For her Kinetic Cinema program, LIQUID FILMS, cinedance pioneer, Amy Greenfield, takes dance into the water in a splash of amazing classic and neo cine-dance from 1903 to the 21st century, to transform the very nature of dance as only a screen medium can. Anna Brady Nuse interviewed Amy to find out why this theme, “Liquid” excites her:
Liquid is sexy and always in motion and catches the light. It dances. And I found over the years so many liquid cinedances I love and feel connected to because of my own film “Tides”. And I thought how great it would be to see them all flow together.
They break boundaries which I feel still need to be broken in the field – there’s no way you can take dance and a camera into the water and not have kinetic cinema. And the definition of dance itself changes, becomes re-united with natural movement and at the same time transformed in the liquid flow, breaking totally with a tradition of dance vocabulary. All of these qualities are wonderful for cinematic material – they deal with color and light in relation to the body in motion on a cinematic level – a dynamic, unpredictable flow for both dance and camera. I feel that too much screen dance is static, and flat and unaware of the essence of cinema, which is light in motion, and how it can replace the third dimension with a transposed heightened plasticity.
“Nymph Of The Waves” was one of the first liquid cinedances, and is now an early film classic, and was perhaps the first use of a superimposition in the history of cinema. The connection was made right at the beginning, because it was a natural fit. One of Isadora Duncan’s great sources of inspiration was the movement of the ocean, but only with cinema could dance and the rhythms and motion and world of water come together and be communicated.
Your program spans the entire history of cinema. How have technological changes affected filmmakers’ treatment of this subject – water and the moving body?
To me what’s marvelous is what we do with the technology we have. Technology itself changes the kinds of films we can make but not the quality.
Yet it’s wonderful that now an individual filmmaker can successfully shoot with a light portable video camera of high enough quality underwater for a not staggering price tag. When Reifenstahl made the diving sequence from “Olympia” she had to invent technology to shoot it – gigantic cameras with a gigantic crew. But here are underwater dance films being made one-on-one, and we feel the intimacy, as in “Rapt”. And Elle Burchill can be the filmmaker and underwater dancer herself, an autobiographic cinedance. And Ben Dolphin shoots digitally with the high speed Phantom camera which can create slower than slow motion, a camera he uses for shooting TV commercials, here used for an experimental, personal cinedance.
In your film, “Tides”, the choreography of the camera is as integrated as the movement of the body being filmed. How did you direct this duet and then shape it in the editing?
I’d worked with Hilary Harris before in my film “Element” which is the mate to “Tides”. By the time we made “Tides” we almost communicated by osmosis, because we had “Element” as a basis. In “Tides” I wanted him with the Lo Cam handheld, actually standing in the waves himself, experiencing the same movement I was subjected to. And unless the film ran out or I ran out of steam we couldn’t stop, so the communion could build. The physical set-up worked in relation to communicating some key kinetic concepts: the extreme slow-motion, the movement of the camera in flow and counterflow to the human motion, and never losing the essential kinetic point of tension, where the body and ocean met. After the first shoot, looking at and discussing the film rushes became paramount -my pointing out “I want more of that, but more like this” or “I don’t want that” etc. Sometimes I directed with my hands – one hand the human motion, the other hand the camera motion, moving the hands as I wanted the two to symbiotically relate. This sense came from the fact that I had a film image going on on automatic inside my head while I was performing. So when I saw some kind of correspondence in the actual footage to that imaginary ideal film, that’d be great. While Hilary could never be inside my head, sometimes he came close.
The artists on your program represent a great range of filmmaking styles and approaches. Which are most like yours and which are the most different? Have any had an effect on your filmmaking? How?
All the films on the program are different, yet united by the maker truly wedding the surge and flow and weightless state and viscosity to how the camera moves in relation to the mover moving through the water. In that sense I feel a commonness with all the films. I feel close to the daring to expose the nude body in Sara Joel and Jody Oberfelder’s “Rapt”, the kinetic tension combined with slow motion in Ben Dolphin’s “Arising”, the film-maker herself in a journey in the water in “Mother/Daughter”, and when I saw “Immersion” several years ago I felt I wished I could have made a film something like it and felt I’d show it some day.
But the film-makers which have had the greatest affect on my film-making are Maya Deren and Kenneth Anger. Not Deren’s “Study In Choreography For Camera” except for the editing, but the beginning of “At Land”, which had such a direct influence on “Tides”, “Meshes Of The Afternoon” and “Ritual in Transfigured Time” for so many reasons, including the always inner drama coming from the silent language of movement, the border between metaphoric and real, natural movement and unnatural states, the woman’s silent journey, the strictness of structure, the mystery, the intensity. And her writing on film and dance. Kenneth keeps a great deal of this but does away with psychodrama. I hadn’t seen most of his work when I made a lot of my films but I know I was influenced by “osmosis”. He’s so powerful. Mystery and simplicity and the ‘dance’ totally part of the fabric of the film, and between the cuts, everything so cinematically visual/visionary, yet corresponding to some unknown invisible world and force. “Eaux D’Artifice” is a masterpiece. “Tides” was also influenced by Reifenstahl’s Diving Sequence from “Olympia”: the sculptural athleticism of the camera, the off axis turn of the camera, the dramatic point of intersection of body and water, the use of slow motion.
Coming up next at Kinetic Cinema:
Curated by Amy Greenfield
Wednesday, November 11, 2009, 7:30pm
Reservations: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/87612The Tank 354 West 45th Street New York, NY 10036 212.563.6269 www.thetanknyc.org
Films include: “Nymph Of the Waves“, by American Mutoscope and Biograph, one of the first dance films ever made, superimposes the dancer with the ocean waves, as well as Amy Greenfield’s primal “Tides”, with Greenfield and camera operator, Hilary Harris, both braving the ocean tides in their symbiotic camera dance. Kenneth Anger’s restored “Eaux D’Artifice”, with his “Water Witch” in the Tivoli fountain, is one of the great classics of the American avant-garde, and Ben Dolphin’s “Arising” has us flying joyfully with his dancers inside a waterfall, blurring an artificial screen world and the natural world. Jodi Kaplan’s “Immersion”, Jody Oberfelder and Sara Joel’s “Rapt”, Elle Burchill’s “Mother Daughter” and Izabella Pruska-Oldenhof’s “Pulsion” all made recently, are original, daring, entrancing, lyrically beautiful new cine-dances envisioning women moving in real underwater worlds.