DOC NYC 2020 review: ‘CRUTCH’

SACHI CUNNINGHAM and CHANDLER EVANS’ 

CRUTCH

AT DOC NYC

Two decades of exclusive access, plus a lifetime of archival footage depict Shannon from his early years to his rise as an award-winning dancer and cutting-edge performance artist. CRUTCH examines Shannon’s controversial street performances as he exposes a myriad of prejudices disabled people encounter in public on a daily basis.

Crutch is about Bill Shannon‘s extraordinary life. Shannon wants to be recognized as a performance artist, and rightfully so. As a dancer since the age of three, I can attest to how the physical and emotional energy toll performing can have. Like many dancers, my body is ravaged from the work I asked it to do when I was younger. But I wasn’t faced with the challenges that Bill Shannon faced from childhood. Bill Shannon is on another level from us all. He is a relentless artist and it’s magic.

He grew up making home movies, being a daredevil, skateboarding, and creating a new language for dance, all while having a rare degenerative hip condition. He is a provocateur. Exploring his own pain and emotional hurt by placing others into his realm. He essentially created “What Would You Do?” scenarios before it was mainstream. As a breakdancer and choreographer, he presented the world with evolutionary milestones in thinking and accepting. But this is only a sliver of what he deals with and tries to effect. This doc tackles ableism at its core. He uses his filmed setup moments to organically teach an audience about the human mind. It’s a refreshing perspective that will grab your attention. He never lets up. His innovation is astounding. That’s true artistry. Crutch pushes past cynicism to teach and entertain and delight.

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DOCNYC 2020 review: ‘BARE’ is revealing in every sense.

SYNOPSIS
Eleven naked men audition, rehearse and perform for the premiere of master Belgian choreographer Thierry Smits’s new contemporary dance piece Anima Ardens. Mixing intimate rehearsal footage with extensive and breathtaking dance sequences, BARE follows the choreographer and his team as they work to explore difficult, often taboo subjects through nudity and dance. In this bold exploration of artistic conflict, gender, and sexuality the one constant is the conceit that the body is the last bastion of personal freedom.

Intimate and thoughtful cinematography makes BARE a stunning watch. As a dancer myself since the age of 3, this film was felt on a different level. I know the hours of rehearsal, the physical exhaustion, the emotional journey that comes with the creation of art. As a choreographer, I have had dancers drop out of a massive piece 48 hrs prior to opening. When one is out of step, it can become an avalanche. Director Aleksandr M. Vinogradov shows us everything it takes to make dance breathe. From the athleticism to the partner trust, the personalities and the repetition, the balance of strength and weakness, all of these things while the performers are completely nude. BARE breaks barriers in its boldness from every angle. Choreographer Thierry Smits does not initially reveal the purpose of the camera presence. Once the intention of the documentary is explained, there is trepidation. The audition process continues. When the final group of men is chosen there are 13 weeks to perfect this piece, to build relationships, and show the world more than they’ve ever seen before.

The editing is sharp. Millisecond takes of words and paintings are cut into the chronological storytelling. It keeps you on your toes (no pun intended). Not only does BARE give you an up-close and personal look at the performance world, but it tackles issues of masculinity and preconceived notions of male dancers. Moments of pure levity come in the acceptance that performers are cheeky attention seekers all the time. When the men become fully aware of the ever-present cameras, they mug for them ceaselessly. Experimental exercises are something magical to behold. If you pause any moment during the film when dance occurs, it’s a breathtaking tableau of life and movement. BARE eases a viewer not familiar with dance into a world brimming with discovery, raw emotions, organic yet precise planning, sometimes fraught with injury, but always filled with surprise.

DOC NYC 2020
Virtual Screening Information
Wednesday Nov 11
Start Time: 12:00pm EST
For Tickets, DOC NYC