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Dance in the Sun

Film Review by Dean Duncan May 8, 2015

Bumped up a grade for the astounding conclusion, in which this superb dancer/athlete lights up a big cigarette for himself and his accompanist. One assumes that Clark’s fim was very much aware of Maya Deren’s previous, somewhat similar study. Here I think the match cuts and location jumps are actually more successful, maybe because there’s only the studio and the beach to keep track of. They’re very well edited/executed.

Dance in the Sun makes me think about the relationship between dancers and athletes, or dance and athletics. Flip sides of one another, or complete opposites: sports have an objective, and athletes strive for concrete things (goals, times, beating the other guy); dance can be concrete when it is structured by a narrative of some kind, but at a certain basic level its physical striving is abstract. It moves and stops, rises and falls for the sake of moving and stopping, rising and falling. So, with athletes we appreciate their speed or grace and beauty in a kind of incidental or additional way, while they’re doing the thing we came to see them do. Dance will, for the most part, foreground the speed and grace and beauty. (There are of course boring games, and dances that portray ugliness.) They are the goal, the time, the competition!

Take two: Or, for all its improvisation, dance is scripted physicality. Athletes have the rules of the game, but you can’t predict what the other guy is doing. The athletic exchange is existential, worked out on the spot. For all that dance can be improvised also, there are always those steps to fall back on …