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Dance To Live: Philadanco Dancemakers

Distributed by Cinema Guild, 115 West 30th Street, Suite 800, New York, NY 10001; 212-685-6242
Produced by Natasha Guruleva
Directed by Natasha Guruleva
VHS, color, 57 min.
College - Adult
Dance, African American Studies

Reviewed by Rebecca Adler, College of Staten Island, City University of New York

Date Entered: 1/25/2005

Dance to Live: Philadanco Dancemakers is essentially a sympathetic documentary about the well-known dance company based in Philadelphia. It passes up on filming formal dance numbers from the company’s repertoire – though we do get a glimpse or two of the company in action – in favor of presenting self-portraits of company members, mostly of the dancers themselves but also of a choreographer, a rehearsal assistant, and the company’s founder and director, the very impressive Joan Myers Brown. More than once we hear the soundtrack pontificate, “Dance is thought made visible,” yet the film relies very much on the spoken word. The members’ stories vary, and one or two of the stories are pitifully poignant (a man who dances in homage to his sister paralyzed from the neck down), but the message is always the same, some version of Gene Kelly’s wistful evocation in Singing in the Rain, “Gotta Dance!” The film does supply images to go along with the message. The dancers exercise, rehearse, improvise. Sweat drips from their brows. Their deep rhythmic breathing is amplified on the soundtrack. A syncopated drum – all we see are the drummer’s hands, the left hand regularly moving over to strike a minor chord on the nearby piano – supplies most of the music. A few imaginative montages add to the artistic mix. In all, a worthy addition to the valuable group of films documenting different American dance companies.