Sunday, October 22, 2023

Is this some kind of journal?

Long-time readers of this blog may remember the days before internet when I would mail an actual "newsletter" to a collection of friends, fans and would-be funders. [If you're relatively new to this site, double click the b&w photo to the right of this post titled MARTA RENZI: Newsletters, which will give you an idea of the history you missed.]

Now in 2023, much like in the '80's, I keep in touch with 2/3 of those f's - friends and fans, not so much funders. Those of you on Facebook keep up to date with where my recent work is appearing. What a difference from the old days that recent work is never live. Rarely anymore do I even attend a festival in person. Blame the shifting expectations that remain a post-pandemic custom - and the fact that spending money / carbon to fly somewhere for a 5-10 minute digital appearance seems a waste of energy.

Of course on Facebook I tend to only share news of a completed, accepted dance film. It's not an appropriate platform for my candid self-inquiry (aka self-doubt). This platform is a bit more like a journal - albeit a semi-public one - in which I ask myself questions like:

what will I make next? 


is there a pattern or theme to what I work on next?

to what standards do I hold myself?

Like with a journal, it's illuminating to read back a few posts to see what had been on my mind. For example by December 2022, I had edited some video drafts documenting our time in Cork, Ireland:

  • self-portraits of the 3 dancers [3 Dancers with Bells
  • "rehearsal" footage [3 Windows and a Door
  • the outdoor "documentary" [Cork Journal]  
  • miscellaneous clips that never got shaped
It was on my mind to assemble them into some larger whole, at the same time as I submitted the "drafts" to festivals,  Will I still do that? Do I need more distance? Will it take me writing a script to assemble the bit with more reflection? Do I have the amour-propre to decide that anyone gives a shit what our process was? 

Meanwhile, Cork Journal is finding its way to festivals all around the world, including the 68th Cork International Film Festival itself - gratifying even if I don't attend. By the way, can you believe that I've made 4 dozen short films (a round 50 if you count the 2 PBS ones)? 

Interested in a mini-Renzi-fest? Check out this page which lists them all, the fests they've appeared at, and a link to a trailer.

My most recent completed project is the one I described in the last post, way back in August. Called Death & other Disguises, it's a departure for me in many ways: talking but no music, 4 disparate solos, me dancing. Doubtful that it will find a home even in - especially in? - the niche of dance film festivals, I may get creative about how to disseminate it.  For now, I'll share the trailer - in the post below, because I still can't figure out this wonky interface.  You'll see what I mean by a departure.

As for those questions: 
what will I make next? I'm toying with producing something new before the weather is impossibly cold ...  At any rate, for sure I'm scheduled to create my 5th dance film collaboration with Rhode Island College students in January 2024 (see the 4 posters of past projects).

Why? Because it's always a pleasure  to work with those students, and to collaborate with cinematographer Jennifer Keller for our 4th time together. 

Is there a pattern? It will definitely follow my "not-that-again" alternation between something risky (Death) and something more accessible. 

What standards?  We have only 5 days to design, develop and shoot something that we can all be proud of.  In such a short production process, the balance is between giving each student a creative experience and ending up with something that can screen at festivals. In fact, after a respectable festival run, Tumult was just selected to be part of a channel called Dancefilmmaking, where it can be seen "forever."

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Looking Back

In the days when I was making work for stage, summers were a busy time, creating new work or re-rehearsing old work for free outdoor performances - at Jacob's Pillow's Inside / Out, Central Park's SummerStage, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, or at Wave Hill, Orchard Beach, or the Staten Island Ferry through Dancing in the Streets. There was a certain hot and happy quiet that I associate with those days - the breeze blowing into the big windows when we were in residence at PS 1 in Long Island City; the cool/warm smell of the Berkshires at the Pillow; a dance studio on Duane Street in NYC where I lived for a summer while preparing Hold Me for Dance Theater Workshop - in 1978 !!!

This summer I've worked intermittently on a project with one dancer at a time, one a month, on a series of masked solos. In May, Yvonne Rainer as Rabbit; in June, David Thomson as Horse; and in August Arthur Aviles as Pig. It's happened on a rebound from a long-planned and ill-fated duet I had intended to make with Yvonne & Valda Setterfield, initiated soon after Valda's husband David Gordon died in 2022. Scheduling of the first rehearsal continued for almost a year while health shifted, teeth were extracted, housing was renovated.  Provoked by an email from Yvonne who wrote that she'd pictured herself arriving at Valda's 541 Broadway studio in a rabbit mask, I sourced 4 random animal masks from the internet, arming myself with what I hoped might be an ice-breaker for the task of working with these two formidable women.

However, in early April, ever elegant, Valda called from the hospital to say she wouldn't be able to make that week's long-planned rehearsal after all. Frustrated again, I vowed to get up at sunrise, grab the Eagle mask and be soloist and cameraperson at the Hudson River. Believe me: only great disappointment could persuade me to record myself dancing after so many years avoiding the camera. A response much greater than mere disappointment struck a few days later when I learned that Valda had died.

As of now, I've recorded and edited 4 solos, each with a mask, without music, each in a different setting. I've shared the drafts with friends and we agree there's something mysteriously compelling about them - a richness of metaphor, maybe even what Yvonne would call radical juxtaposition.

The whole is not quite ready for public consumption, so you'll have to settle for this composite of stills. Nor is it a dance film. Uncategorizable, doubtless -  which is the story of my life, whether in the summer of 1983 or the summer of 2023.

Meanwhile, in a digital version of those summertime, outdoor, free events from my early years, my dance films are on tour.  Regina Lissowska from Short Waves Festival, remembered Where Love Leads and thought that its "vibe" would be perfect for a open air, family-friendly, free-entry event in Mechelen/Belgium. And Roxane Hultman from International Dancefilm Festival Brussels invited 890 Broadway to show on the rooftop of BOZAR ("BeauxArts"?) in a program whose theme is the city.   

Wait, both in Belgium - yet otherwise unrelated to each other? Is this a sign? More likely, it's evidence of long relationships with each festival: both Short Waves and L'art difficle de filmer la danse have shown Renzi work many times in the past decade. 

Happily, the two Cork projects begun in November have both premiered months later - Cork Journal at the Mobile Dance Film Festival and 3 Windows at Dance Camera Istanbul.  

But still ... you call this a career?

Thursday, May 18, 2023

The Proverbial Quickie

Only have time for a quickie?  Today's headline: 

Join me for Bronx Magic live in Harlem

Sunday June 4 at 12:30 pm at 

the (esteemed but tiny) Maysles Documentary Center

as part of the People's Film Festival  

Want more? Read on.

Over the last year or so I've enjoyed a correspondence with post-modern legend Yvonne Rainer . If you happened to read the 4/29/22 post you'll remember that her "gender challenge" was part of the inspiration for A Day's Work, which has thus far been screened in 3 fests and just won Best Original Score at Bare Bones Music & Film Festival in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

Yvonne recently saw my 2007 Bricktown, which I shared with her for a glimpse of the dancing of our mutual friend Elena TaJo, a creative spirit who departed this earth too young, just about a year ago. Since I never get reviews in newspapers, online or otherwise, I hope you'll forgive me for sharing Yvonne's encomium here: 

"Your inventiveness should not amaze me at this point, but Bricktown is one of the most beautiful dance videos I’ve ever seen !! — Gorgeous  reds, movements, bricks, walls, railings, feet, accumulations of eye-catching riffs, more red fleeting images, intimacies, endearments, changing architectural details — Your timing is impeccable —"

And as long as I'm boasting - which along with being self-deprecating and waxing philosophical, is what this blog is all about - read this from a email from CineVox in Portland, Oregon: 

Wait a Minute tied for best film in a program titled "The Human Condition". I opened that program with your film because it is such a fun, friendly film that welcomes everyone into the world it embodies. It's just delightful.

And that's not all! The pre-pandemic Through Mabel's Eyes won two prizes recently: Best Environmental film at the Tokyo International Short Film Festival, and Best Not-so-Short Dancefilm at Cinedanza Primavera.  Most festivals want work that has been made in the last 18 months - 2 years - so right now I'm more or less alternating between A Day's Work and Kata, a new one with Selina Shida Hack. But whenever possible I also submit earlier work - perhaps the oldest my 2017 Her Magnum Opus, which continues to be selected and screened, to my immense gratification.

So why, when someone congratulates me on all of the laurels she sees on Facebook, do I make that face that means don't take it seriously? 
For one thing, I'm rarely present at these events: fly to Muskogee, Oklahoma for my 8-minute film at Bare Bones? I don't think so.  

For another, even when it's a local event that's easier for me to  attend, it's likely to be a small venue like the above esteemed but tiny Maysles Center.  To be fair, when I saw Bronx Magic screened at a historic but relatively small venue - Cinema Village as part of Winter Film Awards - I was glad to be part of a diverse group of films and audience members, a a few of whom made a point of letting me know how joyous Magic was. (And better than average swag, by the way.)

And there's a weird notion that comes with this game of value: winning. What a ridiculous idea when it comes to any creative endeavor and I'll tell you a few reasons why. 

a. You can't compare apples and oranges. 
b.  If I win, is it despite or because of my visibly low-budget
c. If a certain work of mine is a loser in a dance film festival, but a
    winner in a regular one, what does that mean?
d. We're all gonna die someday, so what are we competing for?

Check out the video below which is actually a continuation of the above post. But something wonky made it impossible for me to append it smoothly. It's the trailer for something called 3 Windows we made in Cork last fall. As for where I'll submit it for The Big Win, talk about low-budget aspirations.  But its spirit is true to our experience, and the music by the Rose Ensemble remains an inspiration. As are the dancers of course: Selina Shida Hack, Anka Sedlackova and Tina Vasquez.