English, Dutch, and Canadian government agencies lead the way in nurturing collaborations between filmmakers and choreographers, if “Dance on Camera Festival 2001” (additional events at the Puffin Room and Donnell Media Center) is any indication. But projects supported by the National Initiative to Preserve America’s Dance stand out in this year’s crop of 15 films, notably Bomba: Dancing the Drum (directed by Ashley James), which traces the evolution of bomba through several generations of the Cepeda family in Manhattan and Puerto Rico; and the delicate Breath, a 15-minute condensation of Eiko and Koma’s 1998 Whitney installation. The latter video is almost heartbreakingly erotic, as Jerry Pantzer’s camera caresses the nude bodies of movement artists who gently turn and stretch, their contours contrasting dramatically with the mound of leaves in which they roll.
An unexpected treat is Meilan Lam’s 1998 Showgirls (not to be confused with Paul Verhoeven’s sordid epic of the same name), a compilation of clips from Montreal’s tenderloin spanning the late ’20s to the ’60s, intercut with the matter-of-fact recollections of three elderly black women who danced in jazz clubs during their heyday. Wonderful visions of the international ballet world during the ’50s and ’60s emanate from Erik Bruhn—I Am the Same, Only More (2000), directed and written by the regal Danish dancer’s longtime friend Lennart Pasborg.
For the first time, a couple of shorts have been anointed “Best of Festival”: the 1999 Rest in Peace (directed by Annick Vroom), a Dutch-British collaboration in which four siblings go berserk in the family home following the death and funeral of their parents; and a Canadian entry, A Very Dangerous Pastime (2000), a send-up of attempts to demystify dance. Produced by the Canada Dance Festival and directed by Laura Taler, Pastime splits the screen into three sections, simultaneously providing clips of various Canadian dance works, commentary by a range of viewers, and subtitles in both the country’s official languages. Perfect for people with short attention spans, it frustrates if you want to concentrate on either the dancing or the theorizing. Completing the fest will be the 1935 Roberta, a rarely shown black-and-white Astaire-Rogers film, which features, in addition to stunning couture and much treacly singing of classic tunes like “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” Astaire’s astonishing tap solo to “I Won’t Dance.”
See Also: The Village Voice Dance section.