Dance, Dance Or We Are All Lost!

What a joy: Wim Wender’s PINA is nominated for an Oscar award in the documentary category. Although the Oscars aren’t necessarily a symbol of artistic quality to me, I can’t deny a certain interest in those films that made it onto the short list of nominations. And PINA would actually deserve the award. On the occassion of this nomination, I’ll write about PINA and other wonderful documentaries focussing on dance this week.

The famous choreographer Pina Bausch and the renown director Wim Wenders wanted to make a movie together. But Bausch’s sudden death in 2009 brought the project to a sudden halt. Luckily, Wenders decided to finish the movie nevertheless and developed PINA with the international dancers of Bausch’s Wuppertal Company.

In different spots of Wuppertal, they staged various scenes from various pieces by Bausch. The city of Wuppertal with its industrial charme becomes the stage of the movie, and by usins her hometown as a artistic background, Pina Bausch becomes even more present as well. The dancers and the performances are pure passion. They show desperation, love, loss and success – and they simply draw the audience into the movie. Although there is no sign of narration or plot, PINA develops a certain tension that cannot simply be put down to spectatorship. This dance movie is transformed into a thriller of movement, and the audience is constantly wondering what will be next.

The decision to shoot and only screen the film in 3D seemed a perfect fit to me. But PINA was my first 3D movie, and I ended up focussing more on the effects – which certainly need improvement with quick movement – than the film. So that’s the only aspect I would critize: The movie itself is great, it doesn’t need a third dimension stealing all the attention.

Tanzträume (D: Anne Linsel, Rainer Hoffmann, GER 2010)

Here you can see Pina Bausch at work, practicing her piece „Kontakthof“ with 40 students. The film shows interviews and the rehearsals, and it describes the entire process of the project, the experiences of the students. By doing so, the movie gives us an eep insight into Pina Bausch’s work.

La Danse (D: Frederick Wiseman, USA 2010)

Frederick Wiseman is a famous “Direct Cinema” director. The “Direct Cinema” style calls for simple observation and no interference by interviewing people or staging anything during or after the shoot. Directors like Frederick Wiseman simply turn on the camera and film whatever happens. These films do seem like documents at first sight, but by choosing the frame, scenes and cuts they actually do construct the film as well.

Wiseman is a master of his trade. In his movie La Danse, he filmed the famous ballet ensemble of the French Opera in Paris and staged them in the most beautiful way. With hardly any words, this – very long – film shows the rehearsals, the auditions and performances of the world famous company. I could have watched these ballerinas forever and was almost disappointed when the film ended after more than two and a half hours.

Crazy Horse (D: Frederick Wiseman, USA 2011)

It seems that Wiseman didn´t have enough of dance or Paris after finishing La Danse, so he only changed the filming location. The Crazy Horse is one of the worlds best strip clubs, and it’s quite a priviledge to dance here. Wiseman shows the reahearsals, the preperations of the venue, the sewing of the costumes and simply all that goes into the amazing live show. Crazy Horse is not quite as long as La Danse, but certainly just as much a “must see”.

Rythm is it! (D: Thomas Grube, Enrique Sánchez Lansch, GER 2004)

„You can change your life in a dance class!“. That is what choreographer Royston Maldoom tells the students of Berlin’s social disadvantaged schools. He and Sir Simon Rattle, chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonics, develop a performance that should not only be fun, but especially allow the kids to get a fresh perspective. The film accompanies the project, it features interviews with both the young adults and the teachers. Rythm is it! shows how the participants change because of this dance project; we get to see how their self confidence grows and how they start taking encouragment.

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