Wild Hearts in Strange Times, an hourlong telefilm featured at this year’s incarnation of the world’s oldest dance film and video festival, celebrates Margie Gillis, a force of nature who’s been sallying forth since the late ’70s, performing structureless, nearly stepless dances in the manner of Isadora Duncan. Sister of the late Paul Taylor dancer Christopher Gillis and daughter of two Olympic skiers, she’s been in the limelight most of her life; in this Canadian Broadcasting Corporation program, written and produced by former prima ballerina Veronica Tennant and directed by Joan Tosoni, she shares various stages with celebrities like punk fiddler Ashley MacIsaac, opera star Jessye Norman, American dancer Paola Styron, and students from the National Ballet of Canada.
Wild Hearts, a brilliantly shot and cut “women’s picture” full of snappy clips, would probably not exist but for Canadian content requirements, which goose broadcasters north of the border into focusing on their own, rather than endlessly airing American shows. It opens an evening (Friday at 6:30) dedicated to Canada that also features Can’t Stop Now, a leisurely exploration of the unique Netherlands Dance Theater III, a small troupe employing older dancers recently joined by Karen Kain, Canada’s leading ballerina. Both of these works and Grant Greschuck’s Jeni Legon: Living in a Great Big Way, about a black Hollywood hoofer who found satisfaction (and relative freedom from racism) in Vancouver, are examples of the most accessible genre of dance film: documentaries that combine talking heads, historical footage, and performance excerpts to create intimate portraits of celebrities usually experienced as mute.
The festival opens Friday at 2 with the 1937 French feature Mort du Cygne, starring Russian ballerina Mia Slavenska and French star Yvette Chauviré, and includes, scattered through its many sessions, experimental work from a number of countries. Scan the schedule at www.dancefilmsassn.org/announce.htm