Ending this Saturday, Tacita Dean’s feature-length film ‘Craneway Event’ is a must-see. Dean filmed dancers practicing Merce Cunningham’s mesmerising contemporary dance routines in a former Ford assembly plant in Richmond, California in 2009. Bright sunlight lights the huge space, creating graceful silhouettes as dancers count their complicated steps to keep in time with one another. Dean captures the elegance of the gentle booming as feet touch the ground in unison, syncopated with silence as complex arm-movements take over from feet. Performers would often only hear John Cage's music, written in parallel to the dance, for the first time on the opening night.
Tacita Dean, 'Craneway Event', 2009. 16mm colour anamorphic film, optical sound. 1 hour 48 mins. Courtesy the artist, Frith Street Gallery, London and Marian Goodman Gallery New York/Paris
‘Craneway Event’ was filmed over three afternoons, and now commemorates the great choreographer Merce Cunningham at work, who died while Dean was editing the film. Dean says, ‘I began to feel that Merce had set up the components that make up the film – the building, the dancers, the light, the ships and the birds, because he knew they would not fail him in absentia.’