Jackie & Judy

The dance film “Jackie & Judy” (Phil Harder, Andrea Lerner & Rosane Chamecki) has already been shown at L’ARC -the National Theater and  Crédit Agricole.  Friday May 7th, it will be screened as part of the 2010 festival’s official selection.  Below, paste the link to watch a short video featuring the film’s directorial and editing team:


Jackie & Judy

In addition, festival co-director Marisa C. Hayes asked Phil Harder to comment on the film’s origins, its relationship to Norm McLaren’s “Pas de Deux” (to which the film pays homage).  Below is his account of how the project was born:

The film Jackie & Judy is a combination of an early dance piece by Rosane Chamecki and Andrea Lerner (chameckilerner) updated with an echo effect over the choreography. The choreographers and I were discussing another film we were about to shoot. We thought it would be interesting to shoot a second film that experiments with choreography through post effects. I was an early fan of Jackie & Judy. It was like a nostalgic hit song to me. Rosane and Andrea had performed this piece countless times and weren’t as interested in revisiting a dance they did years ago. We decided that an update through post effects would be a challenging experiment to try to create a new version of an older dance.

As with many of chameckilerner film projects, our brainstorming sessions usually take place at the bar, in this case it was a small New York pub on Thompkins Square Park. After we sparked the idea, Andrea and Rosane were on the side walk rehearsing. Jackie & Judy was ingrained in their heads. They remembered every move. Our shoot was in a day so we had to come up with something fast. I mentioned Norman McLaren’s “Pas de Deux” as an influence or an ode to layer over the choreography. We already had a studio but no set. With very little prep time I knew a black curtain and back light was all we needed to capture the base layer of the dance. The idea was not only to document the piece but to turn Jackie & Judy into an abstract visual- hopefully something new would come from the concoction. We thought the rapid speed of Jackie & Judy would be a great way to experiment with McLaren’s technique.
I have an archive of 16mm films. Norman McLaren’s films take up a large section in my collection. Of course there’s Pas De Deux, but also many of his scratched film experiments and the feature documentary from 1970 “The Eye Hears, The Ear Sees”. In the film McLaren revisits the techniques he used to create many of his animations. His visuals stand up to the test of time and his range is amazing- from the hand made quality of painting on film to the elegance of Pas de Deux with exotic optically printed echoes that bring visual magic to the duet.

Filming dance makes me appreciate early motion picture, when filmmakers were trying to discover the medium. They shot things that moved: trains, horses, automobiles. The same holds true for dance. It’s all about capturing the rhythm of movement. With the echo effects I wanted to use a film technique that creates something that choreography can’t do alone.

Jackie & Judy was shot with several angles, from wide shots to extreme details. At the end the dancers throw themselves on the floor in a free form explosion of energy- the grand finale. This ending is meant to be done only once live. For filming, the dancers had to slam their bodies on the floor again and again as I captured various angles. Andrea and Rosane were bruised and beat up after the shoot- I think they said “this better be worth it”. The idea of the ending was to build the echoes more and more until they engulf the dance. The hope was to gradually lose the dance and enter complete abstraction for a new piece of choreography.

In post, editor Patrick Pierson and I felt it was essential to keep the original dance intact. The echo layers are very tempting to overdo, and it could be easy to lose sight of the choreography. Patrick Pierson edited the dance before echo layers were added and we received Rosane and Andrea’s suggestions and approval. We used franticdrums and bass from The Chicago Underground Trio as a jazzy, energetic beat to pace the edit.

We added the effects digitally, (basically a similar technique used by McLaren, now updated with modern tools). The original dance is given contrast, reducing the film image to slices of rim light. The echoes create abstract outlines of motion that follow the dancers. The layers become part of the dance, not a trail or a back layer. As the dance builds we lose the original dancers in exotic kaleidoscopes of moving outlines.

It is interesting to bend choreography through film effects. We can freeze a move and let the echoes catch up. We can add just one echo as if each dancer has a partner. We can increase echoes or space echoes at different rates. It’s amazing to edit this way. As a filmmaker I get to dabble in choreography via the effects. We also updated McLaren’s technique with three dimensional pushes through the echoes, something McLaren could not do with 1960’s optical technology. Through digital post we pushed into the layers, into the image as if the echoes were moving toward and past the lens. We used this technique to end the film as Andrea and Rosane threw themselves on the floor over and over. Our hope was to throw the viewer into an abstraction of moving lines and designs. I think the feeling the viewer gets is an exotic, high energy dance that can only be witnessed through film. It is our hope that chameckilerner dance films create a new chapter for their choreography. These films can go beyond the dance community to reach an audience of film lovers.