From musicals like Chicago to TV programs such as Great Performances, dance has enjoyed a place on the big and small screen for decades. In more recent years, Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance have drawn sizable audiences for a commercialized version of the art form. But that increasing interest doesn’t seem to have helped put many butts in the seats at live concert-dance performances. The reason may be as simple as our long-running, ongoing economic downturn making it hard for the average fan to afford tickets.
One answer to dance’s difficulties may be Screendance, a growing movement the treats filmed choreography as an end unto itself. One of the best recent examples is NY Export: Opus Jazz (2010), a quasi-narrative that coolly and cleverly re-imagines Jerome Robbins‘ 1958 ballet of the same name. The 41-minute film screens at 9:45 p.m. this Thursday, Sept. 22, on the patio of the Angelika as part of the Dallas VideoFest. (I’ll be introducing it.)
Populated by a street-styled cast of limber youngsters from New York City Ballet – where the idea to adapt Opus Jazz originated with dancers Ellen Bar and Sean Suozzi – the hard surfaces and dessicated locales of urban abandonment become the setting for Robbins’ athletic and expressive group numbers. Coming off of West Side Story, he had decided to tell another teen-jungle story for a State Department world tour, but one that left impressions rather than used a spelled-out plot.