Review: ‘Never Stand Still’

"Never Stand Still," Ron Honsa's docu about Jacob's Pillow, the venerated dance mecca in the Berkshires, alternates kinetic performances with overabundant talking heads, living and dead, little-known and famous.

“Never Stand Still,” Ron Honsa’s docu about Jacob’s Pillow, the venerated dance mecca in the Berkshires, alternates kinetic performances with overabundant talking heads, living and dead, little-known and famous. Dance icons Paul Taylor and Suzanne Farrell rub elbows with up-and-comers Rasta Thomas and Shantala Shivalingappa, while names scribbled on pillars, posts, doorways and ceilings attest to 80 years of diversity. Dancers leap and whirl on bright, outdoor stages, in evocatively lit theaters, and even — during one moonlit production — over sloped roofs. But unlike Wim Wenders’ freewheeling “Pina,” the talky template for Honsa’s pic could discourage all but dedicated dance fans.

Honsa traces the dance haven’s history back to founder Ted Shawn’s troupe of bare-chested male dancers (the subject of an earlier Honsa docu). Filmed over several seasons, “Never” samples Mark Morris’ fully evolved pieces as well as 8-minute ballets created by artists-in-residence. Rasta Thomas essays a frenetic “Flight of the Bumblebee” locked within an immobile spotlight while Bill Irwin does a nicely floppy, vaudeville-inspired Charleston turn. Dancers laud the intimacy of the Pillow, a sanctuary dedicated solely to dance, but their words become repetitious even as their movements speak volumes.

Never Stand Still

Production

A First Run Features release of a Moving Pictures production. Produced by Ron Honsa, Nan Penman. Executive producer, Ella Baff. Directed by Ron Honsa. Written by Honsa, Nan Penman.

Crew

Camera (color, B&W, HD), Jimmy O'Donnell, Etienne Sautet; editor, Charles Yurick. Reviewed on DVD, New York, May 15, 2012. Running time: 74 MIN.

With

Merce Cunningham, Judith Jamison, Paul Taylor, Suzanne Farrell, Frederic Franklin, Bill Irwin, Mark Morris, Shantala Shivalingappa, Rasta Thomas, Joanna Haigood. Narrator: Bill T. Jones
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