From Morning To Midnight
Spacific Films, New Zealand, 2004
Washington, DC 14th International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
Jewish Community Center
Washington, DC, USA
Sunday, October 17, 2004
© 2004 by George Jackson
Dancers die twice according to Douglas Wright, once when they stop dancing
and then at the end of their life on earth. People in America will remember
Mr. Wright as the short, solid, hunky Paul Taylor dancer with the blond
ringlets and Nijinsky features. He could be a volcano on stage, exploding
and then flowing lava-like across the terrain. In Britain, audiences saw
his dancing and choreography with DV-8. He is best known in his homeland
where the Royal New Zealand Ballet cast him as Petrouchka in Fokine's
choreography, yet his principal association is with Limbs, the modern
dance troupe. Mr. Wright is the focus of this compelling film which he
thinks of as biographical, autobiographical fiction rather than as a documentary;
Ronnie Scheib directed.
The narrative follows Mr. Wright from childhood and adolescence through
his dancing days to the illness (AIDS) that saps his strength today. Throughout,
he has an impish appearance that on stage (and perhaps during extreme
emotional states in life) transformed into an extraordinary intensity,
akin to the urges that drive a faun. Much of his choreography for himself
shows facets of this passion. He grew up in conflict with his father and
most of his peers because he loathed what interested them—football.
He wanted to dance and got away with it because he called it gymnastics.
Homosexuality he discovered early. Drugs and alcohol came a little later,
and so did depressive episodes and wild outbursts. His dancing, though,
became incredibly strong and, especially while performing for Mr. Taylor,
quite disciplined. The Taylor company had been looking for a male dancer,
5 foot and 8 inches tall. There was a sizeable competition at the audition.
The famous choreographer kept his eye on Mr. Wright but pointed out he
wasn't 5'8". Mr. Wright replied that his dancing was that tall, and
got the job. After some seasons he felt himself becoming too much a Taylor
dancer and wanted to explore his own potential. His discovery of his illness
following his return to New Zealand is related in an understated way.
The film shows no complete role he danced and no total work he choreographed.
The excerpts are potent, and leave one wanting to see more. Perhaps the
most poignant solo is the last one Mr. Wright danced, during which he
kept urging his body to do it just one more time. I suspect that one need
not know the circumstances to sense the willpower that stretches the musculature
and angles the joints in this piece. It is the nature of film to protract
time, and especially documentaries provide little to buffer the rapid
pace of the passage through life.
Volume 2, No. 39
October 18, 2004
©2004 by George Jackson
Sali Ann Kriegsman
Alexandra Tomalonis (Editor)
Kathrine Sorley Walker
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