Thursday 8 June 2023

Dance/Film: Worlds collide

Motion Picture
New Collaborations in Dance and Film
Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler's Wells, London • 7.Jun.23

A world premiere event on a big screen, this special programme featured two short films made by a choreographer in partnership with a film director. It was a terrific evening attended by the filmmakers, including a number of cast and crew. The two shorts are evocative and inventive, experimentally using dance to tell a story. And they look glorious on the big screen. Each was accompanied by a behind-the-scenes doc, and the event concluded with a terrific Q&A and drinks reception. The films are now available on Sadler's Wells Digital Stage.

Inside the Blind Iris
dir Douglas Bernardt • choreo Botis Seva
with Botis Seva, Victoria Shulungu, Joshua Nash, Joshua Shanny-Wynter, Jordan Douglas, Hayleigh Sellors, Rory Clarke, Amanda Pefkou • 23/UK

Unfolding like a dream, this poetic piece features dancer-choreographer Botis Seva, waking up outside an imposing warehouse. Going inside, he is confronted by a range of intense memories and haunting figures that challenge him. The dancing has an edgy urgency that's fascinating, as performers occupy shapes and spaces with a range of attitudes. As if designed by Salvador Dali, there are puppetmasters pulling strings, eyeballs watching through doorways and enormous hands reaching out from the shadows. It's staggeringly visceral and visually punchy, shot in bold colours and grainy 16mm black and white, so it feels like a vintage experimental film. 

The engaging documentary short Beyond the Camera: Botis X Doug, directed by Sarah Vaughan-Jones, explores how Seva and Brazilian filmmaker Douglas Bernardt developed the project together over six months, then ambitiously shot it on location with their cast and crew. Their creative personalities come through strongly, as does the thrill they get working together.

Air de Temps
dir Ben Williams  • choreo Alesandra Seutin 
text Alesandra Seutin, Lisette Ma Neza, Assata Shakur
with Amy Collé Seck, Fatou Niang, Dieynaba Ndoye, Astou Diop, Ousmane Cissé Diané, Latif Arafan Wahab Diedhiou, Birame Faye, Amadou Diop, Cheikh Ibrahim Thiam, Gana Thioune • 23/Senegal

Shot in the coastal town of Bargny in Senegal, this short adapts a theatre piece by the same name, but places it into real-world locations. Because scenes are set in run-down warehouses, abandoned swimming pools, muddy streets or littered beaches, there's a proper sense that this community is feeling left behind. So the words and movement become a fierce expression of empowerment, people demanding that they aren't forgotten and reclaiming both the land and the history for future generations. This film is a powerful protest that comes from the heart and is witnessed in the determined faces of the dancers.

The process of making this film is described in the short doc Beyond the Camera: Alesandra X Ben, also directed by Sarah Vaughan-Jones. It traces how choreographer Alesandra Seutin and director Ben Williams team up to adapt the stage piece for the screen, adapting it into something new. Shot in just three long, hot days, the tenacity of the filmmakers and their cast is vivid.

After the screening, a Q&A was hosted by Digital Stage Director Bia Oliveira with Seva, Bernardt and Williams present, and Seutin on a video link from Senegal. Their good-natured banter revealed fascinating details about their working processes, including witty anecdotes and lots of well-deserved mutual praise.



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