For the next three days, I am going to write a bit about hands and dance/hands in dance/dancing hands/hands that dance etc. During my perusal and hunting of dance films I have come across several dances that focus on hands specifically. I think this is interesting.
Usually, the whole body is pretty much involved when dancing. But often there is extra emphasis on the periphery of the body – feet and legs, hands and arms. Hands are especially easy to focus on because they are so expressive and can communicate so much and so well. When people get involved and animated with stories they are telling, their hands are almost certainly never still. The motion of hands add meaning and subtlety to language and storytelling. And of course, with sign language, the movement of hands is a complete and choreographed language, both totally communicative and expressive.
Enough of Corny Introduction… Now for the wondrous and interesting focus of today’s post: Tilly Losch (1903 – 1975). This lady:
Oh yes. She knows what’s up. You just know by looking at her, this woman had an interesting life – an Austrian Countess and also a dancer, choreographer, actress and painter. And she was pretty successful at all of these things. You can read about her on the InterWeb (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tilly_Losch) but today I’d like to focus on a short, seven minute film made by American designer, Norman Bel Geddes, entitled Dance of Her Hands. Aside from being a famous and progressive designer who was completely ahead of his time, Norman Bel Geddes liked to make films. This one was made, I think, in the early 1930s. (Struggling to find exact date).
The music makes the film pretty melodramatic and full of pathos. I’m not sure if the music is part of the original film or if I like it. When I watched it again, I switched the music off and enjoyed it a bit more, the intensity seemed less dated and more classic. It made her movements less romantic and more seductive. But in a weird way. But in a good way.
There are a few moments, where you forget her hands are hands and for a brief second or two they resemble some sort of underwater creature. But mostly, I feel like the hands and the way they are filmed, serve to emphasize the person attached to them. On the shots with Tilly Losch’s face on screen, you are drawn to her strange self-sexy confidence and ask yourself, “Is she trying to seduce me? Is it working?” I’m not sure. Perhaps.
The last shot, as she hangs upside down like some sort of black, wrapped bat and her hands slowly draw the shape of her face make you realize that the whole time her hands have been creating a sort peripheral edge that draws total attention to the center, to her. To Tilly Losch. And so you Google her and are thus interested and seduced. She wins.
I am not sure exactly why but this piece made me think of another dance piece by the pioneering German choreographer, Mary Wigman. Wigman’s piece is called Witch Dance, it’s always been one of my favourite historical dance pieces and I have found it totally fascinating. I think I’ll write another post some time about this dance. Wigman was a generation or two before Losch and was also a fascinating, incredible woman who pioneered European modern dance. The dances are two totally different pieces of course, but there is something that they share in terms of an eery intensity. I’m just going to throw in a picture of Mary Wigman from Witch Dance because her hands looks so great…