Movies about moving in many lands
Choreographic pioneer Doris Humphrey famously declared, “All dances are too long.” So are most films displayed this week at the Dance on Camera Festival, including “A New Dance for America,” directed by Ina Hahn, about Humphrey herself. You forgive this feature’s redundancies and relentless talking-heads style because its vintage clips are fascinating. Humphrey was gorgeous, and the heads belong to the smartest people in the field.
The festival, running now at sites around Manhattan, trots out its big guns Friday through Tuesday at Lincoln Center. Among the best is “Bödälä,” a Swiss production exploring percussive dance — from the rustic to the highly theatrical — as it enhances the lives of several generations of citizens. The provocative “Dancing Dreams” celebrates the late Pina Bausch, mounting her early “Contacthof” on a group of German teenagers. Both these films and most of the others are subtitled.
“The Last Tightrope Dancer in Armenia” chronicles the demise of a celebrated art form, as elderly practitioners struggle to train an heir. Two docs about French ballerina Claude Bessy will mainly attract insiders, while the energetic “Ebony Goddess,” foregrounding black aesthetics in Bahia, Brazil, should charm everybody. “All the Ladies Say,” another bunch of talking heads and a rare American contribution, worries the question of women in break dancing.
“Passion: Last Stop Kinshasha,” filmed in German, French and English, follows a Belgian troupe as it stages Bach’s "St. Matthew Passion" in Congo, documenting the response of African spectators watching their countrymen perform the classical masterwork. Carlos Saura’s stunning “Flamenco Flamenco” avoids the translation issue: It’s all music and dancing, brilliantly art-directed, with nary a spoken word.