Film Review: Competing for Sunlight: Ash and Oak – Climate Encounters Festival

Reviewer: Rich Jevons

Director: Dagmar Dachauer

Choreographers: Dagmar Dachauer and Knut Vikstrőm Precht

Dagmar Dachauer’s two short films Ash and Oak are screened as part of Yorkshire Dance’s Climate Encounters festival programme. In Ash we are introduced to the fact that in the early nineties an Asian fungus gradually conquered the ash population, infecting almost all ash trees which in Europe will soon be close to extinction – only 2% are said to be immune.

Set to Tom Waits’ lyrical ballad Green Grass, Dachauer sets his 4-minute film in a luscious verdant green forest where a pas de deux moves to Waits’ sultry tones. The dancers mirror each other and are barefoot which adds to the earthiness. The male dancer takes a brief solo role before his female partner returns for the finale. The choreography is astute and subtle with gestures that serve as signs, perhaps of nature’s secrets.

Then, in Oak, Dachauer’s 5-minute film takes the audience down a mysterious branch leading into the subject’s ear, as if nature were connected to the mind. We see close-ups of an oak trees’ branches and leafage as an inquisitive hand feels its way around the bark. In another pas de deux, the dancers leap and cradle each other, using the tree as an integral part of the performance.

Together, they push the boundaries of athleticism as they reach higher and higher up into the oak tree, really engaging with nature. As mysteriously as it appeared the branch leading to the ear is finally taken away, breaking the cinematic spell.

Kilian Immervoll’s cinematography for both films is stylish and simply superb, sometimes deliberately obscure but always inventive and inquisitive. Dachauer skilfully brings out the connection between dance and climate change in two works that are both easy on the eye but quite cerebral too.

The Yorkshire Dance Climate Encounters Festival runs until 4 July.

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