Coming to theatres this Friday, January 23: MISS HILL: MAKING DANCE MATTER
Greg Vander Veer’s profile of a pivotal figure in American dance debuted as the opening night film of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Dance on Camera last year. Other fest berths have included Sarasota, Berkshire, Dance Camera West, St Louis, and Vancouver.
Martha Hill may not be as well-known as the other Martha of contemporary dance, Martha Graham, but in many ways, as argued in Vander Veer’s loving tribute, she’s just as – perhaps even more – significant. While Hill’s on-stage career was brief, her influence was felt more as an educator and advocate, proving instrumental in reshaping the nation’s positioning of dance not as a sidelined form of girls’ physical education, but as a full-fledged art form. At both the groundbreaking Bennington School of the Dance and at Juilliard, where she founded the dance department, Hill championed the art form, significantly arguing that dancers should have grounding in both modern techniques and classical ballet training. Vander Veer’s coverage of Hill’s behind-the-scenes role in legitimizing dance-as-art may at times feel hagiographic, a bit too insider, and somewhat repetitive, but gains significant power in the second half, when he tackles the political machinations behind the establishment of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, which sees a fascinating David vs Goliath face-off between George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet and Hill’s Juilliard.