Tag Archives: dance

Culture Shock 1913: The Modernist Metamorphosis

Via Studio 360

January is definitely a time for reviewing the past year in order to look forward to the year ahead. It helps to review the past in order to move forward. During this beginning of year we take time to look back at the last 12 months, but have you ever wondered what happened a hundred years ago?

A recent radio documentary does just that – looking back at the monumental year that was 1913. In this year, modernism took flight, and its arrival sent shockwaves through the world of arts and culture at the time.

The documentary explores the monumental events that shook the arts and culture world in the early 20th century. Two of these the birth of the Armory Show in New York, and the debut of the ballet The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky and Nijinsky.

The original armory show. Image from the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Armory was the antithesis of the artistic exhibitions of the time, and the perhaps the birthplace of the contemporary gallery setting that we are familiar with today. It presented new paintings that were experimental, propelling the art world into a new world of interpretation, non-traditional aesthetics, and a changed perspective on the culture of painting. The most famous painting shown at the first Armory show is perhaps Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 by Marcel Duchamp.

Image via University of Virginia American Studies Program.

Nude Descending a Staircase No 2 by Marcel DuChamp. Via Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Rite of Spring broke cultural ground in the music world of 1913, and is infamous for having sparked a riot during its first performance in Paris. The ideal of ballet at the time was lyrical and fluid, much like what we expect it to be today. The Rite of Spring was pretty much the opposite – flat feet, bent knees, and pulsating, rhythmic music.

Performers of The Rite of Spring. Image via Houses and Books.

Not to give too much else away, but the documentary discusses not only visual arts and music, but also makes connections between the modernist movement in arts and culture to other significant breakthroughs in science and psychology. Indeed this was an era where everything was becoming connected, and yet it resounded with dissonance at the same time.

Contemporary performance of The Rite of Spring, choreographed by Pina Bausch image from Intuitive Clutch.

Perhaps the most important point of the documentary is that it posits an undermining question. If 1913 was so monumental, then could we also be on the verge of something in this century? What is happening to us as we become more connected, but at the same time more distant in a hyper-real, digital world? We may find that out soon enough.

Listen to the full program online here.


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Movie Review: Pina directed by Wim Wenders

A dancer on stage, from the film PinaPhoto by Donata Wenders/Sundance Selects

Movie award season came to a close last week with the Oscars. I admit that for the last few years not many of the movies that were nominated or critically acclaimed really piqued my interest. I didn’t get to see too many of the nominees for this year, but I did see a couple that I felt were indeed a wonderful representation of movies as an artistic genre. A couple of weeks before the Oscars I went to see Pina, a dance film shot in 3D, which was a nominee in the best documentary category. One of the designers at work saw it and recommened it to us at the office, saying that it was a stunning use of 3D movie technology. I didn’t really know what to think about seeing a dance movie, but the fact that it was in definitely 3D intrigued me. I was completely and most pleasurably surprised. Unlike traditional documentaries about theater or dance, which are shot from the audience’s point of view, the camera in Pina infiltrates the stage and moves like one of the dancers it is filming. The result is a painterly, three-dimensional diorama of the Tanztheater style of dance that was propagated by Pina Bausch.

Pina Bausch in motionPhoto by Anne-Christine Poujoulat, from www.theasc.com

A portrait of Pina Bausch

Pina Bausch was a revolutionary force in the modern dance world. She was a dancer, choreographer, and also a teacher that valued expressionism in her works. There is a high sense of rawness in all of the dances in the film that only adds to the texture of the film itself. The film itself is a homage to Bausch, who died in 2009. In between scenes of performances on stage and in outside environments, the members of her dance company are filmed sitting quietly with contemplative looks on their faces while their voices then become the narration. Each one of them gives a testimonial on their experience as a dancer with Bausch, in their own native toungue.

DancersImage from www.shift.jp.org

All in all the film was a beautiful montage of dance, experience, and cutting edge movie-making technology. I enjoyed it tremendously for the dimensionality it brought to what could easily be an overlooked documentary on contemporary dance.

Dancing in the streetImage from shift.jp.org

The marriage of the elegant dances themselves against the industrial backdrops of present-day Germany and scenes in nature only add to the film’s painterly quality. The 3D technology definitely added another layer of texture to the already visually rich scenery.

A scene from PinaImage from www.cinemaviewfinder.com

What the film lacked in actual narrative plotline, it made up for in meaning – as Bausch’s untimely death happened as the movie was being produced. The project almost never reached completion, but when it did it became a living testament to the creativity of one woman.

It was very clear that the film was a showcase of artistry, not just of the dances but also of the use of 3D technology. So many time when we here the word 3D couple with ‘movie,’ you almost expect to see flying swords or explosions. In the case of Pina, however, we get a first person experience of the suspended railway in Wuppertal and a 360-degree view of a glass house in the middle of the forest.

A pair of dancers against an urban sceneImage from collider.com

Dancers in a glass house with a view of the woodsImage from http://images.allmoviephoto.com, Photo by Donata Wenders

Pina was a visual feast, and it definitely deserved its nomination for best documentary this year. Hopefully in the future filmmakers will take some cues from it to capture the beauty and essence of an intimate, immersive experience, just as Pina did.

Learn more about the film at: http://www.pina-film.de/en/about-the-movie.html

Here’s the trailer:


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