The latest film in the Dancing Words project directed by Fiona Melville (with creative direction from Nathalie Teitler) pairs poet Malika Booker and dancer/choreographer Leon Rose. Here’s the description from the project website:
Sweet Liquor is a collaboration between renowned black British poet, Malika Booker and dancer/choreographer Leon Rose. The poem is taken from Booker’s prize winning collection Pepper Seed (Peepal Tree Press) and explores the world of the soca fete. It tells the story of a young Caribbean soldier, recently returned from war with psychological scars, who finds out that he has been re-drafted.
The piece explores a dance-poetry collaboration in which the dance centers around social dancing: its impact on the individual and the community. The aim was to make something experimental and edgy with a political message. In selecting the dancer/choreographer the goal was to find someone who would look totally natural dancing soca, as well as being a skilled professional dancer/choreographer. Latin and contemporary dancer, internationally known Leon Rose, who has twenty years of dance and choreography experience, was the perfect choice: both he and Malika have been going to Carnival since they were a few months old. Their mothers would argue that they took part in Carnival while in the womb. When the piece was being filmed, it quickly became clear that there was something magical in the way the two artists danced together; it spoke both of the relationship between the man and the woman in the poem, but also spoke to the wider relationships between genders in this part of the world. Here we see a woman as the strong voice and rock able to contain and comfort a young, damaged man. Combined with the beautiful and haunting pan music of composer Kyron Akal, (composed for this piece) the result was a piece which challenges stereotypes of soca and carnival and brings a beautiful, fierce poem to life.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 Pianos—Julia 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.