Thursday, December 20, 2012
The Rentless Chronicals - short review
I love artists who make it happen. Whatever that means in their environment or circumstances. I love artists who make the work because the work needs to be made. Because they are compelled to share their creative, philosophical and aesthetic voice with the world. Because the world needs them to share their voice and they create in response to that draw.
Wendi Baity's work with her first two short dance films in an ongoing series called the Relentless Chronicles (Relentless Dance Theater) is soaked in this sense of mission and personal drive. The films are short glimpses into Baity's view of the world, the human being and the dancer.
The first film, Home is a State of Mind, features an exquisite trio of dancers who are powerful, expressive and personal in their performance. I am by no means a film critic (so please accept my layman's vocabulary and understanding of film editing) but I am a student of composition, and I found this first film rugged and imperfect in a way that suited the material. The editing was simple and clean, the imagery was strong, and the dance phrases were emotionally compelling. The still images by Lisa Flory were stunning with rich portraits of these individuals. I was particularly impressed with the site specific dance phrases (both in unison and in solos), specifically the moments when the dancers were on the dusty ground and kicking up dirt with their boots. It felt dry and desolate. And, a deep sense of desperation welled up inside of me.
The second film already possessed a more refined sense of imagery and screen composition utilizing more extensive camera movement and editing to create visual interest in the performance space which is a dance room. This piece entitled Not a Number, deals more directly with the very sensitive dance topic of individuality in a very competitive dance world. I have never attended a commercial dance audition-- in part because I was so invested in the academic world through my younger dancing years and in part because I was just too scared. But luckily many dancers have the guts to put themselves out there, time and time and time again. The commercial dance world is an exciting and intoxicating place, but in those huge cattle call auditions (where hundreds upon hundreds of dancers come for their chance at a gig) you become girl number #147 with the red leotard and blonde hair. Nameless and dismissable. So, what does a dancer do? The film suggest at the end, a dancer has to decide to either play the game or not. And, as the film finished I did get a sense that the dancers were choosing their own paths which left me nodding my head in approval.
Not A Number started out really strong for me. However, I found was not as drawn into the film. The film as a whole seemed more sleek. The dancers were strong, each with stunning featured moments. But, as a whole I didn't feel as strong of a connection with the performers. I am not sure why. . . I think I wanted to know more of their stories. Baity's chose to use predominantly strong and fast movement (punching and slashing action efforts) for this film, but because they all danced similarly I think made them seem more similar than different. I saw the dancers as a unified group rather than independent individuals striving to be something different.
Overall, Baity's efforts in these short films should be applauded. Not only are they engaging stories, but they prove that dance itself can have a message for social change that is meaningful. Baity has already filmed 7 of these Chronicles which are now in editing and post production. I honestly look forward to seeing these other films. I want the world to see dance that is gritty and raw, passionate and personal.
I hope you will take a moment to check out these films and see how they speak to you as a dancer as a human being. If you have insights to film studies, maybe you can share your observations and insights into the pieces.
Cheers to art being made because it HAS to be made!