Brotherly Love

Karla Hayward
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Rosemary House wanted to bring the art and craft of dance to film, and found the perfect focus in her brother, Christopher

Modern dance can be confusing, or completely inaccessible, for some. To the untrained eye, the perceived lack of choreography or plan can appear chaotic and jarring.

A desire to dispel some of the mystery surrounding the art form was one reason Rosemary House chose to make her latest documentary, "Ahead of the Curve."

Christopher House. Submitted Photo

Modern dance can be confusing, or completely inaccessible, for some. To the untrained eye, the perceived lack of choreography or plan can appear chaotic and jarring.

A desire to dispel some of the mystery surrounding the art form was one reason Rosemary House chose to make her latest documentary, "Ahead of the Curve."

"I wanted to make a film that would make dance - and modern dance, in particular - accessible and enjoyable for regular audiences," she said.

"I wanted people to be able to see inside the process and understand it a bit. A lot of times people go, 'What the hell? I don't know what's going on. Why are they doing this, why are they doing that.' And I really think I was successful in this film in doing that."

The second reason she made the film?

It's all about her brother, Christopher House, who's the artistic director of the internationally acclaimed Toronto Dance Theatre.

"I wanted people to see how he works, to see him in action, to see how physically demanding it is, especially at his age now, at 50. I wanted to show his daily regime, the importance of keeping his instrument - which is his body - in shape."

House says at its heart, the film is about the artistic process: how the work gets out of her brother's head and onto the stage. Watching, we are first introduced to Christopher, face to the wind at home in Newfoundland. He summarizes his family history, reasons for leaving this province, and life since. But largely he speaks about his process: the dancers, the movement, the magic and sheer joy of it all. Then, he guides us through his latest production, "TimeCode Break."

It's an incredibly precise work, formed as a sort of duet between stage and screen in which dancers are accompanied by their digital selves. But their screen bodies, unlike their real ones, are able to contort and perform in ways physics would not allow - thanks to the wonder of film.

"Ahead of the Curve" is stunning. Music, cinematography, the dancers and the melodious voice of House himself all merge to form a truly lovely video experience.

House is articulate and succinct, thoughtful, unpretentious and vibrant throughout the film.

Rosemary House says for years, people asked her why she hadn't made a film about her brother.

"But I never could really figure out what I was going to do with him," she said.

"Then, we were all home for my father's 80th birthday and I thought, hmmm. ... And I started to have some ideas around Newfoundland as the kernel of the film."

Then, fate gave the final push.

"I'd just gotten the commission from Bravo, and I went to see this piece in Ottawa and I watched and I went, 'This is a piece of luck.' It's just so incredibly dynamic; the music is really fantastic, very techno, hip-hop, fast, exciting, sexy kind of music and he integrates a lot of video in with the dance. So I was just thrilled, I couldn't ask for a better piece to be working with."

The result is even better than she'd expected.

"Christopher's work is so stunning. I really think it's one of the successes of the film that anyone can watch it. Guys who would rather be thrown off a cliff than dragged to a dance recital can watch this film."

"Ahead of the Curve" will air on Bravo TV this fall. It has been shown locally during the recent Festival of New Dance, and at Canada House in London, England, and it was screened in Toronto on May 16.

"Oh my God, it was fantastic," Rosemary House said.

"I was so pleased. I knew this was a good (film), but it just had a fabulous reception. We had about 350 people out and just a packed reception afterward and people loved it. It was just great and so gratifying."

She's happy with the work and excited to see what becomes of it.

"It's just starting out its life and I feel very good about it," she said.

"It's a very solid, accessible piece of work. And the word that people seem to use is how compelling they find it.

"And that's a word that filmmakers just love to hear."

"Ahead of The Curve" will be screened at the Nickel Film Festival's closing night ceremonies on Saturday, June 23.

Visit website www.aheadofthecurve.ca for more.

telyarts@yahoo.com

Organizations: Rosemary House, Christopher House, Toronto Dance Theatre Canada House The Curve

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Ottawa, London England Toronto

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