MoMA Doc Fortnight 2018
Mill Valley, Berkshire, Chagrin Falls Doc, Kansas, Heartland, Milwaukee, Cinequest, Sebastopol Doc, SF Dance, Transilvania
A profile of an international dance program for at-risk youth.
Recognizing the power of art to bridge divides, NYC’s Battery Dance Company has developed Dancing to Connect, a program that uses modern dance to help youth around the world express themselves while working collaboratively with others, under the direction of professional dancers. With just a week between initial dance workshop and public performance, the program can be high-stress, but also transformative for both students and teachers alike. Fruchtman’s film follows six instructors in four countries working with marginalized students: slum-dwelling girls who have experienced violence and sex trafficking in India, North Korean refugees living in South Korea, together with South Korean orphans, the perpetually stigmatized Roma in Romania, and, in a departure from the typical program’s focus, a solo Muslim hip-hop dancer in Iraq, who faces severe repercussions were he to dance in public. Working with at-risk and troubled youth, the dance teachers face their fare share of disruption and resistance, not to mention culture clash, but the overwhelming majority of the participants are shown to benefit enormously from the program. While the film takes on a bit too much in its expansive focus, lending it a too cursory, survey-like feel at times, the overall message is a welcome one of hope, interconnection, and growth through art.