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Meditation On Violence (1948)

8 Mar
Director Maya Deren
Producer Maya Deren
Contributors Cherel Ito, Chao Li Chi
Length 15 minutes
B&W/Color B&W
UO Library Catalog description: Based on traditional training movements of the Wu-tang and Shaolin schools of Chinese boxing. Solo performance with theatrical lighting but without scenery ; solo performance outdoors in costume.
Call # Ma73
Genre Short Films, Dance
Rare Yes
Online Yes
Copyright status Public Domain
Physical condition Good
Oregon-related No

Notes: Meditation On Violence is a short film directed by avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren. It was originally produced for a theatrical release in 1948. “Theatrical” is a term that should be used loosely, especially with Deren’s films, as the locales that she screened them in were usually art galleries or her own living room, which she converted into a makeshift theater for private viewings.

The film features Chao Li Chi, a Shanxi-born actor and dancer who worked extensively in American television and film. Meditation On Violence was one of his firs appearances on film. In it, he attempts to display the ideals of the Wu-Tang philosophy, which centers around the idea of constant motion according to “-which the perfect form is that of no form in an excellent performance attempts to display the ideals of the Wu Tang philosophy which is a philosophy of constant motion, which is achieved when you’re in a state of constant motion” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0040578/). Chao Li Chi had an extensive history with Deren, and was a regular member of the dance troupe she was involved in during the 1940’s. I find it particularly interesting that Li Chi had such a successful career in Television and Film after working with Deren on such artsy, underground projects. He has subsequently appeared in Big Trouble In Little China, M*A*S*H, The Joy Luck Club, The Nutty Professor, The Prestige, Wedding Crashers and Pushing Daisies.

While at first glance this film may seem just like a documentation of a dance sequence, the editing style elevates it above the status of performance piece. The avant-garde style of Maya Deren is certainly not as pronounced in Meditation On Violence as a film like Meshes Of The Afternoon, but their are a fair number of sequences shot in slow motion, and “-the camera itself becomes the boxer’s sparring partner, dodging and attempting to return the athlete’s blows. The adjustments, pans, and zooms of the camera simulate a human response” (worldcat.com). It should also be noted that the film loops, returning to the first sequence. This technique breaks the passage of time, which was very typical of Deren’s films.

Another interesting thing is to note the soundtrack. Deren recorded Haitian drums for the piece, which reflected her fascination with Voodoo during the time period it was made.

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Southwestern Indian Dances: Performed At The Inter-Tribal Ceremonies, Gallup, NM (1948)

20 Dec
Director 
Producer   Dudley Pictures
Contributors 
Length   10 min
B&W/Color   b&w
UO Library Catalog description:  Scenes of various group and individual dances, including the Buffalo dance, the Eagle dance, and the Hoop dance.
Call # FILM Ma71
Genre  performing arts
Rare  yes
Online  no
Copyright status  public domain
Physical condition  fair
Oregon-related  no

Notes:

Dudley Pictures produced travel films in the fifties; this one predates any effort listed on IMDB.

The Moor’s Pavane: Variation on the Theme of Othello (1950)

19 Dec
Director 
Producer   Hyperion Pictures : Released by Brandon Films
Contributors   Choreography, Jose Limon; music arranged by Simon Sadoff from Henry Purcell; danced by Jose Limon and group; lines from Shakespeare’s Othello spoken by Bram Nossen; filmed by Walter V. Strate.
Length   16 min
B&W/Color   color
UO Library Catalog description:  The basic story of the Moor, Othello, presented in dance form. Othello, Desdemona, Iago, and Emilia dance their personal tragedy through many variations.
Call # FILM Mb34
Genre  performing arts
Rare  no
Online  no
Copyright status  public domain
Physical condition  good
Oregon-related  no

Notes:

Limon’s dance piece is an acknowledged 20th-century classic, according to this and several other immediately visible sources. UO has it on VHS as well (two editions) which are sourced from a 1956 TV broadcast.

Kathakali (1950)

17 Dec
Director   Modhu Bose
Producer   Information Films of India, Dept. of Information and Broadcasting ; issued by the Government of India Information Services, Washington, D.C.
Contributors   Produced by Ezra Mir ; Photography, K. Prabhakar ; editing, Pratap Parmar
Length   10 min
B&W/Color   b&w
UO Library Catalog description: Documentary on the Kathakali dance of Malabar, India. Young boys are seen learning characteristic dance movements; an adult dancer in light makeup demonstrates different emotions, expressed through movements of the eyes, eyebrows, and hands. After a brief discussion of typical characters in Kathakali, portrayed by puppets, scenes from the Mahabharata are seen in performance.
Call # FILM Ma62
Genre  documentary
Rare  yes
Online  no
Copyright status  Unknown, though as an Indian-American import I suspect it’s a pretty unusual case. Never registered in the U.S.
Physical condition fair
Oregon-related  no

Notes:

Wiki on Kathakali.

Brandenburg Concerto Number 4 (1963)

14 Dec
Director
Producer  Ohio State University, Dept. of Photography, Motion Picture Division
Contributors
Length  10 min
B&W/Color  b&w
UO Library Catalog description:   Presents the Doris Humphrey, Ruth Currier choreography of the Bach Brandenburg concerto, no. 4, as performed in 1963 by members of the Ohio State University Dance Group. Includes a brief discussion of the dance by members of the dance group.
Call # FILM Ma149
Genre  performing arts
Rare  yes
Online  no
Copyright status  public domain
Physical condition  good
Oregon-related  no

Notes:

Humphrey was a central figure in the modern-dance movement; this would have been recorded a few years after her death, though the piece itself was premiered posthumously (1959).

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