A still shot from Dream On Me, Nadine Helstroffer and Mark Taylor
Last Wednesday evening, two dance films by director John Bush and French-born choreographer Nadine Helstroffer premiered at the Rubin Museum of Art. Absence Presence, a solo for Helstroffer commissioned by the museum and filmed on the gallery floor of the exhibit “Eternal Presence: Handprints and Footprints in Buddhist Art”, attempted to evoke spirituality and enlightenment through Tibetan paintings and spiraling, fluid movement. The heavily edited film featured close-up shots of the artwork that frequently faded to show Helstroffer on the gallery floor. Her otherworldly, slightly spacey expression and graceful presence were permanent fixtures in the film. It would have been interesting, and perhaps more powerful, to view this work live, as a site-specific piece in the museum. As a film, the dancer’s connection to the paintings and setting never fully came to fruition.
Dream On Me was even less successful. The overly glossy work journeyed through a variety of outdoor locations in New York City that highlighted contrasts between human-made structures and natural environments. A shifting ensemble of eight men and women danced on the rooftop of a building in midtown, on the shores of the Hudson, and through a snowy Central Park with The Gates art installation (2005) visible in the background. More often than not, the film looked like an instructional yoga video. The dancers dramatically posed on rocks in front of sparkling water, and at another point, three women frolicked around blossoming trees while wearing puffy pink dresses that were more appropriate for a three-year-old in a spring dance recital. Dream On Me came across as corny and insincere. The shift from one setting to the next was incoherent and meaningless.