“A dance is there to be danced.”
Last week, we took a look at Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin, a film driven by its striking visuals and sound design. “I wonder what cinema could have been had it not gone down the word road,” Glazer muses. “I’m… obsessed by images… How they sing, how they sync.”
Here at Lights, we share that fascination with cinematography. It’s one reason we’re drawn to dance films – there’s something primal about lensing movement; about that interplay between camera and subject.
Perhaps they tap into what dancer, animator, and architect Terah Maher calls “kinesthetic empathy”, the ability to feel movement and the emotions it expresses. “When I first began choreographing, I never thought of it as choreography but as expressing feelings,” modern dance legend Pina Bausch reflected. “Though every piece is different, they are all trying to get at certain things that are difficult to put into words.”
What can cinema be when it does not go down the word road?
To contribute to the conversation, here are three recent dance short films that inspired us:
#1 – Medicine | Directed by Charles Baldassarra
“A love story tangled in addiction”, shot in an abandoned warehouse in Paris using a Red Dragon, DJI Ronin camera stabilizer, and natural lighting.
Medicine is a powerful marriage of dance and performance, with energetic camera movement and editing that externalize the characters’ tumultuous relationship:
#2 – LAURA | Directed by Arnaud Uyttenhove
Blurs the line between narrative and documentary, following “a young dancer from the Paris Opera Ballet who worries about the future and her vocation as a classical dancer.”
The opening scene casts a hypnotic spell, as we watch Laura dance her way sans music toward the camera. Uyttenhove’s piece is fascinating for its reliance on sound design to draw us into the experience of Laura’s physically demanding career:
#3 – Life is a Dance | Directed by Sebastian Linda
A transporting journey through epic locations featuring multiple dancers, connected via match cuts and other smooth transitions, that encourages us to lead full lives.
Life is a Dance showcases the talent of its performers as well as the logistical and technical prowess of the team behind the camera – the ease with which the film unfolds belies the hard work that went into pre-production:
“There is no goal, no end. A dance is there to be danced.”
As, perhaps, a film is there to be experienced. Plenty of films satiate our appetite for traditional storytelling, but sometimes we want something different – we want a Tree of Life, an Upstream Color, an Under the Skin; films that conduct a symphony of sight and sound to move us on a primal level that transcends words.
Michael Koehler, with
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