Thursday, September 05, 2013

Born Again



Just now I was drawn back to THE WELCOME TABLE - my first self-produced dance video completed in 2006 -partly because THE CIRCUS ACCORDING TO CECIL is nearing completion.  Cecil is the clown in the image above, a neighbor and friend in Nyack, who I have occasionally had the good fortune to collaborate with, on projects she or I have devised.  She's a character in THE WELCOME TABLE and the central figure in CIRCUS/CECIL, a feature-length documentary which I shot in St. Louis last December, and started to edit in Bogliasco, Italy early this year. (I hope you've been paying attention - this will all be on the quiz!)

What was so bad about that? is what I generally find myself thinking when I re-visit an old dance - or dance film - of mine.  It's a function of being too close to what I make, especially when it's just finished and all I can see are its faults.  There's clearly a statute of limitations, however, in my self-criticism because after several years I can see what's good about it as well.  Sound familiar?

THE WELCOME TABLE was shot episodically from December 2005 to April 2006, without a script or storyboards, and with no funding.  Some of my friends worked for meager honoraria and some local children were glad to participate.  Peter Bobrow served as cameraman for most of the episodes and was my one-to-one mentor in editing and in helping to design the narrative as we went along. In the spring semester of 2006, I took my first course in Final Cut Pro at the local community college; not only that, at the same time I was learning how to use the Mac my friend Steve Elson had bequeathed me.  

If any career is a series of re-births, this began an era of self-produced short films, of which there have been more than 20 since TABLE in 2005.  Sure, I'd made two half-hour videodances for PBS in 1981 [YOU LITTLE WILD HEART] and 1989 [MOUNTAINVIEW].  But for those there was a real budget, as well as a wonderful producer - Susan Dowling, who directed the WGBH New Television Workshop. So I knew there'd be an audience down the road.

But in 2005 it was possible for me to conceive of making something on a minimal budget because:  

1. video equipment, including editing software, was suddenly relatively cheap

2. at a workshop with Martha Myers at the Dragon's Egg, I made a dance in a tree in new-fallen snow and thought: the proscenium can be such a bore, what about another way to envision dancing?

3. who was gonna stop me?

So I look at TABLE with new eyes and see that this Renzi person was onto something: these are people who don't usually share their stories; there is dancing everywhere; imagination can lead us to visit new worlds; aren't we all welcome?

I remember when it was shown as part of a matinee screening to children at Images Cinema in Williamstown, Massachusetts, one 8-year-old boy said: "it's like a video game - at each new level the little girl meets a new character. And then at the end all the characters come together."

Check it out.  You'll see what he meant.  Or tell me how you read it. 

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