A Chain Love Letter to Dance (In Video)

Art is a business. The sad fact. When I was choreographer in the 70s and 80s, with an "office" crammed into my East Village apartment, I spent more time as a manager than as an artist. Hour after hour I'd load letterheads into my daisy-wheel printer one sheet at a time, sending mail-merges to theaters trying to get gigs for my dance company. I'd fill out endless and lengthy grant forms scrambling for the relatively few art bucks that foundations and government agencies dole out.

So when hearing of the good fortune of other choreographers who had gotten a gig or a grant, though I'd be happy for them [I hated them], I also couldn't help but feel a sense of competitiveness, even with colleagues I knew and loved [I hated them]. It can feel like dogs fighting over scraps.

How tragic really, because the bigger truth is that choreographers are members of a great family, a family bound together by an indomitable passion for dance, and the shared experience of trial by sweat.

Wanting to spend more time arting and less time managing, I decided to become a filmmaker. (And found that film had absolutely no difference in the art/management quotient.)

I've now made 22 films and in the last four I've been experimenting with a technique I call "Hyper-Matchcutting," films where every adjacent edit is perfectly aligned in position and continuity. (This goes back some 90 years to Buster Keaton's brilliant Sherlock, Jr.)

Hyper-Matchcutting has a powerful visual effect of creating equalization. When a new image takes the place of an old image, with the same continuity of action, it says, These things are equal. I used that phenomenon several years ago in my film Globe Trot when I wanted to make a statement of unity across the peoples of the world.

And in my (two years in the making) film that came out last week, Exquisite Corps, I again wanted to portray a unity, but this time among the community of choreographers. I had a complicated relationship with my dance family way back when. I wanted to revisit it in a loving way.

I hoped to create an ode to that connectedness, to assemble a broad community of artists, tying them together with a common goal while honoring their differences and eccentricities. And in doing so, write a love letter to dance.

Exquisite corpse is a literary form where a story is passed from writer to writer, each picking up where the previous left off. Exquisite Corps is a dance version of that. Here it is: