The Dance on Camera Festival, When Dance Is Only on Camera


The dance is intercut with naturalistic flashbacks of their budding relationship, the relationship now under pressure. And that pressure has a sound: police radio, James Baldwin’s voice, protesters chanting “I can’t breathe.” As the tension mounts, she seems, at one point, to pledge allegiance to him and, at the next, to pin him to the ground, police style. The setting and cinematography are crucial here, as are the believable performances, but it’s Ms. Misner’s choreography that brings us inside the woman’s painful reckoning with white guilt.

Also strong, in a different way, is “Welcome to a Bright White Limbo,” directed by Cara Holmes. “Welcome” is apt, because this 10-minute film is essentially an introduction to the remarkable Belfast choreographer Oona Doherty. It situates her in her working-class habitat of cul-de-sacs and dart boards, samples some of her pugnacious solo “Hope Hunt” and lets us hear her thoughts in voice-over.

As in “Bend,” the elements are in balance: the honesty of Ms. Doherty’s dancing in harmony with the honesty of the filmmaking and the honesty of her words. A show is a failure, she says, if a viewer’s body doesn’t know what her body means, if her audience doesn’t feel it in the stomach. By that measure, this short dance film is a success.

The feature-length selections of this year’s festival are dominated by documentaries. And these longer films share a fault: Too much talking, not enough letting dance speak for itself.

In a few, the imbalance seems somewhat justified, a deliberate choice of form. Both Peter Vulchev’s “A Monologue in the Intermission” and Edoardo Gabbriellini’s “Kemp: My Best Dance Is Yet to Come” are rage-against-the-dying-of-the-light monologues: the first by Vesa Tonova, a cigarette-smoking, Bulgarian ballerina on the edge of forced retirement; the second by the flamboyant mime Lindsay Kemp, dropping names and making faces at 80. With the primary focus on such personalities, the performance footage becomes acceptably secondary, a photo album flipped through while listening.

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