2014 Archives

SMU Meadows dance professor to premiere performance documentary at Dallas Videofest

Christopher Dolder brings insider’s view to film about newly choreographed 'Rite of Spring'

October 17, 2014

DALLAS (SMU) – DALLAS (SMU) – A new documentary by SMU Meadows Assistant Professor of Dance Christopher Dolder about the creation of last year’s innovative Rite of Spring at SMU will premiere at the Dallas VideoFest on Saturday, Oct. 18.

Trailer for Rite of Spring

The 66-minute film, Meadows at the Winspear Rite of Spring, follows Dutch choreographer Joost Vrouenraets and SMU Meadows dance faculty and students through the rigorous three months of rehearsal and the final performances.

The piece, created by Vrouenraets especially for Meadows students in honor of The Rite’s 100th anniversary, received rave reviews from area critics and was named best dance performance of the year by The Dallas Observer. The performances took place at the 2013 Meadows Spring Dance Concert at SMU and at the Meadows at the Winspear annual gala at the Winspear Opera House in the Dallas Arts District.

As a dancer, filmmaker Christopher Dolder brings a unique viewpoint to film.  “I have developed a sense of the angles, distance, and framing that highlight the various essences of the dance idiom,” he said.   “From intimate and emotional, to broad and abstract, I attempt to maximize the power of viewpoint within the realm of dance and camera.”

Dolder created his first dance films in the 1980s as director of his own dance company, Christopher Dolder and Friends, and as a soloist for Martha Graham. His films include Shifting Sands and Disturbing Nature and his long-term documentary project, The Ecstatic Dance of Burning Man, will premiere at the 2015 Burning Man festival.

The Rite of Spring premiered in 1913 in Paris to greater storms of controversy than any other ballet in history. With a revolutionary score by Stravinsky and innovative choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky, the original ballet evoked a primitive Slavonic ritual glorifying the rites of spring, concluding with a human sacrifice.

Vrouenraets developed for Meadows students a new version that he called “more of a mirror for the 21st century.” In his Rite, a 21st-century tribe of young virgins is moved by their desire to manipulate, control and reproduce; they secretly and ritually create a new being – represented by an enigmatic golden puppet – which, in order to become fully realized, seeks an encounter with a pure soul chosen by the group.

Interview with Christopher Dolder

“Joost’s somewhat ‘graphic novel’ approach to choreography lends itself to a filmic representation of his work,” said Dolder. “This ‘making of’ documentary, which includes an edited version of the complete dance, provides for the viewer a more intimate and visceral platform for experiencing this new take on Rite of Spring.”

The film project came about somewhat unexpectedly. Vrouenraets was commissioned by SMU to create the new dance, and Dolder was initially tapped as the production’s rehearsal director. Their artistic relationship soon blossomed. Vrouenraets, the founder of Gotra Ballet in the Netherlands, formerly studied dance at the Rudra Béjart studio/school in Switzerland and danced for Béjart’s Company M and Ballet Lausanne. Dolder, a former soloist with the Martha Graham Dance Company, had danced in Graham’s Rite of Spring more than 1,000 times.

“When Joost found out that I had been a soloist with Martha, he asked for my feedback on the first few rehearsals,” said Dolder. “He then asked if I would take on the role of dramaturge and become more fully vested artistically in the work. As Joost and I became both collaborators and then later friends, I showed him various bits of my long-term documentary project The Ecstatic Dance of Burning Man. He asked if I could show footage from the unpublished documentary to the board of directors of Gotra. I did, and they hired me to document the entire process of developing Rite of Spring and subsequently create a publishable film.”

Nine months in the making, the film melds multiple performances and rehearsals from both SMU and the Winspear into one finished product. It is slated to be screened at two separate festivals in Europe in 2015.

At Dallas VideoFest, the film is being paired with Fallen Angel II by Mark Whittier, a 30-minute documentary about the rise, fall, and resurgence of the Bruce Wood Dance Company/Bruce Wood Dance Project.

The two films will screen back-to-back at 8:15 p.m. on October 18, at the Angelika Theater, 5321 East Mockingbird Lane in Dallas. Tickets are $8. For more information, visit here.

About the Dallas VideoFest

Now in its 27th year, Dallas VideoFest is the oldest and largest video festival in the U.S. and is produced annually by the Video Association of Dallas. Approximately 175 films have been chosen to screen at multiple locations during this year’s festival from October 8-19, 2014, including narrative and documentary features, shorts, animation and experimental videos. 

The festival will also include panel discussions and offer professional development and collaborative opportunities for attendees and artists. The festival specializes in independent, alternative, and non-commercial media, presenting hard-to-find works rarely seen on television, in movie theaters, or elsewhere. 

For more information, visit here

About Christopher Dolder

Christopher Dolder Christopher Dolder is a former soloist with the Martha Graham Dance Company and has spent the last 15 years choreographing and performing with his wife in their company, Westwick/Dolder Dance Theater. 

His cross-disciplinary journey has taken him to projects in theater, dance, music, videography, kinesiology, “green” architecture, and agrarian land rehabilitation, and he is very excited about his recent arrival at Meadows School for the Arts.

Related Link:

The Dallas Morning News: Film “The Rite of Spring” captures dance magic at Dallas VideoFest

There seems to be one dance performance in Dallas each year that stands shoulders above the rest. In 2013, audiences got lucky. Two great shows emerged from the pack: Bruce Wood Dance Project’s family drama My Brother’s Keeper and the Meadows Dance Ensemble’s startling new take on The Rite of Spring. . .

Read the full story.