Belgian artist Marc Neys A.K.A. Swoon recently released two entirely different films for a poem by his great countryman Hugo Claus: “a ‘European Dance-version’ (using Hugo’s reading from Lyrikline) and an ‘American Road movie version’ using a fantastic reading Michael Dickes made from the English translation by John Irons,” as he put it in a blog post.
‘since January 14, 2015, I’ve been posting one minute of dance to this blog every day, simply, without editing or effects, in the place and state of mind I find myself that day, with no special technique, staging, clothing, or makeup, nothing but what is there.’
I asked if I could use one of her ‘minutes’ (2 février 2015 – 20e danse) for this videopoem. I could.
I simply adore this combination of Hugo’s poem, his voice and her dancing in the snow.
Enjoy! (There’s also a version with French subtitles: https://vimeo.com/118980966)
The source of the ‘road movie’ version is a music video by the collective ESNAF
Their video for ‘The Long Haul’ by NO (cinematography by Jovan Todorović) had all the ingredients I needed for the English version of the poem. I believe the little storyline is the perfect match for the poem and Michael Dickes’ reading.
This is the second of two films by Marie Craven using Poetry Storehouse poems by A.M. Thompson. (I also liked the first, Unavoidable Alchemy, but felt that it ended too abruptly.) Here she has used footage by Mollie Mills, guitar music by Josh Woodward and a voiceover by Nic S. to create a surprisingly upbeat video remix. I’ll let viewers decide whether it succeeds, but I salute its boldness as an experiment in confounding expectations. (Read the text.)
Be afraid of poets –
they have a hand-grenade
made of dreams…
The late Pakistani poet Zeeshan Sahil “has often been praised for writing in a simple yet profound manner”—a simplicity admirably captured in this short film from Umang, directed by Fahad Naveed and narrated by Mahvash Faruqi with a performance by dancer Suhaee Abro.
Be sure to click on the CC icon for the English subtitles, translated by Nauman Naqvi, or click through to the Umang website to read the full text in English and Urdu.
‘Arctic Ache’ is a video derived from ‘Poem Nº 6’, which is part of a series about climate change and its effects on the Arctic written by Greenlandic artist and poet Jessie Kleemann. In ‘Poem Nº 6’, the self appeals to reminiscences in search of wisdom to overcome a bleak and gloomy future; it is a voice that comes not from the hegemonic centre, but from the margins, proving that in those margins knowledge is also recreated and reflections are articulated by means of other imagery, that of the Greenlandic people. As glaciers melt and mundane desires shape politics, the poetic-self wonders if this is really her land. The video itself contrasts the present-day reality with a sense of place nestled in the memory of the poet. Images lead the mind to different places away from the spoken word and that combination conjures and evokes new meanings and creates another level of suggestion and interpretation.
The dancer is Alison Brewerton.
I can’t believe I’d never run across this terrific poetry-dance film before today, when a Google video search for Gwendolyn Brooks’ most famous poem turned it up. The YouTube description reads:
National Dance Institute’s Celebration Team performs “We Real Cool” in an NDI original movie short. Scenery by Red Grooms. Poem by Gwendolyn Brooks. Choreography by Amy Lehman. (movie contains full credits)
There’s a more populist aesthetic at work here than in most of the dance videos I’ve shared, and it’s also a proper film, not merely a documentary video of a dance performance. And no wonder: it was the work of Emile Ardolino, “a dance-film maker of exceptional sensitivity” according to his 1993 obituary in the New York Times. He was best known as the director of Dirty Dancing and Sister Act. The obituary continued: “He had an eye and an imagination that seemed to understand intuitively how to lend the immediacy of film to an art that often requires the distance and framing of a stage.”
The overhead shot of the kids imitating a pool game was my favorite part, but the device of having them emerge from a painting was brilliant, too. You might be wondering, as I was, how Ardolino and these celebratory dancers are going to deal with the poem’s morbid last line without resorting to melodrama. I think they pulled it off.
National Dance Institute (NDI) is
a non-profit arts education organization founded in 1976 by ballet star Jacques d’Amboise.
Through in-school partnerships, workshops, and public performances, NDI uses dance as a catalyst to engage children and motivate them towards excellence.
It sounds as if the NDI had a lot to do with Ardolino’s subsequent box-office success, judging from the Times obituary.
It was Jacques d’Amboise, a principal dancer with the City Ballet, who set Mr. Ardolino on his Hollywood career with an invitation to direct “He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin’.” An account of Mr. d’Amboise’s work with children, which won Mr. Ardolino the 1983 Academy Award for best documentary feature, two Emmys, a Peabody Award and other honors.
We Real Cool was made the very same year as Dirty Dancing, according to a timeline on the NDI site.
- A Celebration of Literature unites important American writers, composers, visual artists and choreographers to create short, theatrical ballets for children. “We Real Cool” is created from the poem by Gwendolyn Brooks, and is filmed in a vacant lot in New York City’s Lower East side, with a backdrop mural designed by Red Grooms.