Amid lockdown frustration last summer, acclaimed choreographer Cathy Marston had no dance companies to make movement for, so she created some for herself instead and performed for the first time in 15 years. Drift was filmed by the River Aare, near Marston’s home in Switzerland. Balancing on fallen trees or calf-deep in the water, moving meditatively to a specially composed score by regular collaborator Philip Feeney, she offers a welcome retreat from the current world.
A powerful telling of the prejudices faced by black ballet dancer Marie-Astrid Mence during her training in her home city of Paris, directed by dancer turned film-maker Rebecca Murray and featured on Nowness. Mence’s gentle voiceover belies the ugliness of her experiences: bullied about her body, told to switch to street dance, made to dance the men’s roles. A dancer with Ballet Black since 2014, Mence proved her detractors wrong, but hers was not an isolated experience and it’s a subject as vital as ever.
Just two minutes long but a clever setup: director Daniel McKee uses a large rotating mirror to switch our view between two dancers, Theo Canham-Spence and Florence Pearl, as they move in neat yet somehow languorous choreography by Grace Nicol. First they alternate at leisurely pace, the two dancers like flipsides of a coin, then it accelerates to a cinefilm-style flicker, the dancers merging to the sound of Ben Vince’s saxophone.
One from last year you may have missed, a series of collaborations between Welsh poets and dancers, each with a distinct flavour. There’s Faye Tan in closeup detail of eyes, hands and feet, her body listening to the rhythms of Ifor ap Glyn’s words; there’s a highly charged letter written by Marvin Thompson in response to a plaque erected to honour a slave trader; and Hanan Issa trying to remember the Arabic for cardamom as Aisha Naamani looks wistfully out over Cardiff Bay.
Determined to shed light on the experiences and talents of dyslexic artists, choreographers Elizabeth Arifien and Charlotte Edmonds founded Move Beyond Words. Their first film, Un[box]ed, takes a literal approach to the idea of being penned in by labels and expectations, with dancer Kirubel Belay – all intense stare and flailing dreadlocks – caught inside a cage-like frame, trying to dance his way out.
When you start burrowing into the abundance of dance videos that have appeared online since March, you may think you’re the only person who hasn’t filmed themselves throwing shapes in front of their iPhone. There’s been great enthusiasm for mass video dance projects, from TikTok memes to the 172 people who submitted footage to the Akram Khan Company for Our Animal Kingdom. Dancers of any age, nationality and experience were invited to contribute movement inspired by the natural world, which has been expertly wrangled by film-maker Maxime Dos to make a great global coming-together.