Pina Bausch once famously said, "I loved to dance because I was scared to speak. When I was moving, I could feel."
The late German choreographer's words serve as the inspiration for Pas, one of the opening night films at this year's San Francisco Dance Film Festival. The event offers up a wide array of long and short form dance movies over the course of its four-day run.
Pas is a short, and the format lends itself particularly well to Bausch’s thesis statement. Short films are often wordless, only scanned and plotted for the movement of the body. The visceral language evokes a mood or emotion precisely because speech is withheld. As such, it's hard to remain unmoved by the despair of a soldier returned from war (Private Life) or the Caliban-like intensity of a dancer’s interaction with the natural world (Uath Lochans).
In addition to three nights of International Shorts programming, the festival includes some interesting documentaries. In Feelings Are Facts: The Life of Yvonne Rainer, Bay Area filmmaker Jack Walsh tells the story of Rainer, an American postmodern dance maverick. My Mother Loved Dance follows French ballerina and choreographer Brigitte Lefèvre in the process of retiring from her post as director of the Paris Opera Ballet.
And if you weren’t able to dash over to Oslo, Norway last year to witness, in person, Alexander Ekman’s aquatic production of A Swan Lake, you’re in luck. Rare Birds captures Ekman’s process with the Norwegian National Ballet as the company mounts a celebrated ballet on a beautiful, watery stage. On the festival’s last day, there’s a family-friendly matinee Let’s Get the Rhythm about the hand-clapping games that girls play on inner-city playgrounds around the world. If the festival lineup hasn’t already inspired you to get on your feet, Rhythm will do the trick. The film opens with The Clapping Song (Clap Pat Clap Slap): you’ll be dancing in no time.