A fascinating chronicle of a unique artistic collaboration between famed author-illustrator Maurice Sendak and the Pilobolus Dance Theater, "Last Dance" offers enough creative strife and thematic weight to engross viewers not particularly interested in modern dance. Natural destination for Mirra Bank's astutely observed docu is the small screen.

A fascinating chronicle of a unique artistic collaboration between famed author-illustrator Maurice Sendak and the Pilobolus Dance Theater, “Last Dance” offers enough creative strife and thematic weight to engross viewers not particularly interested in modern dance. Natural destination for Mirra Bank’s astutely observed, vid-shot docu is the small screen, with pickup by arts-oriented pubcasters worldwide likely to be limited only by the amount of full-frontal male nudity eventually seen in the finished stage work.

Meeting of the minds between 30-year-old Pilobolus’ three artistic directors and Sendak (alongside Arthur Yorinks, his co-artistic director in the Night Kitchen Theater) came about with the vaguest of ideas — something improv-based Pilobolus thrives on, but that Sendak & Co. found somewhat exasperating during the long dance-studio creative process. The dance ensemble’s co-chief Jonathan Walken proves annoyingly rigid in opposition to any subtextural specificity, even as the eventual piece “A Selection” becomes a clear metaphor-in-movement for Holocaust victims who’d fallen just short of escaping Europe. Resultant power struggles are engrossing, but real lure is the brilliant work of PDT’s current dancers, whose improv ideas find brilliant fruition in pic’s well-shot climactic excerpts from the final work.

Last Dance

Production

A First Run Features presentation of a Pilobolus Dance Theater and Night Kitchen Theater production. Produced by Mirra Bank, Vic Losick. Directed by Mirra Bank.

Crew

Camera (color, digital video), Vic Losick; editors, Bank, Axuve Espinosa. Reviewed at San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, July 27, 2002. Running time: 84 MIN.

With

Maurice Sendak, Arthur Yorinks, Robby Barnett, Michael Tracy, Jonathan Wolken, Rebecca Anderson, Otis Cook, Josie Coyoc, Matt Kent, Gaspard Louis, Benjamin Pring.

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