Filmed in what looks to be the beautiful New England countryside amidst a plethora of multi-colored autumn leaves, we find the dance short Wake. Two strong and dynamic young dancers – Victoria Daylor and Gabriel Lawton – perform choreography that asks the question (according to the film notes): “How does one cope with someone disappearing from their life?”
Shot with a moving camera and lush Fall colors against a blue gray sky in natural light signaling the approach of winter, the dancers roll on, lift up from, and dig into the leaves and earth till they are covered with it. The dance is visceral – so much so that I felt I could nearly smell the earth – and each shot is clearly choreographed with the dance, and specifically for the camera, which is not surprising as it was both directed and choreographed by Holly Wilder. And while there was a little too much camera movement and I would have loved some stillness therein, the short is lovely and the color and camera work is beautiful.
Given that Wake is a dance film about loss – “each person dances a solo with the memory of the other” – the setting and the dance’s relationship to the earth is perfect. Although with the music (appropriately entitled “A Treehouse in Heaven” by Dylan Cantu & Elliot Skinner) there’s a little too much on the nose melodrama for my taste particularly towards the film’s end, I do love how the dance itself ends. While I’m not sure if Wilder meant this to be exclusively about loss from a broken love affair or from death, the closing shots show Daylor, arms up with hands full of leaves, her back to camera further walking away from her lover and further into the pastoral horizon. For me the scene begged the eternal question of where a loved one goes, if anywhere, in death.
Wake is an intelligent and moving short film that is beautifully rendered.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Founder/Director of Dare to Dance in Public Film Festival, Sarah Elgart is a Los Angeles based choreographer and director working under the auspice of Sarah Elgart | Arrogant Elbow. Sarah creates original content for stage, screen, and site-specific venues. Her stage and site-works have been performed at alternative spaces including LAX Airport, The Skirball Center, Mark Taper Forum, Van Nuys Flyaway, The Bradbury Building, Jacob’s Pillow, INSITU Site-Specific Festival NY, and Loft Seven, where she created a rooftop work lit entirely by a hovering helicopter accompanied by Nels Cline (Wilco). Her work has been produced by venues including The Music Center, MASS MoCA, Dance Place, Los Angeles Theater Center, Mark Taper Forum and The International Women’s Theater Festival. In film Sarah has worked with noted directors including JJ Abrams, David Lynch, Catherine Hardwicke, and Anton Corbijn. Her own films include award-winning music videos, dance shorts, and an Emmy nominated PSA, and continue to be accepted into festivals internationally. In addition to teaching dance and film, Sarah writes a regular column, ScreenDance Diaries that focuses on the intersections of both genres internationally for online magazine Cultural Weekly. Sarah’s work has received support from organizations that include the Rockefeller Foundation, the NEA, City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, California Arts Council and more. She is an alumna of the Sundance Institute’s Dance Film Lab, a Fellow of AFI’s Directing Women’s Workshop, and a director member of the DGA.