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Impressions of Five Dances- A Film by Alan Brown

Impressions of Five Dances- A Film by Alan Brown

Published on September 29, 2013
Photo by Peter Ross

Camera Work: Derek McKane; Dancers:Ryan Steele, Reed Luplau, Catherine Miller, Kimiye Corwin, Luke Murphy; With Choreography by Jonah Bokaer

Alan Brown’s Five Dances presents a stunning example of just how far dance cinematography has come in the last ten years. The film’s emotional texture and structure relies heavily on the sensitive and evocative camera work of Derek McKane. McKane’s sensuous and unexpected photographic sensibility allows the viewer, to get under the skin of the characters, especially during one of the most beautifully shot sex scenes I’ve seen in a while. The result is an intimate study of this creature we call “dancer” in their natural habitat.

At times the National Geographic approach of Brown’s storytelling is at odds with his attempts at a more traditional telling of this coming of age/fish out of water story. This is unfortunate because some of the looser structured scenes approach a Robert Altman-esque level of spontaneity. Some of the most engaging and charming moments of the film occur when we watch the dancers horse around, warm up, and casually interact with one another.  Dancers who watch this will feel like someone has taken a snapshot of their daily lives and non-dancers will enjoy a peek behind the scenes.

Trailer for Five Dances

Most of Five Dances takes place in the rehearsal studio as four dancers and their choreographer prepare a work (choreography supplied by the prolific Jonah Bokaer).  In five separate segments we see the piece unfold as the dancers grapple with learning the movement and their own minor dramas.  However, our attention remains riveted to our leading man, Chip.

Chip, played convincingly by Broadway sensation Ryan Steele, comes to New York City form Kansas armed with nothing but a sleeping bag and an extension to die for. He slowly manages to acclimate to his new surroundings.  There are allusions to some problems back home, making his trip to New York City risky, but the film doesn’t delve too deeply into that and Chip manages to remain somewhat of a mystery throughout the film. 

There is no mystery however to the depths of Chip’s talent. Bokaer’s Cunningham inflected solo is danced to breathtaking perfection by Steele; and thanks to McKane’s creativity behind the camera, we get to experience that solo in a way we’d never get to in a live setting—the true beauty of dance on film.

Five Dances opens October 4th at Cinema Village in New York City

A film by: Alan Brown
Starring: Ryan Steele, Reed Luplau, Catherine Miller, Kimiye Corwin and Luke Murphy
Choreography by: Jonah Bokaer  
Official Selection: Seattle International Film Festival 2013, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival 2013


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