Dance is on the rise. For years now it’s been pushing through the pavement like an unstoppable weed, intent on taking its rightful place in popular culture as marketable entertainment if not as high art. And I don’t mean dance is claiming its status simply as a side dish. No. More and more it’s being served up as a main course for advertising, television shows, films, and entire web channels.
And the recent success of La La Land is not the only evidence. In fact, while that film was courting its mostly predictable Oscar wins, a couple of very important, comparatively more under the radar, and completely alternative genres of dance films have emerged.
Harkening back to one of my all time favorite dance docs, Paris is Burning, here comes the absolutely wonderful documentary film Kiki. Offering a complex and stirring look into the lives of a youthful group of LGBTQ “Voguers” of color, Kiki focuses on them as dancers, as performers, and as activists dedicated to creating a vibrant, safe, and familial space for themselves and their community. Directed by Sara Jordero and produced by Tobias Janson, Kiki has been met with euphoric audience response at film festivals including Sundance. One of the remarkable things about this film is both how little and how much has changed since the 1990 release of Paris is Burning, with Kiki now emerging simultaneously in the age of same sex marriage and the apparent renewal of fear and a rise in homophobia, xenophobia, racism, and bigotry. A truly moving, inspiring, and important film, Kiki just opened in LA and New York February 24 and March 1st respectively. I urge you to view the trailer below, and go check it out!
Another striking evolution for screen dance is the Oscar nominated Spanish short film TIMECODE, directed by Juanjo Gimenez Pena. This fifteen-minute gem of a short follows two parking lot security guards, Luna and Diego, who work back-to-back shifts by day and night, respectively, and who carry on a secret dance love affair over the screen of the lot’s surveillance camera. What is so amazing to me is that it has the style, form, and inventiveness of so many of the most indie dance shorts I see coming out of Europe, and the fact that it made to the Oscars as a nominee just sends me! The choreography for TIMECODE, a collaboration between the two dancers Lali Ayguadé and Nicolas Ricchini with the director is based on a production by Ayguade’ called “Incognito.” When the two co-stars finally dance together at the end, the choreography is whip smart and beautiful, and the editing and inventiveness of the film overall is really striking. Even though it didn’t win, the fact that TIMECODE was there at all completely elevates the dance short as an art form.
The Oscar nominated live action, documentary and animated shorts are all playing in Los Angeles so check local listings in your area and go if you can!