From the mambo to the tango, there’s no denying Latin America loves to dance. It’s long been one of our greatest exports. That’s one of the takeaways from this year’s lineup at the 44th edition of the Dance on Camera Festival where several documentaries single out powerful stories centered on dance traditions in Cuba, Spain and Argentina. The festival, a collaboration between the Dance Films Association and the Film Society of Lincoln Center celebrates dance in all its forms — from trapeze (or “ballet in the air”) in its Opening Night selection, Tom Moore’s The Flight Fantastic to the Broadway-flavored dances in Vincente Minnelli’s The Band Wagon.
In the words of Joanna Ney, co-curator, with Liz Wolff, “Diversity, passion and commitment are, as ever, the watchwords of Dance on Camera Festival. From Carmen Amaya’s legacy as seen in her progeny in Bajarí to a remote corner of Québec where a dancing school offers life lessons, to Horizons, a salute to Cuba’s love affair with ballet, the accent is on maintaining tradition as well as looking to the future.” There really is something for everyone in this week-long festival.
So if you’re in the mood for some on-screen dancing, take a look at these four films below.
Dance on Camera Festival runs February 12-16, 2016.
They Are We
Emma Christopher’s ebullient They Are We began with a simple question “Can a family separated by the transatlantic slave trade sing and dance its way back together?” Tracing back the origins of the Afro-Cuban songs and dances brought by an ancestor during the trade to Perico, Cuba, Christopher eventually found a remote village in Sierra Leone where, upon watching a recording of the Cubans’ songs and dances the people exclaimed “They are we!” Christopher’s film is a colorful celebration of Afro-Cuban culture, rhythmically pulsing with the percussive songs that have survived through centuries.
Un tango más
The passion and talent of María Nieves Rego and Juan Carlos Copes, perhaps the most famous tango couple in history, is ever-present in Kral’s documentary. Tracing their romance and eventual heartbreak with sumptuously shot reenactments, using dance numbers in empty stages lit suggestively to play out their history together, and interviewing both dancers, now in their 70s, the film builds up to what the title promises us: their last tango together.
Hofer’s documentary celebrates classical ballet in Cuba by telling the story of three generations of dancer: local legend 93 year-old Alicia Alonso, who founded the National Ballet of Cuba, Viengsay Valdes, a member of the company, and young Amanda de Jesus Perez Duarte, who hopes to become a ballerina. Mixing archival footage and rehearsal numbers with the personal stories of these three women, what emerges is a rare look at Cuba’s proud heritage of this classical art.
Playing like a feature-length jam session, Vila’s Bajarí follows Karime Amaya, the grandniece of legendary flamenco dancer Carmen Amaya, who has been recruited by a local band to put on a show to celebrate Amaya’s long lasting influence on flamenco music and dance. During the lively sessions as they prep for the big show, Vila paints a picture of a musically-inclined Barcelona who is still discovering and celebrating the spirit of Bajarí—the word for Barcelona in Caló.