Raindance Film Festival 2018 ~ If the Dancer Dances: Moving film about a choreography legend who passed away too early


We only need a few seconds before recognising the undeniably familiar bolero from the French choreographer Maurice Béjart and Julius Reisinger. His choreography for Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky is as famous as the play itself. For most of us, Merce Cunningham might not be as familiar as others but if you ask any choreographer or dancer all over the world, they will only have praise and love for this American choreographer/dancer who sadly passed away too early in 2009. With her newest film, Director Maia Wechsler honours Cunningham in the most beautiful way. If The Dancer Dances is a moving film that offers a unique insight in what it takes to keep the legacy of an incredibly important choreographer alive.

For over more than thirty years, choreographer Stephen Petronio has been teaching his own and only his own contemporary dances to his Company. After the death of his mentor, the iconic Merce Cunningham, Petronio decides to make the very first exception and wants to take on Cunningham’s iconic Rainforest as an incredibly fitting homage. It becomes clear from the very first rehearsal that this piece will demand the most intensive training Petronio’s dancers had in their lives. They get help from some legendary dancers who got to known the master himself right before he died. It’s all about exploring the very fine line between Cunningham’s perfection, and having their own twist and interpretation of the dance. Having rehearsed day and night and achieved their very best, the dancers are about to perform during the opening night. However, there might still be some small mistakes that could delay the premiere…

Whether it’s viewing a portrait by Picasso or reading one of Shakespeare’s novels, both gentleman will live through generations because their paintings or books that will always be there. However, a dance will disappear if dancers stop dancing it. If The Dancer Dances not only shows the impact Cunningham has on the contemporary art but also why it’s extremely important to keep his legacy and ground-breaking work alive. With this movie, the filmmaker didn’t only want to reach the dance lovers or Cunningham connoisseurs, but most importantly everyone. It doesn’t matter whether you’re into dance or not, you will love this documentary. The dancers and the human aspect are placed as central as Cunningham in the film, and because of the emotions, struggles and triumphs, you will feel incredibly connected with the Company. You’re going to want to sit through the entire movie to find out whether they will succeed in the dance they’ve work so hard for.

Put on your dancing shoes and go and check out If The Dancer Dances. It will give you a completely new insight into the world of dance and what it takes to perform one of the most iconic but most difficult dances ever created. This film will make you cheer and smile, but also make you think about dance and especially the human element of it.

Liselotte Vanophem, Film and Celebrity Reporter – Just Celebrity Magazine

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