I only just recently heard about Mananayaw (Tagalog for dancer), a Filipino documentary that focuses on four male ballet dancers associated with Ballet Philippines. I hope to get to see it someday! (And I’m especially interested as my ethnic heritage is Filipino, and I’m fascinated to see ballet in the homeland.)
Four danseurs, one passion: Zooming in on the narratives of four male dancers, who were produced by Ballet Philippines, one of the country’s top professional ballet companies, Mananayaw teases out the dance careers of four generations of Filipino male ballet dancers: Nonoy Froilan, JM Cordero, Biag Gaongen, and Victor Maguad.
I went to the San Francisco Dance Film Festival for the first time last week and had a great time. Apparently it’s a relatively new festival, just having started in 2010, and it takes place mainly at the Ninth Street Independent Film Center. Friday evening’s program consisted of seven short films and a feature called Claude Bessy: Lignes d’une vie.
All of the shorts were well done, and if I had to choose a favorite perhaps it would be In a Moment. About a man who loses his memory following a car accident, the film plays with themes of time, memory, and relationships.
Another interesting short was Beautiful Illusion, which drew me of course since it has ballet, but its spark is in the tension between the beauty and pain of ballet. A woman dances through an art gallery, and a few times she pauses while an X-ray image is projected onto her body; the words are not mere labels of bones but of a dancer’s potential injuries. The entire four-minute film is available online:
Again, they were all interesting in their own ways, but I’ll give another honorable mention, to There, Again, a project that began as a staged dance performance on a set with four dancers, each in one of four small, linked rooms. Everything from the lighting and staging to the music and choreography itself is mesmerizing.
Lignes d’une vie
The second part of the evening was devoted to a documentary on legendary Paris Opera Ballet dancer and educator Claude Bessy. Actually I didn’t know anything about her beforehand, so the film was both entertaining and informative for me. What a career, from Paris to New York to Hollywood and back. I loved all the archival rehearsal and performance footage. (It draws from many sources, including a couple of documentaries on the POB school, parts of which I’d seen online before.) Watching Lignes d’une vie makes me want to jet off to see the Paris Opera Ballet and the Palais Garnier this very minute!
Following the screening, director Fabrice Herrault was on hand for an insightful Q&A along with San Francisco Ballet principal dancers Pascal Molat and Sofiane Sylve. Pascal (below, far left) especially talked about his experience at the school and Madame Bessy as a “tough love” kind of figure.
I enjoyed the evening so much I wish I’d also gone to the other festival programs, especially to see Never Stand Still and Joffrey. In any case I hope to make it to many more festivals in the future!
[Addendum (March 22): The festival awards have been announced, and if you missed out on the shorts, some of them will be screened at the San Francisco Public Library on Saturday, April 21 (2 p.m.), and Wednesday, April 25 (5:45 p.m.), as part of Bay Area Dance Week.]