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The freedom of dance

Bobbi Jene
Regissør: Elvira Lind

The movie Bobbi Jene inspires you to get more in touch with your own body.

As a kid, I danced at the Norwegian Opera, and I hated it. I endured for years before I felt big enough to say, "Now I quit!" I thought I hated dancing, but there I was wrong. I love to dance – it was the strict discipline and the French commands I struggled with. It also didn't help that we had to stand one by one on the annual exam. It was like going through the purgatory. The pious English ballerina understood and let me improvise: I heard five minutes of piano music once, then one more while dancing the way I felt. This was the big dream – finally the opportunity to dance freely according to the soul's wishes. This saved me, and I stayed for another year before I quit. But in hiding, at home alone, I could dance ballet uninhibitedly as an expression of my true self.

Close and naked. Bobbi Jene Smith is a dancer of completely different dimensions, and it is almost a bit childish to draw in her own childhood experiences. But she does exactly what I did in hiding at home: She dances uninhibitedly. As she says in the film: "I want to reach the place where I have no power left to hold anything back.»The movie can be a little disappointing for those hoping to get a clean dance movie, because this is more of a close-up portrait of a woman who is in her thirtieth year at a turning point in life.

More a close-up portrait of a woman at a turning point in life than pure dance film.

The camera is like a confidential friend, a fly on the wall, capturing scenes from Bobby's life. It is noticeable that director Elvira Lind himself is behind the camera, because we get a close proximity to the subject that you could not have achieved with many in the room. Nudity becomes a natural element and it is not difficult to consider even the most intimate moments.

Batsheva Dance Company. We meet Bobbi as a leading dancer for Ohad Naharin's famous dance company. The movie consists of scenes from her life and we get no direct explanation of how the company works or what Gaga movement language really is – but we are fascinated by the fragments we see. Naharin's methods are considered groundbreaking in modern dance and have already been documented in the film Mr gaga by Tomer Heymann. Naharin is quite unique as a company leader in that he is heterosexual and adores women. No female energy should be held back here, and strong thighs, big tits and resilient legs will have a big place in his pieces.

We agree that Ohad and Bobbi have been lovers. "What is my life without Batsheva Dansekompani?" Bobbi asks herself as she thinks of returning to her home country of the United States to create her own artistic expression.

The director himself is behind the camera and we get a closeness to the subject that could hardly be achieved with more people in the room.

As a common thread throughout the story, we follow Bobbi Jene's recent love affair with her ten year younger lover Or, who also dances in the Batsheva company. We see their budding relationship when they look at each other's dance art almost in secret, in the innocent flirtation when they dance together, and in the intimacy when they are finally alone. The play becomes serious when Bobbi leaves him, and it reinforces the alienation she experiences to her own homeland.

Finds himself. In the second part of the film, we observe the process where Bobbi finds his artistic expression. Cinematically and without so many words, we observe the intolerable weight of loneliness. To calm instrumental music, the feverish movements become a form of danced desperation. As part of the dance, Bobbi throws a sandbag on the floor and masturbates on it until she finally comes in a very long and honest orgasm. It is not repulsive or pornographic – the eroticism is pure and natural, like her whole body. The effect of the quietly observing man in the plastic chair who is to give an artistic assessment of her dance, and the sound of traffic lingering in the background, reinforces the feeling of the struggle of loneliness.

Bobbi misses Or, and prepares to propose to him when he comes to New York to visit. This is the only time she talks to the camera – when she explains why she chooses to be free: Or does not seem to want to take the initiative. Camera follows her as she jogs down the streets of Manhattan, nervous to meet Or. They sit down in a quiet bar, and Bobbi gets ready to ask the big question.

The camera is at a good distance and films with a long lens, so we come close and overhear him say to her: "Maybe we think alike, but we are not in the same place." The camera loses focus – not on purpose, but because the director is as shocked as Bobbi. When the camera comes back into focus, we see Bobbi, stunned: "But what's the point of everything I do if you're not here?" How many female artists have probably not buried their artist soul for the sake of a love affair, I think. Fortunately, Bobbi's young lover is aware that her artistic ambitions must emerge, and leaves her. Heartbreak only makes her next dance even more upsetting and truer. The defeat turns into a victory and her dance touches the audience even deeper than before.

Inspirational. Adam Nielsen should have a lot of credit for the story flowing so well – with this film he won the award for best clip at the Tribeca Film Festival. The story is told in structures we recognize from Hollywood movies, and makes us not think that it is a documentary we see. It is difficult to say who is the master behind the film. First, the film's protagonist is a work of art in itself – a dancer with the capacity to transform herself through what she does. We do not fully understand what she is working on, but see that she is fighting with an invisible inner power.

One is inspired to get more in touch with one's own body: There is a potential miracle in every movement.

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Margareta Hruza
Hruza is a Czech / Norwegian filmmaker and regular critic of Ny Tid.

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