I Hate Dancing
I’m always fascinated by the relationship between words and dance. On the one hand, dance so often elevates itself beyond words to tell a story, convey emotions, create concept etc. Dance can live very comfortably in the realm of sheer visceral energy and a sort of kinetic and wordless poetry without the need for language at all. And yet, there are so many dance shorts that employ language. I’ve seen dance films with seemingly unrelated narration, dance films with a conversation between two people, dance films that interview someone who is never seen, dance films using poetry as voice over… Overall, words and language are often left searching for meaning in the genre of screen dance. It simply seems that one way or the other, words frequently fail in conjunction with dance, falling short in their ability to convey what dance can say without any need for them at all.
Then you have I Hate Dancing. This really smart short film with voiceover by the British comedian, actor, writer, and activist Stephen Fry is… well… a bird of an altogether different feather. Created by Los Angeles based dancer, choreographer, and filmmaker Jo Roy, I Hate Dancing brilliantly uses dance to embody (I think that may be the best word) each hilariously recited phrase that Fry delivers – and there are so many – in his oh so British, high brow sort of way. As he waxes on about how much he absolutely hates dancing, you can almost here him spitting in disgust:
I hate that slovenly mixture of sexual exhibitionism, strutting contempt, and repellent narcissim that it involves… I hate it when it’s formless, meaningless bopping. And I hate it, if anything, even more when it’s formal and choreographed! Those cavortings are so embarrassing and dreadful as to force my hand to my mouth.
Extremely well edited and shot with a minimal black and white look against a white cyclorama, the viewer focuses distinctly on Roy as she moves in direct response to what Fry is saying. What is so wonderfully ironic is that the Roy’s astute choreography simultaneously embodies and translates, all at once, the words and meaning of Fry’s hilarious treatise, into the very thing that he so detests – dance. And I love the result.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Founder/Director of Dare to Dance in Public Film Festival, Sarah Elgart is a Los Angeles based choreographer and director working under the auspice of Sarah Elgart | Arrogant Elbow. Sarah creates original content for stage, screen, and site-specific venues. Her stage and site-works have been performed at alternative spaces including LAX Airport, The Skirball Center, Mark Taper Forum, Van Nuys Flyaway, The Bradbury Building, Jacob’s Pillow, INSITU Site-Specific Festival NY, and Loft Seven, where she created a rooftop work lit entirely by a hovering helicopter accompanied by Nels Cline (Wilco). Her work has been produced by venues including The Music Center, MASS MoCA, Dance Place, Los Angeles Theater Center, Mark Taper Forum and The International Women’s Theater Festival. In film Sarah has worked with noted directors including JJ Abrams, David Lynch, Catherine Hardwicke, and Anton Corbijn. Her own films include award-winning music videos, dance shorts, and an Emmy nominated PSA, and continue to be accepted into festivals internationally. In addition to teaching dance and film, Sarah writes a regular column, ScreenDance Diaries that focuses on the intersections of both genres internationally for online magazine Cultural Weekly. Sarah’s work has received support from organizations that include the Rockefeller Foundation, the NEA, City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, California Arts Council and more. She is an alumna of the Sundance Institute’s Dance Film Lab, a Fellow of AFI’s Directing Women’s Workshop, and a director member of the DGA.