Dance & Film. A carnal relationship.


Photo still detail Open Land, Film.

Choreography by Manuela Bernasconi and Francesca Sproccati.

Photography by Ariel Salati.

Written and Directed by Felix B.Q.

The following text is a segment presented in the subject matter of choreography and film for Reso's Choreographic Laboratory, Basel 2017.

The magic of film has always been limited by the ability to make an audience imagine and extend his presence into another world. As Luis Buñuel used to say, when the lights of the theatre darken, the dreamworld takes over.

In a time of fluctuating and recurrent image activity the custom of conventional narration to relate with an audience is at stake. The game is evolving. As much as we love to be told a bedtime story we have heard many times, close to the same way we have seen it or heard it before, the hum in repetition is generating extraordinary layers in the evolution of storytelling. The constant availability of image in motion is providing new grounds for the arts. We are overwhelmed by blockbusters and CGI, and we love it. Besides, experimental artistic activity tends to be an end to itself, for the divide with more commercial and entertainment driven production becomes preponderant and generates static endogamic environments with little propulsion or imagination.

The bulk of my latest work, in its core collaborative, has been driven by the propagation of an artist’s personal creativity into a sort of void storytelling. During creation where there was silence, soft elements would appear that would confront and shake absolute or established narrative pillars that wouldn’t move the story forward: and keys of access to a particular story would be hidden in a choreographed gesture, movement, or aesthetic phrase leaving the rest for an audience to make out. This pushed a narrative tension generated by a constant feeling of concern, that of finding a story through a new language. But an audience does not want to work (at least consciously), it wants to enjoy or be given something unique to taste and experience.

During one of our latest productions, mid length film Open Land, post-production work was as intense and important in the conformation of how the story was told (and in many ways discovered), as was the construction of the screenplay and production itself. Axis elements were threefold: dance, music (and therefore also silence) and narration cutting through a crime story. Where there should be a plot point, the audience gets a dance sequence and music: what is seemingly abstract suddenly is charged with a need for comprehension. Choreography becomes structure but it provides a changing a fragile dynamic equilibrium: change a little step here and it all falls into a meaningless void. Choreography as structure also requires for a film camera to become an external body that relates to the movement generating soft tissue in plot, and a weird relationship with our audience. In such a construction, dance enhances an open ended narration and throws back the ball onto the audience.

Gaston Bacherlard’s genius and visionary intuition long anticipated the acknowledgment for an artist to seek the image behind the image in order to propagate that which generates poetic imagination. Through dance, and the immediate specular relationship with an audience, we can get close to suggesting this image behind an image: and the camera becomes as relevant as an external body interacting, proposing subtlety and variation.

The availability of the camera as a body is very relevant in filmmaking today. Digital image does not bear the weight of film. Participative levels of image construction (V.R., web and live performances) is very fast entering into mainstream storytelling and film narration. Technology and cognitive evolution is opening new ways to present a film’s subject: we are the subject and the audience at the same time. This merges space and time thus opening traditional compromise in the game of filmmaking, image in motion, dance and storytelling.

If the camera becomes a body itself (it already is through our cel phones, etc), then the rules of engaging with an image also shift, and the precision in movement / relation within a frame can generate tension, suspense, laughter, poetry, eroticism, and ultimately psychologic activity in a way we have not experience before: suddenly what is more important is what is happening “behind” the camera, not beyond the frame but in itself the act of recording.

Perhaps in proposing an unavailable presence (behind the camera) to an immediately available system (the filmed image) fires up new layers in understanding that an audience can enjoy and feel anew: and to a certain extent unbounded by the passage of time. A choreographed dance environment can then enter the entire neuralgic relationship as a dialogue with the exterior world beyond the frame, becoming as relevant to a story as a dialogue between two characters within a frame.

In its most primitive manifestation to man there was dance: it has also been perfected during the 20th century close to a sublime art-form. In many cultures (Japan, Bali, Africa, Oceania) it has developed into a very specific and symbolic language: a construction that moves and liberates. The latter perhaps more linked to the use of masks as a psychomotor map of creative activity. The greeks would dance their way out of a labyrinth. Inevitably dance is linked to our psique and thought in more ways than we are actually exploring. Its relationship to new forms of technology and perception today are of extraordinary potential, we are only beginning to understand.

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