A film like Boy (1995) by Peter Anderson and Rosemary Lee, perhaps demonstrates the excellence of the area of British TV screendance, and a few other projects could have been included here. But time was limited and finishing the screening with the exhuberant and fantastic Atlas/ Clark collaboration was a brilliant choice in that it embedded dancefilm in a wider cultural context, in this case post-punk London, and played with numerous registers of human frailty and extravagant performance.

Once again I am reminded how important curation is and how much it can open films to new readings and contexts. This programme would be worth taking on tour, to other festivals and other continents. Any takers?

Claudia Kappenberg (Image above: What People Do, Andrew Bar McKay 1981)

List of screened films: 

Memories of Mirrors Ursula Mayer 4’ 9

Mime Dance by Miss Mary Montgomery 2’ 9

Rainbow Dance Len Lye 4’ 9

Between Two Worlds Guy L. Côté 19’ 9

Imprint Clive Meyer & John Chesworth 45’ 9

 

Mantra Jeanette Iljon 6’ 10

Dirty Steven Dwoskin 14’ 10

What People Do Andrew Barr McKay 22’ 10

Falling Under Nicola Baldwin 15’ 10

Pointillist Dance David Leister 14’ 10

 

Dance House n° 2 Tim Albery 6’ 11

Dance House n° 3 Peter Mumford 6’ 11

Boy Peter Anderson/ Rosemary Lee 5’ 11

Lounge Miranda Pennell 7’ 11

Fiorruci Made Me Hardcore Mark Leckey 15’ 11

The Cost Of Living Lloyd Newson 34’ 11

 

Hail the New Puritan Charles Atlas/ Michael Clark 85’ 12

 

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