Monday, November 8, 2010

NY EXPORT: OPUS JAZZ goes theatrical at Bkyln's reRun and onto DVD November 23

Dance mavens (movie mavens, as well): rejoice!
A beautiful new dance film -- revisiting a famous ballet by Jerome Robbins -- that made its premiere this past March at SxSW (and then on TV) is getting its New York theatrical debut at the reRun Theater in Brooklyn this week, prior to making its DVD debut (on Blu-Ray yet!) toward the end of this month. NY EXPORT: OPUS JAZZ takes Robbins' 1950s ballet into the 21st Century, using today's young dancers dressed in current jeans/t-shirt/
sneakers fashion, dancing to the fine jazz score by Robert Prince.

In its leap from legitimate stage to film, gone are the theatrical sets, which are now replaced by various NYC environs -- from schoolyard to gymnasium, pristine ballet school to overgrown-and-out-of-use rail yard, diner to building roof to empty warehouse. The theater director has been replaced by two filmmakers -- Henry Joost (above, left -- of the now famous Catfish) and Jody Lee Lipes (below, right -- cinematographer of AfterSchool and the just-releasing Tiny Furniture), and these guys have done
quite a  job of bringing dance to the screen. They don't give the typically fast 'n furious editing that robs us of of the pleasure of watching real dancers strut their stuff. They allow the choreography to shine -- and since it's Robbins, shine, it does. The movie-makers make the dance seem natural, an extension of all the joy and lust and sadness and longing that is life.They use ambient sound to introduce the dancers.  The music, when it finally arrives seems itself almost ambient.

The views of the filmmakers' ultra widescreen cameras range from dead-on (above) and overhead to tracking shots and close-ups that allows us to observe the dancers' contempt, annoyance, impatience and joy.  The locations cover the city in day and night, and the dancers themselves are terrific: lean, youthful, energetic and highly sexual. But of course, for this is Robbins' choreography.  The dance king's work offers a sensuality that bores deep, rather than the lighter-weight Fosse model, with its incessant hip-flips & gimmicks.

Note the venue of the love duet (above) in that gone-to-seed rail yard, as a couple puts longing into movement. The image of her head, cradled in his bent elbow, is a keeper. Those who complained about the tackiness and ugliness of Joost's Catfish (to my mind, exactly what was necessary there) need to see his work here.
For the remaining reRun/Gastropub Theater screening times and dates for NY Expo: Opus Jazz, click here.  The DVD, via Factory 25, will be available in just two weeks (on November 23) for sale or rental.  Either way, don't miss this one.  At the theater and on the DVD is a 15-minute extra: A Ballet in Sneakers: Jerome Robbins on Opus Jazz.  A time-trip back to the 50s, this little short fascinates on a lot of levels.

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