AUDIENCE REVIEW: One Thing is Certain: a dance film
Jere Hunt, Erica Fraticelli, and Jonathan Detwiler
February 4th, 2021
One Thing is Certain: a dance film came to be in mid-2020 when producer Jonathan Detwiler suggested to Jere Hunt: “Hey, you should make a film!” Jere had never created a dance film before, but dove head on into the challenge. Along the way, he discovered nuances that differed greatly from choreographing for stage performance. He also discovered a new lens to investigate the world.
I went into One Thing is Certain: a dance film with no background context. Only given the title, I wondered if the film would describe the “certain” or constant aspects of life that remain no matter what, despite the horrendous year we recently left behind. I wondered if, therefore, the film would focus on COVID-19.
But Jere described in his pre-film introduction that he did not want One Thing is Certain: a dance film to be about the pandemic. Jere explained, “I knew [when I started making this] that there would be a lot of content about the pandemic. But there are so many other things going on in our world right now…[we are] having important conversations, and I wanted to incorporate [all of it] into the film.” I support that Jere sought to acknowledge 2020 holistically – Black Lives Matter, the need to eradicate systemic racism, political turmoil, and the overall need to come together as a community – these are not to be forgotten, despite the pandemic’s presence.
One Thing is Certain: a dance film is dreamlike. Whimsical scenes of free-flowing dancing, vibrant colors, and close-ups of clouds weave together, thanks to Erica Fraticelli’s brilliant editing. The film balanced between busy and peaceful scenes. I see blades of grass rippling in the breeze; I see a trio dancing in a triangle, socially distanced yet rhythmically united; I see JoRocco’s gorgeous chain necklace dancing on Jere’s neck as he dances; I see intimate close-ups of bodies.
The film does not blatantly say, “here is what this is about.” Rather, it highlights Jere’s character’s journey, which to me appears reminiscent of having a dream and waking up having learned from it. Jere explores his surroundings throughout the film – the film offers scenes of dancing inside Roosevelt Island and Central Park. Although introduced as a soloist dancer, he comes into contact with eleven other dancers, ultimately dancing with them before “waking up.”
The film portrays Jere as a patient observer, stumbling across the group of eleven in an outdoor park and absorbing their movement ideas. He is filmed dancing alone, wearing all black clothing and a black mask – and then he is filmed with the group, wearing more colorful clothes.
There are subtle reminders that the film was created during the coronavirus pandemic. There is Jere’s black mask. The dancers do not partner; their spatial patterns are arranged such that they remain socially distanced. Everything was filmed outdoors, in order to maintain a safer flow of air. I felt for the dancers’ bare feet as they executed pirouettes, barrel jumps, and floorwork on the uneven grass.
Emily Sanchez, one of the eleven dancers, was thankful for this project during the pandemic. She shared with me, “I really appreciated the amount of trust [Jere] placed in us. His project provided me a moment of reassurance in a time that is so full of confusion and chaos…most of all I appreciated the chance to work and move with other dancers again. It was so great to have that sense of community.”
Composer Blake Allen wrote an original score for piano, cello and viola for the film titled Immutable. It is often in marriage with the dancing, as the dancing is very musical and count based. The music contributes to the film’s dreamy atmosphere, never sounding harsh or dramatic, but rather light-hearted and driving. Blake explained in the pre-film introduction that a waltz movement for the score came into his head as though from a dream, which I appreciated for coincidentally tying into the dream motif.
I found the close-up scenes of the dancers’ faces just as powerful as their dancing bodies, filmed from afar. The intimacy that the close-ups offered was intense – I found myself especially focusing on the eyes when a mask was worn. I also appreciated that cutting to different close-up shots was a way to be musical. Before the trio of dancers began moving in the beginning of the film, different close-up shots highlighted the trio in accordance with Blake’s score. Each close-up cut right on the music.
The phrase One Thing is Certain begs the audience to fill in the blank of what the one thing is that is certain. It is open. With limited context of what the film is “about,” but based on Jere’s spoken intentions and what I saw, I gathered that the one certain thing is the need to come together and do the good work, together. This is what Jere’s character achieves, and the film concludes with him lying down, breathless but evidentially full of joy. Perhaps his character is realizing that the work is not easy, but moving in a forward direction together is the only way forward.
Creator/Choreographer: Jere Hunt
Director/Editor: Erica Fraticelli
Producer: Jonathan Detwiler
Composer: Blake Allen
Photographers: Shauna Hundeby, Sofia Negron
Jordan Israel Harris
Emily Janea Sanchez
Original Music: Blake Allen, “Immutable”
Chris Koelzer on piano
Blake Allen, viola
Jessica Wang, cello
Photo by Sofia Negron.