Documentary IF THE DANCER DANCES Launches KickStarter Campaign

By: Jan. 26, 2018
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Documentary IF THE DANCER DANCES Launches KickStarter Campaign

If the Dancer Dances-a new feature-length documentary slated for completion in Spring 2018-just launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise finishing funds for the film. The powerful documentary reveals the unfolding process of re-creating a work, from studio to stage, while exploring what it takes to keep a dance alive. Created by award-winning filmmaker Maia Wechsler and award-winning writer and editor and former member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company Lise Friedman, the film follows a group of New York City's top modern dancers as they revive Merce Cunningham's 1968 RainForest, one of the 20th century's choreographic treasures. The film stars the Stephen Petronio Company and members of the former Merce Cunningham Dance Company.

"One can go to the Picasso Museum in Paris and see that artist's entire life's work. But there is nowhere to go to experience the same for Cunningham, a choreographer who is arguably Picasso's dance equivalent," says Wechsler.

"With no script or score to preserve it, dance is passed from body to body, one generation to the next," adds Friedman. "Maia and I made a film about what it takes to keep a dance alive through the generations. Our objective was to connect people to dance by giving them a deeper understanding and appreciation of the art form."

Composed almost entirely of vérité footage and interviews with multiple generations of dancers, If the Dancer Dances is punctuated by moments of archival footage in which we see Cunningham himself performing in RainForest, which features décor by Andy Warhol and costumes by Jasper Johns.

The film offers up a cast of rich characters, from dancer Davalois Fearon-faced with the weighty prospect of becoming the first black female to ever perform Cunningham professionally-to Stephen Petronio, one of this generation's leading choreographers, who is bringing RainForest into his company. With unprecedented access, the camera enters the poetic, tactile world of the dance studio, where members of the now-disbanded Merce Cunningham Dance Company teach the choreography to New York's Stephen Petronio Company.

In support of this project, dance icon Mikhail Baryshnikov said, "The dance studio is a private and mysterious place. After all, it's where great works of choreography are created and kept alive. IF THE DANCER DANCES grants us rare access, bringing us into the studio to watch the staging of a Merce Cunningham masterwork on the Stephen Petronio company. It's the tracking of this intimate process, a dance being passed one body to another, that makes this film a great gift."

Once completed, the film will be submitted to film festivals for consideration starting in spring 2018. To contribute to the campaign or learn more about the film and the filmmakers, please go to where you will see footage from the film.

Written and produced by Lise Friedman and Maia Wechsler
Directed by Maia Wechsler
Edited by Mary Manhardt

Run time: 120 minutes
Completion date: Spring 2018