~ Kari Tai ~

Review of Cadence 2024 for SeattleDances

A new online review of the Cadence Video Poetry Festival takes a deep dive into poetry films that incorporate dancing for SeattleDances, “an advocacy organization dedicated to supporting Seattle-area dance performance through in-depth journalism and free resources to dance artists and audiences.” Author Kari Tai took advantage of the festival’s hybrid format to engage with the films at home—an experience I’ve always likened to solitary reading, since the viewer can pause and/or re-watch as often as she likes. For example:

Each time I watch Antipodes, I glean something more of the yin and yang of relationships the poem describes. The scenes toggle between black and white and color underscoring the complementary interconnectedness the poem expresses. The choreography amplifies this tension as dancers pace facing each other across a field to the line The ebony magnetism of existence binds poles. Throughout the video, the spoken words rise and fall with the crescendo of the music and crashing of the surf as the dancers feet tattoo the earth–a demonstration of how choreography and poetry use repetition, theme and variation that stimulates empathetic waves of emotion in the viewer. The pace of the video editing between scenes acts like poetic punctuation or choreographic choices for stillness amid frenetic movement. 

Another film prompts this observation:

The festival literature remarks that throughout history poets have been persecuted for not writing the party line and it strikes me that dance also has often been outlawed as a subversive form of expression. When I think about how video is instantly shareable across the world via social media and how, like dance, it offers a form of communication that transcends spoken language, it is understandable how video has become a powerful tool of modern revolt. Exiles combines all three—video, dance, and poetry—a triple threat, an amplified way to shout out to the world.  

a still from Exiles (Exils), directed by Josef Khallouf

Why does dance work so well in videopoetry? Tai has some ideas:

I think one thing that is key to illuminating my empathetic response to watching Only is a principle I learned through my training as a Dance for Parkinson’s instructor. Scientists have discovered that watching someone dance pleasurably activates the brain’s movement areas. In the classes I teach, the participants feel a fuller movement experience just by watching the teacher even if they don’t express it on the outside. 

Perhaps that is why when we watch dance, even about topics we have not personally experienced, we can feel aligned with the “otherness” dancers can express. This happened for me watching Fairies, a video poem about growing up queer on a farm in the Netherlands.

Read the rest.