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A natural affinity exists between cinema and the rhythms and patterns of dance. As early as the pre-cinema days of mechanical devices such as the Victorian Mutascope, dancers proved a popular subject to display the new spectacle of movement to an incredulous public. First images of dance on film ranged from ballet, jigs, waltzes to rather more risqué and suggestive syncopations. The different forms of dance recorded on film since the invention of cinema have continued to show this diversity. Popular dances of the day have been as much the subject of the camera as the more refined choreographies of ballet.

In the experimental approaches of artists and filmmakers, dance is freed from the confines of the theatre setting or dance hall to enter other spaces, providing new contexts and readings for dance. In Sandra Lahire's Night Dances a couple waltz amongst Hebrew gravestones in an allusion to the 'Dance of Death', the subject of medieval religious paintings. To the bemusement of its citizens, Harold Offeh dances the samba in all of Rio de Janeiro's tourist spots in the persona of Haroldinho. Dancing in the street and on the beach, Offeh conjures up not only Rio's famous carnival but also the army of invisible manual workers who serve the city, denoted by his blue uniform, decorated in an unconvincing display of carnival costume.

Whilst Jayne Parker's film The Whirlpool may refer to ballet, she unravels and rethinks its conventions by elemental means. Thus, an en pointe ballerina finds herself performing underwater, her movements alternatively liberated and constricted by a different sense of gravity. Ballet also becomes a way to explore memory in The Reunion, in which Parker invites two stars of the ballet to dance together again after thirty years. Fictional and real selves meet in a tale of a couple meeting after years of separation. A reunion and retracing of histories is also at the heart of Stephen Dwoskin's film Ballet Black, in which he explores the first Black dance company in London, The Ballets Negres. Ballet Black examines the resonances of the past through a contemporary reading. The original cast, reunited after many years, remember their seminal performances whilst a younger generation is invited to reinterpret the dances that made their name.

The Reunion was commissioned by Dance for the Camera, one of many UK funding schemes which have encouraged the link between film and dance over the years. The mingling of the two art forms has also promoted crossover audiences, as fans of the dance engage with filmic interpretations of performance and filmmakers and film audiences encounter the different tempos and expressions of dance. Movement and rhythm play a significant role in the films of Tanya Syed, who often works with dancers to develop film projects. Her film Delilah shows how film techniques can enrich the experience of dance, as editing and slow motion contribute new visual rhythms and pace to the movement of the dance.

Syed's films show how dance's expressive ability to project inner emotional states through movement rather than words has always attracted artist filmmakers searching for a film form which does not use speech or conventional narrative. One of the first filmmakers to explore the formalist qualities of performance was the American pioneer Maya Deren. Her films Meshes of the Afternoon and Ritual in Transfigured Time stop, slow or reverse the body in time and motion, suggesting more abstract or allegorical complexities of interior emotion without the literal cause and effect of conventional cinema narrative. Similar patterns can be identified in Jeanette Iljon's film Focii, in which a dancer confronts her own image in the refracting mirrors around the room.

In contrast to contemporary dance, other artist filmmakers tap into the dance culture of popular music, much as Edison had first done when he filmed the dance crazes of the 1910s and 20s. The films of Sarah Miles use dance music and the 'grunge' music of 1990s slacker culture to allude to the feelings and desires of the characters in films such as Damsel Jam. By adding an incongruous Drum and Bass soundtrack to a short film of two young girls spontaneously dancing in the street, oblivious to the camera, she creates a poignant and humorous soundtrack for everyday lives.

Rootless Cosmopolitans

Ballet Black

Stephen Dwoskin's film is a personal exploration of 'The Ballet Negres', the first all-black dance company in Europe based in London.



Located in the darkness, a place of no boundaries, Delilah is a 'meditation on violence', love and survival.

Fatima's Letter

In Land

Concentration on a single point. Filmed in India, Norway, Spain and Scotland, this film has taken me on a diasporic journey.


Night Dances

The Dance of Death is bound to life - Lechaim - as we whirl together by Hebrew gravestones.



Haroldinho, "Little Harold", is a persona created and performed by Harold Offeh in response to his experiences of Rio de Janeiro, during a two-month residency in the city.


The Reunion

The Reunion brings together dancers Lynn Seymour and Donald MacLeary, partnering each other again, for the first time in over thirty years.


The Whirpool

'The Whirlpool' is a short choreographed underwater dance spectacle.



Focii brings together performance, art and film.


Damsel Jam

Girls experience and women remember being twelve years old jammed together in the menstrual hearse (a white talbot avenger lined with red velvet).


Drum and Bass

A captured moment. Out of the jungle two girls dance.

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