Short Rounds is a bi-weekly column dedicated to spreading the love of short film. Every other Wednesday we'll curate a number of flicks around a theme, from current Film Festivals to whatever is in the air. You know you've got the time
What would you do in a world without dance? I’m not entirely sure myself, but the prospect of getting locked up for gettin’ down is kinda harrowing. At least, that’s what the surprisingly fervent little trailer for the Footloose remake would have us believe. And I suppose it has a point: if Dennis Quaid banned dance from my town I might be a bit peeved as well. It would also be sorta awesome if a kid with a thick Boston accent and fantastic moves came along to save us all from anti-crunk paranoia. [Watch the Footloose trailer and clips here]
That being said, I’m not sure how many of us will be rushing to the theater on Friday to catch this long-awaited rehash of the 1986 hit. This presents a problem. What to do if you aren’t compelled to see Footloose but still want to get your groove on? When the urge to boogie overtakes you, where will you turn? Thankfully, you’ve got the internet. Cut loose and shimmy along to some short films with excellent footwork.
Thought of You, by Ryan Woodward
Let’s start off with a film that really zooms in on the basic appeal of watching dance: the human form. Artist and animator Ryan Woodward has thrown himself into figure drawing with an extraordinary sense of focus. These three minutes are stunning in their conceptual simplicity – all you need to really fall in love with dance is to closely look at the human body in motion. This skeleton of a love story, a ballet of imagination, will put you in just the right mood.
Big Trouble in Little Bistro, by JuBa Films
From relaxed animation to some intense (if tongue in cheek) dance fighting. These two guys, Gong Bao and Julien Bam, have produced three of these quirky shorts so far this year. Big Trouble in Little Bistro is perhaps the most entertaining, a simple concept as well executed as anything else on YouTube. It’s high stakes combat: a battle for a plate of French fries in a tiny, empty restaurant. The struggle begins seated, escalating from some well-choreographed arm work to flying all over the table. You can tell everyone involved had a ton of fun making it, which only adds to the joy.
Skeleton Dance, by Walt Disney
It’s hard to imagine a list of dance shorts without at least one representative of Disney’s early experimental animations. This one, made in 1929, is the very first of the groundbreaking Silly Symphonies series. Steamboat Willie was only a year prior, which should put into context just how impressive these coordinated skeletons would have seemed at the time. It sets the tone for the next ten years of Disney short animations, pushing the music along as figures dance and repeat themselves in an almost hypnotic fashion. It’s also a ton of fun, with everything from skeleton xylophones to undead line dancing.
Pas de deux, by Norman McLaren
If you read my Canadian shorts round-up last month, you’re probably aware that I think Norman McLaren was a bit of a genius. Part of that has to do with the astonishing variety within his work, blending experimental techniques with a great variety of forms and subjects. Where Neighbours uses stop-motion animation to make a bold political statement, Pas de deux uses a combination of high contrast film stock and creative printing to produce an eerily striking ballet performance. Margaret Mercier dances with images of herself that come and go, sometimes in a simple duet and other times with an almost impossible number of alter egos. The pas de deux itself begins with the arrival of Vincent Warren, a stunning triumph of short cinema and a testament to McLaren’s vision.
A Corny Concerto, by Robert Clampett
Not so much a film featuring dance, this entire Warner Bros. short is a sort of waltz. Set to the flowing music of Johann Strauss Jr. (as conducted by Elmer Fudd), A Corny Concerto actually consists of two separate vignettes. The musical timing is impeccable as Bugs Bunny flees from Porky Pig and his hunting dog to the tune of “Tales from the Vienna Woods.” Things really get creative in the second half, however, a retelling of The Ugly Duckling set to “The Blue Danube.” It’s a water ballet more than anything else, and a reminder of why we call it the “Golden Age of Animation.”
Lock, by Louise Archambault
For a moment I considered featuring the Oscar-winning Flamenco at 5:15 a second time for this column, after its appearance in my Canadian post last month. Yet there are plenty of other great short dance docs to choose from, including Louise Archambault’s atmospheric Lock. A close look at the studio of its eponymous choreographer, Edouard Lock, the short captures the magic of high-octane dance by slowing it down. An inspired choice, using slow-motion to portray these fast movements really hones in on the power of each step and presents the heart of this choreography with unexpected clarity.
Tanghi Argentini, by Guy Thuys
To close, some humor. This delightful (and Oscar-nominated) short film from The Netherlands combines understated romance with the bold passion of Argentine Tango. Can a shy office worker learn how to dance in just two weeks, in order to impress a woman he’s met over the internet? Well-crafted dialogue, a light sense of optimism and lovely performances set Tanghi Argentini apart in a world of too many comedy shorts that are neither funny nor even simply entertaining. It closes with a delightfully warm-hearted twist that will put a smile on your face and send you off dancing.