Warts, bunions, and all
Charles S. Houser | Binghamton, NY | 10/30/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film is more than a portrait of a choreographer. It is a portrait of his company. And of the small, not-for-profit arts institution in America. From beginning to end the viewer gets a glimpse of what it takes for such an institution to survive and remain creative in an environment that doesn't always appreciate innovation and creativity. Director Matthew Diamond (himself a former dancer and choreographer) has done an excellent job of interweaving rehearsal and live performances with archival footage and talking heads (dance critics, administrative staff, technical crew, dancers, former dancers, and Taylor himself all get their say). Taylor comes across, in turns, as impish (fabricating stories to please the press), vague (struggling to communicate new steps to his dancers), nervous (constantly chewing gum), fearful ("my inspiration comes from fear"), and autocratic (in the course of the film he fires one of his dancers). But most of all, Taylor comes across as insecure and vulnerable. One especially telling moment in the film comes when the company is performing in India and the sound system fails. The dancers continue dancing in silence while the crew busies itself trying to fix the problem. The music comes back on and the company is in perfect sync. Taylor revealingly says, "My dance was ruined. And they were the heroes, not me. They stole the show." As one former company member put it when describing Taylor's origins: "There was [Martha] Graham and then there was this big dysfunctional family, and Paul Taylor was one of them....And they all brought their own dysfunction to their own companies."The director should be applauded for the way he avoided dance cliches and dull, straight-on filming of dance performances. Especially exciting was the from-the-wings view of the energetic "Esplanade" that opens the film. And the most entrancing sequence is the male solo from "Aureole." For this, Diamond has intercut a current rehearsal of Patrick Corbin learning the dance with three different archival versions of Taylor performing the same work. The music continues seamlessly as the visuals switch from one point in time to another, suggesting without preaching, that dances have a life of their own...and a good one has a chance of outlasting any of its interpreters. Diamond's other dance films include "Speaking in Tongues" (also Paul Taylor's company) and "A Balanchine Celebration," fine and important films in their own right, though not equal to this masterpiece."
Superb; dancemaker and filmmaker choreograph wonderfully
J. Lizzi | Costa Mesa, CA | 08/02/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a documentary DVD that shows every aspect of the creative forces involved in producing what I believe to be the most captivating of art forms. "Dancemaker" is long on intimacy, giving equal time to the minds, the hearts, the souls and the bodies which collaborate to produce great modern dance. The genius of Paul Taylor and Director Matthew Diamond combine to make an extraordinary documentary.The first thing which struck me was the spontaneity with which Mr. Taylor was shown creating one of his new works. Standing side-by-side with one of his dancers, the two just ... moved ... and then conjectured about what might go next: "you could start this way ... and then, maybe ..." Very interesting. While there is a generous offering of studio footage, the recurring stereotype of the intensely driven dancemaster imploring his subjects to understand the gravity of his holy creation (you've seen this in movies) does not exist in this film. No cinematic exaggeration here: it's just the truest depiction of what happens as dance is created. In reality, the emotion and interaction between Mr. Taylor and his dancers is often more characteristic of a family than of a teacher/student relationship.Aside from following people around, Mr. Diamond's camera gets to many places I've never seen before. I loved the views from the wings in the opening sequence ("Esplanade"), and also during the performance in India when the sound system went dead and the crew was trying not to be frantic during the silence (the dancers continued on without missing a step until the sound was restored!). I also got a kick out of the dancer in his hotel room explaining what he had to go through to wake up after a night of performing. The film highlights two dance pieces, "Aureole" and "Piazzolla Caldera," and even though they aren't seen in their entirety, there is no diminishment in their strength and beauty. Mr. Diamond, who has also directed episodes of PBS's "Great Performances," was adept at interspersing the contrasting performance film (color) with studio footage (black and white) so that the two meshed perfectly. The editing during the dance numbers was the best I've ever seen, incorporating both the more typical audience vantage point with the more dramatic on-stage perspective from amongst the dancers. The proximity and the viewing angles were stunning; a wonderful surprise. There's also a fair amount of footage from the Paul Taylor Dance Archives, showing a younger Mr. Taylor and company performing signature works.In maintaining the foundation of a storyline, the film incorporates a biographical aspect, showing the evolution of Mr. Taylor's role as a dancemaker as an outgrowth of his boyhood years. The interviews with his long-time friends and associates, as well as the words of Mr. Taylor himself, are proof of the depth and seriousness with which he reveres his art. The film also touches on the troubling business realities that weigh on dance companies: having to remain financially solvent, and dealing with the picket lines which materialized in New York after the company hired non-union musicians. There's even a scene involving the firing of one of his dancers ("I just didn't want to work with her"), a somber sequence of dialogues, but one which lends strength to the reality of this film.As far as DVD features go, nothing extraordinary, but lots to read about the "inspirations and interpretations" behind the dances, biographies of selected dancers, and a scrolling list of the company's complete repertory (through 1999).Overall, this film's portrayal of the ways in which modern dance is created and portrayed make this a DVD I'd recommend to anyone. Every minute was fascinating."
De-lightful, De-lirious, Dancemaker
RICHARD THOMAS | Cotuit, Cape Cod, MA USA | 02/20/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you're relatively new to the world of dance (as I am) this film will make you jump for joy. It combines a loving overview of the amazing Paul Taylor's work with the intricacies of how a piece is created...you'll never look at dance them same way again! This film also pays tribute to the huge collaborative effort involved in creating and performing a piece and keeping one of the most talent-filled dance companies in the world up and running. The scene showing the group on tour when the music accidently stops and the dance continues uninterrupted is sheer poetry! This is worth watching over and over again. A gem of a film!"
"Dancemaker" or "Filmmaker?"
Jim Olen | New York City | 07/03/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Let's just put aside the fact that this is a brilliant look inside the world of Paul Taylor and Dance. And the fact that I now have a new found respect and reverence for what Paul Taylor has created over his lifetime. And the fact that as a novice to Dance myself, as Richard Thomas promised, I will never look at Dance the same again. These to me are givens.Instead, let me say that Mathew Diamond has created a piece of film - a story - that is virtually perfect in every aspect. I challenge you to find a creative flaw in it. And though Paul Taylor is the subject and inspiration of this piece, Diamond is the star. "Dancemaker" is a thing of beauty all by itself."