Helioscape is described as, "a portrait of the turbulent emotional
landscape of a star," and I'm not sure that I understand what that
means. Probably in the same way that I don't really understand a lot of
excellent poetry that I nevertheless enjoy, can feel uplifted by, or
that inspires me to try to see the world differently. If someone wants
to explain it to me, I am very interested. But not nearly as much as I
am in the experience.
And watching rising star Jenna Savella (National Ballet of Canada) is
an experience. She did what so many dancers and choreographers say they
strive to do. Take me on a journey.
This is a beautifully composed work. Beautifully danced. Beautifully
photographed. But what I particularly liked was there was neither an
absence of cinematic technical innovation nor an excess of it. There
was no sense of using the departures that film allows 'just because
they could.' Let me explain. The ballet begins in field and forest.
Savella's body is almost ritualistic. Tattooed, and with a sheer red
covering that stands out against the greenery while not compromising
her athletic, dancer's body. She twists and turns, performs seamlessly
flowing relevé and arabesque, not with the staccato movement of
classical ballet, but as if her body is one continuous curve.
But this is not just dancing in an outdoor environment recorded on
camera. At a certain point in the film, the dancer is suddenly in
darkness. Yet only darkness of a sort. Her body is still lit. She is no
longer in the forest. Her space is unencumbered by physicality. The
plane on which she dances maybe revolves slightly. It is as if her
triumphant celebration to the sun has continued undeterred by eclipse,
equally joyous, totally autonomous, the sun's light a spirit guarded
within the physical form of the dancer.
She bursts back into the forest again. And while her dance has the
delicate alertness of a fawn, connected to her environment, her
expression it totally that of a woman, absorbing every sight of nature
for the wondrous thing that it is, the curiosity of a child combined
with the intelligent awareness of an adult female. I am reminded of the
famous series of photographs, Natural Dance, by Hal Eastman, where a
dancer becomes one with the elements of nature. But unlike, Eastman and
his Isadora Duncan inspired dances through natural environments, Ms
Savella preserves her balletic tradition. This results in a
continuously dynamic relationship between her and her surroundings.
The scene shift dates back to a not dissimilar short, Dance In The Sun,
by Shirley Clarke. And before that, A Study In Choreography For The
Camera by Maya Deren. But director Jacob Niedzwiecki has clearly made
this his own. In Deren's film, a pioneering one in its day, the scene
shift is to emphasise the dancer's geography as distinct from the
physical geography. Clarke's dancer is more formal. And personifies an
identification with the sun and nature itself, rather than with the
'helioscape,' the view of the sun. Niedzwiecki and Savella achieve a
uniquely human statement. Savella's facial expression is as much part
of the dance as every other part of the composition.
While there are people to turn out short films of this calibre I am
content to let people more expert than myself provide the
understanding. I am just grateful that they do, and long may
Niedzwiecki and Savella continue to do so.
George Balanchine said that the tree of dance "takes a long, long time
to blossom." I think we can safely say that it has.
(readers please note - the running time is 6mins 18seconds, not 18
seconds as listed on IMDb at time of writing)
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