By Marc Glassman
September 15, 2011
All the dancing at TIFF 2011 hasn’t taken place at late night parties. Some of the best movements have been seen on screen. From street dancers in Buenos Aires to burlesque queens in Paris with side trips to Pina Bauch’s Wuppertal and José Navas’ Montreal included, this has been a vintage year for the terpsichorean art at Toronto’s leading film fest.
World traveler Alison Murray, who has made London, Buenos Aires and Toronto her home in recent years, is a past master at rendering dance on film. Her series of transgressive dance videos shocked and delighted London, England’s boho cultural arbiters back in the ’90s. Murray’s new film Caprichosos de San Telmo focuses on subversive dance in a new terrain, Buenos Aires.
In working class neighbourhoods, the locals dance the murga, a precursor to the tango, which features high kicks, swaying hips and hard-to-beat acrobatic movements. In February, carnivals galvanize some barrios, enticing Agentinos to take to the streets and express themselves through dance.
Murray documents one group in the tough San Telmo district that arranges its own parades. Pichi, a taxi driver, is the leading force of a very community oriented troupe, which features the talents of the hard-bitten Sergio and Maria Eva, an office worker by day and murga dancer by night.
While Murray’s film shows dance as a vehicle for social expression, Frederick Wiseman’s Crazy Horse is about tourism, professionalism and eroticism. Since 1951, Paris’ Crazy Horse has featured the “best nude dancing show in the world.” Always fascinated by how workers do their jobs, the veteran documentarian moves from policemen and zookeepers to choreographers and dancers in this highly entertaining film. Wiseman chronicles Crazy Horse’s brilliant choreographer Philippe Decouflé’s attempts to create a new and very erotic revue.
A step beyond Murray and Wiseman, Quebecois director Philippe Baylaucq shows the emergence of dancers from a single cell in ORA. Using 3D imaging and the imaginative choreography of José Navas, this follow-up to the duo’s Lodela is worth the five-year wait. Primogenesis has never looked this good before.
Gorgeously shot and staged, ORA matches the vivid stylish directorial gestures of Wim Wenders in his 3D Pina (discussed in an earlier TIFF report). It shows you that 3D doesn’t have to be seen only in the sci-fi flicks of adolescents; adults who love dance will also embrace it.