Dr. Vena Ramphal presents a programme of experimental dance films with artists discussing their work. Insights features the enchanting Hands by ex-Royal Ballet soloist Jonathan Burrows and filmmaker Adam Roberts, Vanishing Point by Rosemary Butcher and Horizon of Exile by Isabel Rocamora (winner International Music + Media Centre award best screen choreography 2007).

Vanishing Point
A film by: Rosemary Butcher & Martin Otter
A Capture 3 commission; 2004

Vanishing Point is a bold and painterly film. With the camera holding an unblinking gaze across windswept sand dunes of Andalucia, we see the lone figure of Elena Gianotti making her way slowly towards the camera. She performs a simple series of gestures: collapses to her knees, rises up, and starts the process over and over again; each time moving a few steps closer to the camera. When combined with the haunting ethereal sound track, the viewer is left feeling that they have witnessed some form of meditation or pilgrimage.

Director: David Hinton
Choreographer: Rosemary Lee
Production Company: Illuminations
co-production: Arts Council England/BBC/NPS Holland; 2003

Snow is the second film from renowned director David Hinton, constructed solely from archival footage of winter antics dating from the 1890s to the 1960s. In this collaboration with Rosemary Lee, the film creates the narrative and choreographic structure from found movement of a bygone era; sometimes from a well spotted gesture, and at other times from the careful juxtaposition and repetition of shots. The effect is often comic, partly because of the inherently funny sight of people slipping about on ice, but also from the comic associations of early black and white films from the likes of Buster Keaton and Charles Chaplin.

Night Practice
Director: Susanna Wallin
co-production: South East Dance and Youth Dance England for Channel 4; 2006

Night Practice is set on an empty floodlit playing field populated by seven young men hanging out after dark. They aimlessly jostle about, practice their football skills and show off to each other in the centre of the pitch. They are circled by a lone runner. His focused, rhythmic running, is mesmerising in its simplicity. This is an authentic and touching portrayal of young men, and the filmmaker, Susan Wallin, captures their fragile yet powerful physicality. Night Practice explores the undirected energy that comes from being able to do whatever you want, combining the structure of meticulous training with simple magical wonder.

Choreographer: Jonathan Burrows
Filmmaker: Adam Roberts
Composer: Matteo Fargion
Production Company: Dancelines
co-production: An Arts Council England/BBC; 1995

‘An exquisite jewel:  an unexpected, eloquent, seemingly simple yet intensely concentrated dance for a pair of hands’ Nadine Meisner, Dance Theatre Journal.

In the lap of a man lie his hands. Movement and rest, rest and movement:  revealing, in unblinking close-ups, a dance for a single pair of hands. Jonathon Burrows, one of the UK’s most notable and respected choreographers, collaborated with filmmaker Adam Roberts to make Hands. Here they have not amputated or abstracted the choreography, merely concentrated it into the hands. This gives the camera and the audience an intimate experience with all the attributes of a large stage show, only smaller.

Director/Choreographer: Shelly Love
Production Company: MJW Productions; 2005

Film was made through the creative, playful and textural exploration of materials, movement and pace. It is the third in a series of four Shelly Love films that run entirely backwards. This abstract piece occupies its own world.

Magnetic North
Director/Choreographer: Miranda Pennell
Production Company: MJW Productions (UK) and Periferia Productions (Finland)
co-production: Arts Council England/BBC/NPS (Holland); 2003

Magnetic North is the eighth film from established director Miranda Pennell. She continues her exploration of large group choreography as in her earlier film Tattoo and sews the seeds for her exploration of private, personal worlds as in her later film Human Radio. Here she encounters the adolescent rituals which are played out across the wintry landscapes of a small Finnish town. A teenage girl skates on a frozen lake, while a teenage boy poses with a guitar in his room. The film evokes a world of adolescent fantasy and yearning, giving us a witty and orchestral piece.

Director/Choreographer: Vena Ramphal
commissioned by: A South East Dance and Moving Pictures Festival of Dance on Film and Video for Channel 4 and Bravo Fact; 2004

Fold is a lush and vibrant rendition of a Bharatha Natyam inspired dance piece by Vena Ramphal. This South Asian dance form is transformed by the filmic medium which gives the viewer an up-close and intimate experience of the performance and performer that could never be realised in the theatre. Precise framing directs the gaze to the subtle detail of the bejewelled, costumed surface of the dancer’s body and the emotive depth of her movement. Paradoxically the camera’s brutal truncation of the body emphasises the importance of line within the delicacy of the movement.

Horizon of Exile
Choreographer/Producer: Isabel Rocamora
Production Company: Infinito Productions
commissioned by: Arts Council England/dance.tech; 2007

Award-winning Horizon of Exile immerses the viewer in an unforgettable and dramatic cinematic experience. The film is a meditation on female identity, land and exile. The film follows the journey of two women across timeless desert landscapes as they negotiate issues of self-image and belonging. Set to a soundtrack by Jivan Gasparyan and punctuated by voice testimonies of Iraqi exile, Surma Hamid, the bodies betray a serene violence, traveling as though released from consciousness or gravity, falling and recuperating, haunted by an irrepressible past. The combination of voice, choreography, politics, cinematography and location fuse to make a complex, layered film.