Chazen Museum of Art


“If the Dancer Dances” documentary film

April 28, 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM | Auditorium

Unlike a painting that hangs in a museum over the decades, dance is ephemeral, existing only in the moment. There is no script or score for preservation. Instead, dance is transmitted from body to body, one generation to the next. If the Dancer Dances,” a feature-length documentary, is a visual record of this unfolding process, in the studio and onstage, as Merce Cunningham’s iconic 1968 "RainForest" is brought back to life on the Stephen Petronio Company. Cunningham, whose groundbreaking body of work changed dance – and art for that matter – in the 20th century, died in 2009. His company disbanded soon after, leaving audiences around the world to mourn this immeasurable loss. Would his seminal work survive?

Preservation of the 20th century’s great modern dance works is a critical issue in the art and dance worlds today. Many of the choreographers who literally gave birth to this new form have died, leaving behind countless pieces that are no longer performed. Our goal in making this film is to reveal the workings of an evanescent art form to a wide audience, even those with no particular background in dance, as we confront what it takes to prevent the loss of masterworks to time. “If the Dancer Dances” is timed to coincide with Merce Cunningham’s approaching centennial.

Lise Friedman, co-director/producer, was a member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company from 1977 to 1984. Today, Lise is a writer and faculty member at the Gallatin School at New York University.  She is the author of two Children’s Book of the Month Club Selections as well as the Junior Library Guild Selection "Becoming a Ballerina" and "Alvin Ailey Dance Moves! A Dance-Based Approach to Movement and Exercise." With her sister Ceil Friedman, she co-authored "Letters to Juliet," which inspired the idea behind the 2010 lm "Letters to Juliet." She was editor of the award-winning quarterly "Dance Ink," dance writer for Microsoft’s New York Sidewalk, editorial director of Access Press, Inc., and editor of several books, including "Poor Dancer's Almanac: Managing Life and Work in the Performing Arts" and "People Who Dance." She graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1977.

Maia Wechsler, co-director/producer, is an independent documentary filmmaker and former dancer.  She began her non-dance life as a reporter and writer in Paris. Her award-winning documentary "Sisters in Resistance" traces the lives of four friends who fought in the French resistance and survived Ravensbruck concentration camp. Her latest film, "Melvin & Jean: An American Story," explores the lives and crime of an African-American couple, who hijacked a plane to Algeria to see the United States. As a journalist, Maia was a special correspondent in Paris for "U.S. News and World Report," managing editor of the Paris city magazine "Passion," and a reporter/writer at "The Times" in Trenton, NJ.  Maia has worked in non-profit fundraising and is a certified yoga instructor, teaching in the women’s prison at Rikers Island.

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