As I get older and no longer physically dancing, I am still deeply involved in the art form. I existentially ask myself, why? Dance is not putting a roof over my head or food on the table, but I’m intimately attached to it. Someone once reminded me that art “nourishes the soul,” but that seems a bit esoteric to me. The only answer I have to the question is, like the men and women who climb tall mountains, is “because it’s there.”
This nebulous response inspires me to talk with other men in the field and see/hear how they answer the question. And I think lots of people would be interested in hearing their responses–aspiring male dancers, college Dance department and all people interested in the how and why of the world. Did these men grow up in a world filled with dance? Did their families get behind their interest in being a dancer? Did they come across any challenges as they immersed themselves in the performance community? What keeps them going? These are the kinds of questions I am asking men to answer and record in “Why American Men Dance.”
. . . Keith
Moving into High Gear
After a year investigating clearances for footage I didn’t shoot (but that fleshes out the artists’ stories), I’ve engaged an online editor! Jerome Thomas (right) will take the 82 minute rough cut that Frank Peikert and I put together and make it sing, dance and sizzle!! Jerome’s been involved in the project since the start, having shot most of the 45 interviews across the country. Watch out, increasing speed!!
More about Editing
The process continues. I just watched the Orson Wells-directed film, Touch of Evil. The DVD included a Special Features memo that the artist wrote to the Universal Pictures studio after the latter had changed things around without the director’s approval. Wells had seen this new version of the film only once, but filled 58 pages with his responses to the company’s intervention. With only this single viewing, he was able to pinpoint many of the changes and defend his choices as to why he made the film the way he had. I mention this to highlight all the thinking that goes on in art making. Decisions and details that often slide by the viewer but cumulatively affect the overall result. In no way am I trying to compare myself to Orson Wells, but, maybe I am trying to justify the length of time it’s taking me to get this film in front of your eyes. Thanks for your patience.
Editing: A Bittersweet Activity
I’m having a blast re-living my conversations with the artists as I edit the 70+ hours into a compelling 90-minute film. Downside is that, like in the dance studio, some of the juicy bits won’t make it into the finished product. As I select individual dancers to represent others with similar experiences, I’m thinking about other platforms with which to share these jewels. TBD . . . .
Rough Cut Near Ready
It’s just about September and we’re close to completing the rough cut of the film. We’ve whittled down the almost seventy hours of interviews, collected bunches of archival footage and are very sorry to have to leave so much on the cutting room floor. Actually, in the 21st century, there’s no such floor. There are just a lot of digital files. Click on the photo of Jock Soto and me to see an 8-minute edit of what we’ve got.
Artists interviewed: Kyle Abraham, Laurence Blake, Peter Boal, Donald Byrd, Liam Clancy, Sean Curran, Jacques D’Amboise, Nic De La Vega, Douglas Dunn, Ray Ejiofar, Arturo Fernandez, Vernon Gallegos, Eric Geiger, Lawrence Goldhuber, Sebastian Grubb, Mark Haim, Antoine Hunter, Andrew Jannetti, Keith Johnson, Lorin Johnson, Bill T. Jones, C. Derrick Jones, Alex Ketley, Eric Kupers, Lar Lubovitch, Wade Madsen, John Malashock, Donald McKayle, Robert Moses, Charlie Moulton, John Pennington, Stephen Petronio,, David Rousseve, Matthew Rushing, Craig Salstein, Jim Self, Frank Shawl, Jeff Slayton, Gus Solomons, Jr., Jock Soto, David Thomson, Edward Villella, Scott Wells and George Willis.
2015 Year In Review
This year has been VERY exciting for Why American Men Dance! We started by interviewing 15 artists in NYC and began transcribing and cataloguing these conversations as soon as we got back to LA. We received a $10K grant from the California Institute for Contemporary Arts to get post-production started (editing) and have gone from the Top 40 to Top 20 to Top 10 applicants for the Roy Dean Film Grant, a very competitive foundation the supports unique films. Moving forward!!
Why American Men Dance Trailer
New Yorkers Share Their Stories
It was an exciting and intense week in New York last month as I met and interviewed fifteen guys ranging from legends Jacques D’Amboise and Edward Villella, icons Lar Lubovitch, Stephen Petronio, Matthew Rushing, Jock Soto, Gus Solomons, Jr. and Douglas Dunn to younger men Craig Salstein (current ABT principal), Brandin Steffansen and David Thomson, Andrew Jannetti, Nick de la Vega, Sean Curren and Larry Goldhuber. Thanks to all of them for their openness and honesty. Thanks, too, to our hosts Doreen and Steve, to my consultant Kirk and to all the project donors. You’ve all helped make it happen. It was an honor, it was a pleasure and it was fun! Now onto the editing room.
Seattle Men State Their Cases
Thanks to Peter Boal, Donald Byrd, Mark Haim and Wade Madsen for sharing their stories. Interesting contrasts and similarities among this great group of dedicated guys.
Male Dance Educators in Chicago: “Why I Can’t Not Dance!”
Male dance educators got together in November to dance/talk the Bill Evans-directed collaboration, “Why I Can’t Not Dance.” A diverse inter-generational group of men from all genres mixing it up. Moving and inspiring for audience (600+ women) and participants, alike.
San Francisco Explodes!
A fantastic weekend of interviews in the can! Thanks to Sebastian, Eric, Alex, Charlie, Antoine, Robert, Frank and Scott for sharing their dynamite stories. Thanks, too, to Valerie, Christy and Sebastian (again) for making space to allow these meetings to happen. More to come!!
On December 12, 2013, the two-month long online fundraising campaign to support the filming of the documentary closed with a total of $5151 in contributions. FANTASTIC!! About $1100 in other gifts combine to make $6200 total to get this show on the road (literally and figuratively). Thanks, again to the 74 generous donors. Immediately, Keith interviewed ex-Cunningham dancer/choreographer/educator Jeff Slayton and the show has begun!
Jeff was great. Willing and eager to share, the artist talked about his early life in rural Virginia, his introduction to the NY avant-garde and his relocation to southern California. An inspiring life history that he’s about to publish in hardcover very soon. Be on the lookout for that. Interviews will re-commence after the holidays. More to come!
BIG THANKS to donors Richard Bailey, Vic Marks, Kirwan Rockefeller, Douglas Levine, Lee, Randi and Diane Girer, Christopher Cory and Joe Greenwald. ONLY 5 HOURS LEFT! If you’ve been thinking about helping make the film happen . . . NOW’s the time! (Nothing is too large or too small) Thanks
Way special THANKS to today’s donors–Ivan Sygoda, Damon Rago, Jim Self, Barbara Boolukos and Chris Pappas! Just 27 hours left; if you’ve been thinking about helping to make the film happen . . . NOW’s the time! (Nothing is too large or too small) Thanks
THANK YOU to Sean Curran, Tom Mallouk, Fran Eldridge, Barry Blumenfeld, Joseph William Dluzak and San Diegans George and Kate Willis, Melissa Nunn, Mary Reich and Karen Schaffman for donating to the making of Why American Men Dance. This Thanksgiving has been a truly memorable holiday.
BIG shout out to THANK the LA dance folk getting behind “Why American Men Dance!” Thanks to Rudy Perez, Joe Schenck, Arianne MacBean, Ilaan Egeland-Mazzini, Donna Sternberg, Sara Fenton, Christine Suarez, Jose Reynoso and Steve Koplowitz. 2 weeks to go on hatchfund campaign! Setting up LA interviews now;-)