It was about two years ago that experimental filmmaker Michael Langan and dancer Terah Maher released their beautiful collaboration Choros, but it’s a recent discovery for me—and the very fact that not every modern dance performance sells out indicates to me that many others haven’t seen it, too. You see, after watching this film, I can’t imagine anyone resisting the power of modern dance movement.
The title of Choros refers to the Greek chorus of old, but it might as well be a play on the Greek “Chronos” (time) as well, because its use of 32 visual echos of the dancer perfectly spaced to create fantastic displays might ultimately be taken as a meditation on time and our movement through it. It is easy to dismiss a simple gesture in everyday movement or in dance, but when begins to contemplate the lasting effect of every movement (on our bodies, the environment, however small its traces may be) and when one can witness these gestures piling on one another, one gains an appreciation for the beauty of movement in its simplest forms.
Choros is experimental film at its best: The concept and effects are not extravagant, but perfectly executed and integrated into the theme and the soundtrack. It’s an extremely unified work, which is important given that the piece is set to Steve Reich’s seminal composition Music for 18 Musicians. (I discovered the film via a friend and music scholar who loves Reich’s work.)
Side note: There is a Seattle connection here in that Reich composed Music for 18 Musicians following a stint learning Balinese gamelan in Seattle and Berkeley.
Music buffs will appreciate how the film responds to Music‘s eleven pulses. Those unfamiliar with the work ought to feel the response intuitively while admiring the visual spectacle. Langan and Maher use the same effect repeatedly, but through Maher’s varied movements and (suddenly) a change in setting, the visuals never grow stale.
About that change in setting: It comes slightly after the halfway mark, and you (like me and my friend) might begin to worry about where the film is going and if it might be drifting into sentimentality. Au contraire, it ends up giving the piece even greater depth. Do not drift away.
You can see more of Michael Langan’s work on his Vimeo channel.