Sunday 10 July 2011

The Performers (2011)

Director: Bob Miller
My favourite No Festival Required screening of the year is always the selection of short films shown at the Phoenix Art Museum. Here's Selection 2011.
Bob Miller's website describes him as a photographer and a visual journalist and both those arts are capably showcased here in a short piece about dancers at the BalletMet Columbus, shot as a project in multimedia storytelling at Syracuse University but also available to view at Vimeo. We listen to sound clips from interviews with dancers, quick and pithy comments that occasionally overlap, combining to provide an common impression, one that the visuals aim to bolster. There is no direct connection between the two; we have no idea who is speaking and who we're looking at. Everyone is just a nameless dancer, but that's appropriate given the comments about leaving their bodies and becoming the characters that they portray. We don't need to have their names on screen and we don't need to know who is speaking. We only need to understand the moments that they speak to.

While the piece is short, less than six minutes even when you factor in the credits, it's composed thoughtfully, very much a piece of two halves. The first half speaks to capturing the moment, so the visuals are still photographs, artfully shot with as much attention to colour as to composition. As the comments speak to escape, transformation, living in the moment, everything remains still and exotic. Then halfway through, just as a dancer speaks about coming back to reality, the film does that and returns to what we expect a film to do: move. Sure enough, the comments begin to address movement and we see a range of visuals tied to that, showing us what a human body can do. No wonder these dancers feel so alive while practicing their art, whether on stage or not. It's more than performance, it's who they are. They're dancers who dance because it's how they connect to the universe. That's what the film succeeds in showing us.

The Performers can be viewed at Vimeo.

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