Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ante up

I could use your help.  Most times I manage to streamline projects - "directed, shot & edited by Marta Renzi!"  Other projects, like the recent A Thousand Miles from the Sea, pay for themselves.

But this summer I am taking 8 dancers on tour to perform The Book of Breath at Jacob's Pillow and then to Newport for IMC's Great Friends in Newport Rhode Island. Friends & family are providing housing, but paying for gas and food for 8 will be a challenge.

So in this post I ask you to dig into your pockets and make it possible for us to share our work without losing our shirts. 

There's a DONATE button at your right, where you can do just that via PayPal or most credit cards.  Or you can mail me a check the old school way payable to And Dancers Inc.

12 Castle Heights Avenue
Nyack, NY 10960

It's tax-deductible.  And in return for a donation of $20 or more, I'll send you a DVD copy of one of the pieces you've enjoyed in excerpt form while visiting here. Just let me know which one, and to what address.

And lest you think I only share excerpts for paying customers, here's a trailer for my latest. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Let me count the ways. 

Grateful that you navigated here to read this and to watch the trailer [above] for Wildwood, grateful that it's possible to create a virtual audience in the blogosphere.

Grateful to Faith Catlin for making it possible for me to work/play with these 9 girls at Loch Lyme Lodge in New Hampshire last summer, and grateful to the girls for their unselfconscious daily play so much like memories of my own lucky childhood. 

Grateful that my films have been finding their way to general audiences, in addition to those at dance film festivals. I'm eager to see which sorts of programmers embrace Wildwood.  I'm primarily submitting to festivals in the children's category, figuring that even some of my faithful dance on camera presenters may draw the line at children skipping through the goldenrod...

Grateful that - drum roll, please - my first long-form documentary, The Circus According to Cecil is finally completed, a year and a half after I started.  My previous two shorter documentaries Where the Dance Is and Arthur & Aileen, were more obviously dance-related.  But several early viewers of Circus/Cecil have commented that the point of view, the editing, the choice of circus director Cecil MacKinnon as subject, clearly show the eye/hand of a choreographer.  In which category will this one find a home - documentary, family-friendly, arts-related, woman-centered, children's, dance/film?

Grateful as well for works-in-progress: the almost-completed Rhode Island College project from January, an upcoming return to Cape Charles, Virginia for a community-based film project and a growing list of festival appearances, some too far away...

March 24th
Utah Dance Film Festival
Provo Library, Provo, Utah
screenings of 890 Broadway and Her Children Mourn

March 30-April 4
Dances with Camera
Poznan, Poland
screening of 890 Broadway

April 1-6
Imperfectu International Film & Gender Studies Festival
Tijuana, Mexico
screening of Brothers Keeper

April 11-16
Athens International Film Festival
Athens....Ohio !
screening of Her Children Mourn

...and others closer to home. I'm especially grateful when I get to see my audience in person, like at the live performances and screenings coming up this spring and summer.  I plan to be in attendance for all of the following - hope to see you there!

April 25th
92nd Street Y Fridays at Noon
Dance Lineage- James Waring, Aileen Passlof & Arthur Aviles
screening of Arthur & Aileen

April 26th
SENE Film, Music & Arts Festival
screening of Her Children Mourn 

May 15th
Rivertown Artists Workshop
The Warner Library, Tarrytown, New York
talk & screening of Children, 890 Broadway, and Wildwood

July 24th
Inside/Out at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival
Becket, Massachusetts
The Book of Breath and The Great World Spins

July 25th & 26th
Island Moving Co's Great Friends Festival
Newport, Rhode Island
The Book of Breath

Friday, February 14, 2014

Enter Socrates

I write this blog to bring you inside my work and process a bit - because I'm pleased to share what I do, even though I rarely present public performances any more.  

Right now I'm sharing Adagio & Danseuse Live at The Cotton Club, which you could say I started making about a year ago in at the Liguria Study Center in Bogliasco. While in Italy I made up solo material that I brought back to the states for rehearsals with Arthur Aviles, later joined by Chisa Hidaka. Eventually it was shaped into a 10-minute duet shown at Dance Conversations @ The Flea, with the score that is distracting you from reading this right now...

Wait.  Go ahead and watch.  It's more important than what you're reading.  And I learned long ago in Artichoke For Two that it's hard for people to do both: watch and listen.  Even harder to read and listen, right?

OK, so you're back.  

Does it help to know that one of the inspirations for this dance was the shtick - one night it happens I'm hanging around Moskowitz's delicatessen - recited to me by an elderly friend, Lil Bostert then 99 years old? It drew me - I laughed my ass off - because I sympathize with the interlocutor: what the hell are they (we) doing and why are they (we) doing it? When we see dancing to music like Duke Ellington's in a club, say, we don't necessarily ask about meaning. But when the context is a stage, and the dancers are barefoot, and they perform movements that don't telegraph their meaning, we start asking questions. What's making de goil so noivous? Why that particular movement? What do I need to know to understand this? Why does it mean to understand?  For me, Adagio & Danseuse is a treatise - entertaining of course, but with a Socratic method to my madness.  

I first heard Lil recite this maybe 8 years ago; the decision to record it was years ago; last year at this time I started making movement material.

Chisa & Arthur danced the hell out of it in its one live performance.  But, as I wrote in this blog, one live performance hardly satisfies my need to share the dance, to preserve our hard work for a larger - and later - audience.  So I made the short video you see here.

It had a public screening late last year with other short dance films at the Moviehouse/DFA Dance Film Lab, and was a big hit largely because modern dance doesn't often aim for humor.  Because of the headache and costs associated with *@)&##$@*!! music licensing, you won't see Adagio on Youtube or at film festivals. So I'm sharing the full video version - half as long as the live one - in an online festival with you, right here.

Speaking of festivals, there was a very engaged audience for a recent screening which included my short film among others in the Black Maria Film + Video Festival.  My favorite part of the Q&A?  Instead of talking about lenses, editing or other technical issues, one audience member/filmmaker said this after seeing Her Children Mourn:  it made me realize that we're usually expected to mourn in groups, when actually the process of grieving is so much more individual than that.

Argue. Discuss. Contradict.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Lucky Me

Lynette Schenk, Vincent Baskerville, Kendra Cabral, Sara Pothier & Ny Tran in Winter Break.
There's a moment in every shoot when I am struck - sometimes to tears, I admit -  by how lucky I am.

In the weeks or months preparatory to production, I'm busy concocting a half-articulate narrative, thinking about casting, collecting music.  Sometimes there was a storyboard to help guide production, sometimes more or less detailed movement phrases. Sometimes, like with Wild Wood, there was no movement developed at all, just faith that a general plan of action would keep 9 girls deeply engaged, revealing something more authentic than choreographed steps could ever do.

Then comes the production itself, and with it all the stress of weather, costumes, time, dancers' schedules, time, too small a crew, time, technical difficulties, time.  I'm running around being choreographer, caterer, director and PA all at once.  All of a sudden there's a moment when I think: this is what I pictured, what I hoped could happen. This has a life of its own.

In Smithfield, Rhode Island just now it happened again. After 2 days of whirlwind getting-to-know-you and let's-put-on-a-show, we were on our second day of a 3-day shoot.  The temperature rose to almost 30 degrees, with bright sun and a perfect dusting of snow on the ground. Thanks to relatively warm costumes, complete with hats and gloves, the 7 wonderful Rhode Island College student performers were ready to dance outside.  As they ran through a 4-minute sequence of dancing, I sat by the boom box, out of sight indoors.  I pushed PLAY, left my post to get a kleenex, and thought: I set this world in motion and now it's spinning along without me.  Helped by our visionary host & producer Angelica Vessella, the completely willing RIC students, and the dedicated two-man camera crew, what I'd imagined suddenly exists.

I had this moment in production for Her Children Mourn too.  I had just run to get something in back of the barn, while cinematographer Sunny Sawhney continued shooting.  Alone, I stood still for a minute, just breathing in satisfaction, relieved that the weather had smiled on us and that this crazy proposition was paying off, astonished at the power of shared vision.  We were making something that didn't exist before.  It began to speak for itself.

More than a year later, Her Children is speaking for itself all over: screening in Portland Oregon at POWFest, in Duncan Oklahoma at Trail Dance; in West Orange, New Jersey and elsewhere as part of Black Maria Film+Video Festival.  The Breaking 8 Festival in Italy awarded Children 2nd prize - a GoPro camera so I can keep running around.

I don't remember having one of those epiphanies during the shooting of 890 Broadway. Maybe it was something about being indoors for the whole shoot, or only shooting for one day - on December 31, 2011. I do remember thinking what a great way to celebrate the end of a year.  Or to celebrate how lucky I am.  890 has now become the first of my shorts to be accepted in the prestigious Dutch dance film festival CineDans.  How lucky I am.