Posts in Category: Dance

The Ugly Daughter by Warsan Shire

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Dancer/choreographer Ella Mesma performs as Warsan Shire recites her poem. This was one of two dance-poetry pieces premiered at London’s Southbank Centre on October 6, 2014 under the aegis of The Complete Works II, directed by Nathalie Teitler, which gave rise to the Dancing Words project.

Morbleu by Karen McCarthy Woolf

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Dancer and choreographer Ella Mesma collaborated with poet Karen McCarthy Woolf for this dance-poetry film. Fiona Melville shot and directed the film and Andrea Allegra wrote the music. Nathalie Teitler was the producer and creative director for Dancing Words, “a project designed to explore what happens when you bring together the art forms of dance and poetry” (something I’ve been interested in here at Moving Poems for quite some time). The project website includes interviews with Woolf and Mesma about the making of the film. Here are three snippets from Woolf:

I’ve experimented with poetry film before, working with Morbleu director Fiona Melville, but I’d not thought about dance and choreography. What’s amazing to me is how suited it is to lyric poetry – the dancer’s movement is a visual shadow of the white space, the silence and the emotional arc of the poem. […]

For me a film or a collaboration is a way for a poem to take shape in a more three-dimensional format than the page offers – although of course the reader’s imagination is capable of projecting anything onto the screen of the mind! In this sense I see poetry film as an extension of form…

The film is not illustrative of the poem, it’s a new interpretation and that’s exciting. A new collaborative authorship has come to into existence. That to me is the transformative quality of art. Seeing a dancer interpret the words and movement of the piece that in turn responds to the text and soundtrack. Fiona also trained as a painter/fine artist, and I think that she brings that aesthetic to the work. Everyone has a level of expertise to bring to the table. In a sense a collaboration is also a visual ‘reading’ of a poem — you get to experience an audience’s understanding of the work and help shape a communal reinterpretation.

Do read the rest.

An Interview: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes

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This film by Maggie Bailey blends interpretative dance with snippets of a 1961 interview with Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Here’s the description from Vimeo:

An Interview stems from a desire to explore the life of Sylvia Plath. This short film analyzes Plath’s feelings about her relationship with her husband, daily life, and raising her children, through dance and gesture work, paired with excerpts of an interview with Plath and her husband, Ted Hughes. Though she says quite the opposite in this interview, we can infer that she feels a loss of identity and purpose in life, in the midst of caring for a new baby. The year of the interview is 1961, two years prior to Plath’s suicide. Directed & filmed by Maggie Bailey. Edited by Maggie Bailey and Tyler Rubin. Performed by Heather Bybee. Music by Michael Wall. Interview with Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.

The Lie by Anne Waldman

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This is “a random recipe in piecemeal,” according to its creator:

Improvised Movement: Merzili Villanueva
Poem: Anne Waldman
Text Rearrangement + Reading + Audio Recording: Merzili Villanueva
Videography + Video Editing: Merzili Villanueva
Filmed July/August 2015
© 2015 Merzili Villanueva for Let’sLiterasee

Waldman’s poem is first recited in its original form (concluding at 1:43), followed by a condensed selection of lines—a repetition that works well in this context.

You Will Drown For Poems by R.A. Villanueva

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Based on a poem by U.S. poet R.A. Villanueva, this was commissioned by London’s 2015 Dance Film Festival UK—”a collaboration between the dancer/choreographer, Julie Ann Minaai, and Garrett and Garrett, a brother-sister team of filmmakers,” as Villanueva told me via email. Michael and Katie Garrett work for a variety of clients, but according to the Dance Film Festival UK website,

their real passion lies in filmmaking for the arts, particularly, poetry, dance and music. They have won several awards for their dance and poetry pieces as well as producing a documentary which won the Channel 4 short documentary award at the Kendal Mountain Film Festival. […]

The piece “You will drown for poems” is a continuation of their love of collaborative arts projects and mixes poetry with movement for the screen. The key theme in this piece is that of the migrant artist and it reflects upon the importance of one’s work as a link to home and sense of belonging.

I’ve seen a lot of innovative dance-centered poetry films over the years, but this is the first aquatic one that I can remember, and Julie Ann Minaai‘s choreography takes full advantage of the dream-like movement of fabric and diffuse lighting available underwater. The evocative music is credited to Cato Hoeben. As for the poem, it originally appeared in Lantern Review: A Journal of Asian American Poetry, and carries the dedication “for Dennis Kim, 1983-2005.”

Portlet by Kathleen Kelley and Sarah Rose Nordgren

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Where does the poem end and the dance begin? I don’t usually include the filmmaker’s name in the title, but the collaboration between dance and video artist Kathleen Kelley and poet Sarah Rose Nordgren is so tight here, it’s hard to see how to credit the poem exclusively to Nordgren. In an email, she told me that “the poetry and choreography for this piece were done collaboratively, i.e. they were created simultaneously in response to each other.” The result is pure videopoetry.

Portlet is one of three films from their collaborative project Digitized Figures, which has a dedicated page on Kelley’s website where you can view all three as well as a live rehearsal video. Here’s the description:

Digitized Figures: A Practice of Choreographing Text is a collaborative project in development by poet Sarah Rose Nordgren and choreographer Kathleen Kelley. Set to premiere in 2015, Digitized Figures will create an interactive performance environment that weaves words and images through both digital and analog space to investigate the other face of digital technology: its mirrored relationship to organic and evolutionary impulses.

The final version of this installation will include 3 video projections that surround and react to the viewer, animating poems as living and responsive text. Visitors to the installation will be able to move through each of the projections, changing and redirecting them with their own gestures. In addition to the projections, there will be dancers performing live in the space, providing a geometric embodiment that works contrapuntally to the abstraction of the moving words. The viewers will be able to interact with the dancers using touchscreens that give the dancers qualitative and emotional directions.

I’ve featured poetry-dance videos on this website since its inception; it’s a fascinating genre. With the inclusion of “dancing” text animation and the incorporation of the videos into a live, interactive installation/performance, this project really pushes the genre forward.

The Hollow Men by T. S. Eliot

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I think “The Hollow Men” has just found its ideal multimedia interpretation. I remember being utterly enthralled with Eliot’s poem at age 13, and this projection performance video from the artist duo Decomposing PianosJulia Krolik and Owen Fernley—brings it all back. Here’s the description:

T.S. Eliot’s 1925 poem The Hollow Men is spoken in unison by a trio of computer generated voices. Photography, code-generated video, original music and choreography are combined for performance. This work was part of Chipped Off’s wasteAWAY.

Performed: June 4th to 6th, 2015 at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, Kingston ON.
Dancers: Meredith Dault, Tracey Guptill & Helena Marks
Chipped Off: Kim Renders, Robin McDonald and Dan Vena

See Facebook for more on the Chipped Off Performance Collective.