When I was in Melbourne, I was given tickets to see the documentary, Life in Movement (thanks Rose). And then, on my flight back home, it was also screened on one of the movie channels on my plane. Some things are more than just a coincidence, but a gentle nudge. When I got back to Perth, I knew I wanted to talk about it and write about it, so I contacted the production team behind the documentary, who were kind enough to send me the images in this post, as well as some information on it.
This was a few weeks ago, and I meant to write about Life in Movement immediately after. But, something stopped me. I say this all the time, but some things just move me so much that they paralyse my ability to translate my emotions into words or coherent narrative. It’s so incredibly frustrating, because they’re usually the things I want to talk about the most. I’ll do my best to describe how and why this documentary moved me so much, but I’m afraid I won’t do it justice. So before I begin, I hope those of you in Australia get the chance to see it yourself in the cinemas, if it’s still showing. And if you can’t see it in the cinemas, it’ll be available on DVD for everyone to see soon.
First, I’ll let you know what Life in Movement is actually about, as described on the documentary’s website:
In 2007 the Sydney Dance Company appointed 29-year-old choreographer Tanja Liedtke as their first new artistic director in 30 years. However before she could take up the position, she was struck and killed by a truck in the middle of the night. Admired internationally as a dancer and celebrated for her fresh choreographic voice, she was known as a dedicated artist, intelligent, dorky, funny and generous. 18 months after her death her collaborators embark on a world tour of her work, and in the process they must deal with their grief and explore the reasons for her death. Interspersed with intimate footage of her artistic process and previously unseen interviews, Life in Movement is a film about moving creatively through life and loss. Filmmakers Bryan Mason and Sophie Hyde give us a powerfully rendered take on art and artists, creativity and our own mortality.
Sophie Hyde wrote a touching post on Tanja for Behind Ballet, and was going to answer some questions about Life in Movement on my blog. However, as she was leaving for America and very busy, I decided not to add to her workload. Thank you for the offer though, Sophie.
The thing about this documentary that really got me – that seemed to grab at my insides – is Tanja’s amazing body; a body that could do so much, that could express so much, that didn’t waste its talent, energy or generosity of spirit, but that lived every movement to its fullest. One of the most interesting things about Life in Movement is that you see footage of Tanja goofing around as a dorky teenager on camera, interspersed with her live performances and rehearsal scenes where she choreographed her dance. Her dancing and choreography don’t linger behind a wall of containment within which so many of us hide, projecting an idea of who we’re supposed to be to the world, rather than who we really are. Instead, like her teenage self, they are wholly vibrant, honest and exposed. Art doesn’t get any more real than that. I wish I could explain it better, but this intangible quality of exposure, and its mixed state of vulnerability and confidence, is for me the marker that separates good dancing from unforgettable, sobbing-your-heart-out, dancing.
And then there are the people around Tanja: her partner, her friends, her family, her fellow dancers. Watching them come to terms with her death and deal with the complex beast that is grief is something that you cannot sit through unmoved. I wish I had original words to describe this, but I don’t. All I can say is that watching this documentary made me feel Tanja’s presence through the palpable loss she left in the lives of those who loved her and mourn her. As sad as this is, that’s the marker of a life well-lived. And boy did Tanja live her life well. But I guess the most touching thing of all is what her friends and colleagues have created from the remnants left behind by her life; they have created something beautiful out of loss.
To find out more about Life in Movement visit the documentary’s website. All images and the video excerpt are copyrighted to Life in Movement and are used here with permission.
P. S. Don’t forget to enter my giveaway! We’ve been having some crazy Winter weather in Perth with storms and cyclones causing some serious damage in my area. My electricity went out for over 24 hours, although that was tame compared to other places. I expect another vicious storm tonight and the power might go out again, so if your comments don’t go up immediately, don’t worry, I’ll moderate them eventually and they will be published. Fingers crossed that my power doesn’t go out again, and stay safe everyone in Perth! I’m stocking up on some candles ...