The relationship between film and dancing has never been a very cordial one. Stage magic and camera magic come from two different places, and the technological divices available to moviemakers tend to swallow dancers whole. While the live performer revels in gravity, his celluloid image may defy it. Yet in the hands of choreographer Sage Cowles and filmmaker Molly Davies, these disparate media have made peace -- even become comrades, or lovers. Cowles and Davies' collaborative efforts, presented yesterday in two fascinating installments at the Hairshhorn Museum auditorium as the final offering of the Smithsonian American Dance Experience Series, allow for a delicate, mesmerizing give-and-take between performer and camera.
The interactions between the flesh-and-blood Cowles and her celluloid double form the basis for the three-part "Sage Cycle." As the live dancer sits tranquilly in a lotus position, her cinematic self runs an interminable screen mile on a dirt road in South Dakato. Later on, the real Cowles watches the filmed Cowles dress, wash, and meander about a log cabin in Wisconsin, even goes so far as to become a part of the projected image by means of a sliding glass door situated in front of the screen. And in the recent "Small Circles Great Planes," a trio of live performers move in and out of a film triptych that explores such environments as a wildlife sanctuary, a New York subway, revolving doors at Bloomingdales, and grain elevators in St. Paul.
The latter piece will be repeated tonight at 8 p.m.