(*homocinematically inclined)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Reverend's Preview: Dance Camera West 2011

As the founder of a famed Massachusetts dance troupe and festival is quoted in a new documentary, "Dance is the one art form that leaves nothing but memories." While the more recent technologies of film and video can now record such "memories" for the ages, dance remains distinct from painting, sculpture and what can be described as tangible or permanent media.

Southern California's annual Dance Camera West Film Festival, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary June 16-19, is a major chronicler of dance's magnificent global evolution. This year's event will take place at a variety of locations in and around Los Angeles, including the Getty Center, UCLA and the Hammer Museum. For a full schedule and to purchase tickets, visit the fest's official website.

The GLBT pinnacle of this year's festival is Never Stand Still, the feature-length documentary referenced above. It will make its West Coast premiere on June 19. The film recounts the fascinating history behind the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, which is derived from the first all-male dance troupe established by choreographer Ted Shawn in 1931. Shawn had been partly paralyzed as a young man, the result of diphtheria, and initially took up dance for strictly therapeutic purposes. He later came across and purchased an abandoned farm in the Berkshires (later learned to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad), which was christened Jacob's Pillow. According to gay choreographer Bill T. Jones, who narrates Never Stand Still, Shawn "wanted to prove dance could be a viable career for men" at a time when it was dominated by women.

Dance was also dominated by ballet when Shawn established Jacob's Pillow, so he set out to expand modern dance as a legitimate field of study and performance. The results were trailblazing. 80 years later, Jacob's Pillow is today considered one of the world's preeminent dance studios by such choreographic luminaries as Mark Morris, Merce Cunningham and Paul Taylor (all of whom are gay and appear in Never Stand Still) as well as acclaimed dancers/performers Marge Champion, Bill Irwin and Rasta Thomas.

The documentary, insightfully directed by Ron Honsa, showcases some remarkable dance pieces featuring an array of diverse styles and techniques. Honsa will be on hand to introduce the screening on June 19. Also not to be missed during DCW is the incredible short film Stronger, which will be shown as part of the "Global Screendance 2" program on Friday, June 17. Two attractive, shirtless male dancers leap through the woods and into the trees during this beautifully choreographed, photographed and edited film.

Whether or not you are a dance aficionado, DCW is the place to be and create new memories this June.

Preview by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Blade California.

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