So You Think You Can Resist So You Think You Can Dance?

I know I just promised a slew of current movie reviews, but after finishing last week’s episode of So You Think You Can Dance, I’m feeling compelled to sidestep (no pun intended) those briefly for a shout-out to a summer show you should be watching.  Before I continue, I should note that, aside from a 3-4 year devotion to Survivor back when reality TV first broke onto the scene, I am NOT a big reality TV fan.  I tend to gravitate towards more scripted programming when it comes to TV.  However, upon being introduced to this show a few years back, I was instantly hooked and haven’t missed an episode since!  If you’re not already watching it, this is a great time to start, as the “good stuff” is just getting underway and you’ll have managed to miss the sometimes overly drawn out and tedious (though still addicting) audition episodes, during which the Top 20 finalists (10 girls and 10 guys) are whittled down from the multitudes across the country who audition for the show (which is shot here in Los Angeles).  So the actual competition has only just begun.  If you have any appreciation whatsoever for dance ~ of any kind! ~ I defy you not to get hooked on this show!

The format is similar to most talent competition-based reality series:  Candidates are chosen by a panel of judges after a series of auditions and proceed to perform week to week. America has a chance to weigh in by voting for their favorites and then one (or two) contestants are eliminated each week until we’re left with the finalists.  It is essentially

Judge Mary Murphy & Producer/Judge Nigel Lythgoe

American Idol for dance (which makes sense as Idol is also produced by So You Think You Can Dance standing judge and producer Nigel Lythgoe).  Only for whatever reason, I enjoy (and respect) this show far more than I ever have Idol.  (And I grew up both singing and dancing, so it’s not a matter of appreciating one form of talent over the other.)  The show is for the most part clean, tight and moves along at a nice clip, making it’s two-hour running time fly by.  This is the first year they’ve eliminated a separate results show, which should tighten up the show even more, as well as free up another hour in the week.

The young dancers (no one over the ripe old age of 30 is eligible) are extraordinarily talented.  One gets the sense that they are there not to become famous by being on TV, but rather because they genuinely love ~ and live ~ to dance.  You can see and feel their passion for the art.  It comes through in their performances, very often moving me to tears or injecting me with a jolt of energy, causing my jaw to drop at their astonishing abilities and an inspiring reminder of the beauty and power of movement as artistic expression. Continue reading

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Pina ~ Poetry in Motion

Director: Wim Wenders

I made a special trip to a theater nowhere near my neighborhood (and in L.A., that really means something!) in order to see this documentary in 3D.  I’m glad I saw it, but my feelings about it shifted throughout the film…  

…the phrases that played (danced?) across my mind as I watched the film were…bizarrely brilliant, weirdly wonderful, and mystifyingly mesmerizing.  Just when I would begin to think that I wasn’t “getting it” or that it was just too avante garde for me, it would draw me back in and take my breath away.

Pina is a Wim Wenders film dedicated to the late, great dancer/choreographer Pina Bausch, who passed away in 2009 (though we’re never told at what age or how ~ it’s only alluded to that she went suddenly or, as some of her dancers put it, “too fast”).  It is Bausch’s work that is featured primarily throughout the film, interspersed with snippets of “interviews” with her international band of dancers, which really only give us their experiences of her.  We never get any sort of biographical information about Bausch, of which I’d have liked more.  The interviews (and I use that term loosely), are unique in that they, in many instances, use few words, instead using close-ups of facial expressions (in fact, in a few cases, no words are spoken ~ all feelings regarding Bausch and each dancer’s experience with her are communicated solely through the faces of the dancers being interviewed).  It’s actually quite remarkable ~ and is perhaps perfectly fitting given the art form being celebrated: dance/movement in place of words to convey emotion ~ pain, love, longing, loneliness, loss, joy, laughter, even aging…

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