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Monday, September 13, 2010

Thoughts on the Short Films of Dayna Hanson

Posted by Patrick Alan Coleman on Mon, Sep 13, 2010 at 3:49 PM

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Sitting in the darkened Whitsell Auditorium, watching the Hanson's short films flicker past with all of their dancey, frenetic verve, it became clear to me what an impressively talented multi-disciplinary artist she is.

With works spanning from her time with Seattle-based performance group 33 Fainting Spells, to her newest work Improvement Club, a companion piece to her TBA debuted work-in-progress Gloria's Cause, the films worked well to splash a spotlight on Hanson's artistic ideals.

I'll tell you why, After the Jump!

As a quick aside, before we get all deep and shit, I'd just like to say what incredible taste Hanson has in footwear. In every piece, and these span nearly a decade mind-you, she wears some of the most fabulously classy shoes. But she doesn't just wear them, she dances her ass off in them. And we're talking some serious shoes here: Shoes with weird architectural heals, chunky numbers from just after the turn of the millennium, boots, etc. In fact, in some of the earlier films, her shoes (and by extension the feet within them) are so lovingly framed in the shot, they almost becomes characters themselves... Ahem... What was I saying? Oh yes...

What is striking about seeing so much of Hanson's work at one time, is how fond she is of letting the rough edges show. This is especially true of her dance-specific pieces in which she allows her choreography to express a bit of self-consciousness and frailty—letting the dance stumble or get ahead of itself. This is less true in her more narrative works such as Rainbow, about a young girl and her alcoholic, security guard farther, and the previously mentioned Improvement Club. And that might be why I largely prefer Hanson's dance films to her more narrative pieces. Another reason may be due to the fact Hanson knows how to shoot dance so well. The films are edited so fluidly they almost act like the eye of an audience member watching the dance on a stage—flitting from one gesture to another, pulling back to take it all in, and then diving forward again. All the while, the rhythm (visually and actually) is never lost.

That's not to say there aren't some wonderful moments in Hanson's narrative works. One in particular, from Rainbow, plays on audiences' fears and prejudices as a sketchy stranger borrows a butcher knife from a young woman who is home alone, only to return it a couple scenes later, unbloodied, with a “Thanks, it was great.” One the whole though, as Hanson strays from dance her films become a bit uneven.

Finally, I wish after seeing the excerpt from Improvement Club (which is supposed to tell the the story of “the fictional creators of Gloria's Cause) that I could add more to the debate about her TBA stage performance. Unfortunately, the film gave little insight to the performance—aside from more cherry pie eating and dancing colonials.

That being said, I didn't feel like I needed anything more from Gloria's Cause. For me it was a deft representation of how messy the building of a nation can be. Although we like to look back and think ours was built by nimble hands that never faltered, nations are built by human beings with all their faults and troubles. It's not pretty, or simple, or even necessarily easy to understand.

At any rate, I look forward to more from Hanson in coming years. Thank goodness she's only a state away.

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