Dallas — Bart Weiss’ love for dance strikes again as the Dallas DocuFest lands another screening of what will surely become a historical documentation of one of America’s finest choreographers.
On Friday, Oct. 4 at the Angelika Film Center Dallas, the Dallas DocuFest will host a screening of director Alla Kovgan’s 3D documentary, Cunningham, which brings to life the work and artistry of one of America’s most unique and innovator choreographers, Merce Cunningham, whose centenary has been celebrated by many dance companies this year. Kovgan’s film follows in the footsteps of another brilliantly constructed dance documentary, Pina, by Wim Wenders, that provided a rare insight into choreographer Pina Bausch’s creative mind and her dancers’ passion for telling stories.
Dance performance can be a fleeting moment in time, sometimes only ever experienced once, and even in that viewing, the audience can miss many of the nuanced movements. However, when captured on film, dance becomes something of an archive — an artifact of a specific time and place.
Wender’s Pina translated the magic of Bausch’s live work to the big screen through 3D technology and an array of interviews with the dancers who first performed the work. Much like its predecessor, Kovgan’s film attempts to do the same while also grappling with Cunningham’s legacy. One of the main questions the film asks is what becomes of ephemeral work, such as dance — which is not something that can be held like a sculpture. Moreover, what becomes of the choreographer after they are no longer creating?
The film focuses on his most prolific working years from 1944 to 1972 weaving together Cunningham’s philosophies and stories, creating an intimate journey into his creative process. Through filmed performances by the last generation of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and interviews with Cunningham and his myriad collaborators (including John Cage and Robert Rauschenberg), the film helps to unpack the choreographer’s forward-thinking take on how to preserve his legacy.
For example, in one scene, Cunningham speaks of how ballet inspires him to choreograph leg movements, and modern dance influences his use of the torso. Then, all of this is displayed by a dancer who when filmed in 3D truly personifies Cunningham’s unique manipulation of the human body. Often set in inventive locations like train tunnels and high-rise rooftops, the film makes a case for Cunningham’s continued relevance — even in a world that no longer contains him.
» The film will be officially released on Dec. 13, but you can see it first this Friday, Oct. 4 at 7 p.m. at the Angelika Dallas. For more information about the screening, click here
» Read Bart Weiss' preview of all the films at DocuFest here