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A Study in Choreography for Camera1945

  • 4.1
"If I did not live in a time when film was accessible to me as a medium, I would have been a dancer, perhaps, or a singer," the filmmaker Maya Deren once said. "But this is a much more marvelous dance. In film, I can make the world dance!" After college, Deren landed her first job working for the famed black American choreographer Katherine Dunham (CABIN IN THE SKY, THE EMPEROR JONES), where her enthusiasm for performance only grew. Deren is the cinematographer of her third work, A STUDY IN CHOREOGRAPHY FOR CAMERA, in which her camera becomes Talley Beatty's dance partner, whirling and shifting in relation to every inclination of his head or turn of his body. As a filmmaker, Deren created uniquely cinematic spectacles and worlds, thus highlighting film's "medium specificity" or the ways that it truly differentiated itself from painting, writing, sculpture, or the other arts. In this piece, human and machine dance together. With her beautiful use of slow motion and her virtuoso editing, seemingly simple parts synthesize into a hypnotic new whole. - Livia Bloom

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Member Reviews (9)

top reviewer

A Study in Choreography for the Camera is the film in which Deren achieved an epistemological break from dance films that only ‘recorded’ movement. The new form was called “choreocinema”. This form was a unique contribution to the advancement of experimental and ethnographic film. In fact, Deren called Ritual and Transfigured Time and The Very Eye of Night “choreographies for camera”.

A Study in Choreography for Camera is the ultimate expression of the liberation of the dancer from the confines of the stage. The connection of movement so that the dancer moves through space and is able to complete his movements in a continuous choreography was achieved through Deren’s camerawork and editing. One important recurrent technique that one finds in Deren’s work is how the camera establishes a position out of view and picks up movement where it left off. As the dancer moves, his tempo is synchronized with the turning camera. A wide-angle lens allows the dancer, Talley Beatty, the opportunity to cover distance within a short period. Camera speed alternates between extreme slow motion and extreme acceleration and is used to achieve sustained movement or duration. Parts of the body are traces from one frame to another and cut into different environments to provide a continuity of movement. “The idealized leap” of the dancer is achieved with different horizontal planes in descent through camera speed and editing.

4 members like this review

beautifully and poignantly captures movement as meaning, movement as motioning toward an idea, versus just a place.

brilliant use of the time of film and the time of dance and the ephemerality of site specific perfomance


Her ability to transport the character in and out of difference worlds is seamless.

The first minute is particularly good.

Deren puts dance and film together like peanut butter and jelly, in this short (but sweet) piece.

This is a two minute, silent film on modern dance. The dancer is clearly talented, but modern dance just doesn't do anything for me.

Maya Deren's 1945 silent short, "A Study in Choreography for Camera," captures the essential vitality of modern dance and modern filmmaking within its brief, two-minute frame. Through the simple magic of editing, a lissome, powerfully graceful male dancer glides through three environments -- a forest, a house, a museum -- his fluidity and youthful physical beauty immortalized in a warm black-and-white that is both grainy and crisp. The film is simple, yet evocative, without any overarching symbolism or artsiness, just a simple expression of creativity and motion. A temporary artform and a moment in time, captured forever and preserved against the remorseless march of time. (JS)