Dancemaker

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Dancemaker

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One of the problems inherent to putting out documentaries is getting people into the theater to be exposed to a segment of life they might not already know. At least part of the reason Hoop Dreams and When We Were Kings played to the crowds they did—the quality and wider scope of each aside—is the presence of a built-in audience for films about basketball and Muhammad Ali that simply doesn't exist for a movie about, say, R. Buckminster Fuller. Despite its subject's reputation as the best living American choreographer, it's doubtful that Dancemaker will draw too many simply by virtue of being a film about Paul Taylor. Which is something of a shame; even viewers with little interest in the state of dance in America should find Dancemaker engrossing. Matthew Diamond's film shows Taylor's company touring India and preparing for the New York premiere of a new work, incorporating interviews recounting Taylor's history, from his time as a dancer in Martha Graham's troupe to his avant-garde choreography in the '60s, to his present, innovative work in the fields of contemporary dance and ballet. Taylor remains enigmatic throughout the film, his personal life largely only hinted at and his personality never laid bare. This may be the unavoidable failing of a movie so clearly made by an admirer; even Dancemaker's moments of criticism feel carefully integrated so as not to appear too damning, but sharp enough to make the film seem more than a whitewash. A bit more history would also have been nice, but even without it, Diamond succeeds at making Taylor's work appear not only accessible, but exciting. Providing just enough footnotes to put them in context, Dancemaker lets clips of Taylor's work speak for themselves, finding passion in an art form that can fade off into abstraction or get burdened by mechanical showmanship. Taylor may remain as inscrutable to viewers leaving the film as he was when they entered, but it's hard to leave Dancemaker unmoved by his work, which might, in the end, be all you need to know anyway.

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