Posts Tagged ‘Dance’

Yuli (2018) ***

Dir: Icíar Bollaín | Carlos Acosta, Santiago Alfonso, Carlos Enrique Almirante, Keyvin Martinez, Laura De la Uz | Biopic Drama 104

Cuba is the dazzling backdrop to this ‘all singing all dancing’ traditionally-styled biopic that vivaciously explores the rags to riches route to the international stage of its best known living export Carlos Acosta, now an celebrated ballet dancer. Based on his 2007 memoir No Way Home, it stars Acosta himself looking back on a career that has gone from minor to major striking nearly every thematic chord in life’s libretto from childhood poverty to paternal domination, racial discrimination, political turmoil and self realisation through artistic endeavour, under the glare – and glory of Castro’s regime.

Teaming up for the third time with her English husband and scripter Paul Laverty (I, Daniel Blake) Spanish director Icíar Bollaín (The Olive Tree) creates the irrepressibly vibrant milieu of modern Cuba where Acosta is seen rehearsing for a show that chronicles his life in the medium of dance. He is then transported back – by means of a red-bound scrapbook – to memories of his childhood where as ‘Yuli’ the cheeky young Acosta (Nuñes), named after the Cuban Santéria religion, is growing up in an impoverished barrio of Havana, with his white mother Maria (Perez) and his black father Pedro (Alfonso) who we first meet dragging Yuli away from a brilliant break-dancing routine with his pals.

The draconian Pedro has set his sights on better things for the wayward whippersnapper, and soon he is forcing him into a formal training despite the boy’s natural inclination to join a football pitch rather than the stage of the respectable Cuban School of Ballet where he soon fetches up, his talent capturing the imagination of his teacher Chery (De la Uz), who encourages him into a strict regime of training.

The years go by and the grown-up Carlos (Keyvin Martínez) finds himself travelling to London to take up an offer he soon manages to refuse, missing the warmth of his native Cuba which is by now in political meltdown. Back home, his father and Cheryl point him in the direction of dance rather than ballet – despite an approach from the Royal Ballet.

Laverty’s script tiptoes lightly over Maria of the rest of the family – alluding to mental illness for his older sister Berta (Doimeadíos) – but no love stories for Carlos, despite his popularity with the opposite sex. Knowing how well-received father/son relationships are (Boyhood, Field of Dreams etc) maybe Laverty and Bollain have decided to put Carlos and Pedro in the limelight of a story of male inspiration, particularly as it is a black one, although the decision to have Pedro give a diatribe on the slavery question in Cuba seems awkward, and strangely misplaced.

Bollaín injects plenty of joie de vivre into this sun-filled optimistic portrait with its terrific dance routines and sweeping cinematography. And although Laverty’s script sometimes follows a schematic road the performances overcome this, with Olbera Nuñes and Acosta himself the standouts. Yuli provides flamboyant entertainment for ballet lovers and mainstream audiences alike, enlivened by the presence of Acosta having so much fun. MT



The Walker (2015) **** Taiwan Film Festival 2019

Dir: Singing Chen | Doc, Taiwan 147′

Renowned Taiwanese choreographer Lin Lee-Chen has devoted her life to a slow and studied form of dance that embraces modern techniques with ancient religious ritual. Chen’s impressive Taiwanese documentary explores the origins of her method, showing how stealth rather than speed is the essence of the calming dance movements. Lin channels her own inner tranquility and potent physical strength into routines that share her powerful dexterity and calming creativity.

This epic study starts with a deep rumble of drums as the underworld opens and a mystical pearly white Sea Goddess Mazu gracefully emerges leading her dusky spirits forwards. This is one of the eerie yet mesmerising dances Lin has created and is performed by her Legend Lin Dance Theatre. Her work is borne out of a desire to express and share her own inner calm.

Ten years in the making the documentary is an impressively meditative endeavour that illustrates the difference between the Lin’s slow oriental aesthetic and that of the West which focuses on speed. The dance excerpts are visually exquisite, blending calmness with richly vibrant colours and an emphasis on pools of light that highlight the ritualistic dance routines. Another sequence takes place on the seashore and is one of the most sinuous and graceful performances in the repertoire, the costumes billowing and swirling as they gently contour the dancers’ elegant forms. If you’re looking for a comprehensive visual history of Taiwanese dance then this is probably the most appealing so far. MT

SCREENING AT BERTHA DOC HOUSE during the London Taiwanese Film Festival 2019 | 3 April 2019

Pina (2011) Bluray and Home Ent release

Dir: Wim Wenders | Germany, 2011 | Doc | 113′    

PINA is an amazing and lavishly attractive musical that combines 3D to heighten our enjoyment of a series of dance sequences filmed by Wim Wenders and featuring the celebrated dancer Pina Bausch in her Tanztheater in Wuppertal in the southern Ruhr valley, Germany.

The German choreographer died in June 2009 at the age of 68 just as she was starting her collaboration with Wim Wenders but he so believed in the project that he continued with Pina’s versions of Vollmond, a dance that centres on water splashing in a rock pool, Stravinsky’s exotic expressionist piece The Rite of Spring; Kontakthof, where rhythmic movements are inspired by a heightened naturalism; and the dynamic routine Café Müller, where six dancers move around in a restaurant as they rearrange the tables and chairs. West End Blues sees the troupe in full evening dress with lounge suits and long flowing gowns as they move to the jazz syncopations of Louis Armstrong and his band. The dances often break out into the nearby streets where they swirl around using the backdrop of the monorail and green spaces as inspiration for their graceful compositions. Ever inventive this is one of Wenders’ most memorable and enjoyable films along with Wings of Desire and the cult classic Paris, Texas. MT


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