Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Dance on tape

Over the course of the last week, I watched three Denishawn tapes I borrowed from the library. Normally, I am not very keen on modern dance, or ballet. That's why I was surprised at how much I liked these videos.

Denishawn: The Birth of Modern Dance (1988) and Denishawn Dances On (2002) were largely composed of short documentary passages (narration over photographs along with brief film clips) interspersed with contemporary recreations of Denishawn dance routines. Louise Brooks, I believe, could be spotted in group photographs in each film.

Apparently, there is very little vintage film of Denishawn - or at least none available to those who put together these two titles. Most interesting for me, then, among the contemporary recreations, were those dances performed by Denishawn while Brooks was a member of the company. I have a hard time visualizing dance (especially when it is described in a book), that's why it was good to see a couple of the Brooks-era dances recreated. I also really, really, really enjoyed a Ted Shawn dance, "Gnosienne," done to music by Erik Satie. Wow, that was amazing!

The third tape I watched, The Men Who Danced: The Story of Ted Shawn's Male Dancers, 1933 - 1940  (1986), though it had nothing to do with Denishawn, was also quite interesting and enjoyable. It featured interviews with some of Shawn's original dancers. And once again, I believe, Brooks could be seen in a group photograph in the film.

[ Note to the world: someone needs to put together an PBS-style "American Masters" program on Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn. It would be revelatory.]

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