This Thursday SOLO 1x2, a documentary that follows six recipients of the 2006 and 2007 McKnight Artist Fellowships for Dancers, along with their choreographers, will have its world premiere at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival. The work takes a closer look at the dance artists; their hopes, fears, and their part in Minnesota dance community.
Through 2010, the Southern Theater had hosted a showcase for the McKnight Fellows every two years in a program called SOLO
. The theater had also been the administrator of the fellowship. However, the McKnight Foundation asked the Southern to return $300,000 when it learned that the organization had not paid the dancers all of their grant money according to Rohan Preston from the Star Tribune
, who also reported that the fellowship program will no longer be housed at the Southern and that McKnight would not be funding the theater in the foreseeable future.
Robert Hammel, director of SOLO 1x2, says that it's a bit ironic that the film will be premiering just as the McKnight Foundation is yanking its funding. In fact, on the opening night of the SOLO concert that Hammel's film focuses on, he was in the lobby when Bartlett found out that he was fired. "There was a huge outcry," Hammel says. The filmmaker, who in the past has been a Southern Theater board member (a number of years ago, before Bartlett was let go), says he had hoped that the new leadership had resolved the financial issues. "Obviously they were not resolved," he says.
As sad as the state of affairs are at the Southern, SOLO 1x2 is an opportunity to see the program at the height of its glory, before things went south. Featuring dancers Karla Grotting,
Laura Selle Virtucio, Colette Illarde,
Mifa Ko, and
Tamara Nadel, the film travels to New York, Palm Beach, Barcelona, Toronto, and various studios around the Twin Cities to show each of the dancers developing their pieces.
Hammel says he developed an interest in dance about 20 years ago when he got turned on to the writing of Deborah Jowitt
, a dance critic in New York City who writes for the Village Voice. "She wrote so amazingly about dance," Hammel says. "I started going to concerts."
The wonderful dance talent in the Twin Cities also captured his attention, so he spoke to Mary Ellen Childs, the McKnight Fellowship Program Director, about possibilities for a project. Childs suggested a documentary about SOLO, and she became executive producer of the project. Hammel says he called the film SOLO 1x2 because though a solo is performed by one person, it takes two people to create it: a dancer and a choreographer.
"The film is about process," Hammel says. He was interested in the creative combination of a dancer and a choreographer, how the individual teams work differently, and how they connected. While some started with movement, others began with talking about personality and dreams and memories.
The film, Hammel says, is about the world of the dancers and their every day lives. "These people make the backbone of our culture work," he says. During the process of making the documentary, he learned that filming dance takes a particular kind of filmmaking. "You take the camera and actually dance with the dancer," he says. "You have to feel the music. You have to feel what the dancer is feeling. You're making something that is entirely different than a dance viewed in an auditorium. It's much more intimate and personal."
by Robert Hammel, Michelle Blanchard, and Caitlin Hammel premieres at MSPIFF on Thursday at 7 p.m. at St. Anthony Main. Click here