COPPI & PASTE: Memories of Cycling

COPPI & PASTE aims at giving voice to the narrative threads connecting the world of (professional) cycling. We will report on races, think about riders, visit the most famous roads, ride on our bikes and dream about it all in words and images.

Landscapes Becoming Liquid

by Victor Morozov

One day I hopped on my steel bike – green, rusty, and as heavy as you like – and I realized I was able to keep my balance. The scene is blurry, yet poignant. There’s my uncle, keeping the pace behind me. There’s that one way “garage street” with rough tarmac, the kind you used to see everywhere in post-communist Romania. And then there’s that feeling, one that never gets old; the sheer amazement of the landscape becoming liquid, going crazy. Once, just once, I could hold the secret of it, amazed at the principle of ideas becoming things, in the short lapse between assisted movement – my uncle grabbing the saddle – and the stability I established by my own force of will.

There’s probably more to the first solo bike ride – which is only just a couple of meters long– than a mere cliché. This monotone discourse about the personal freedom a bicycle is supposed to miraculously enable proves to be, at the same time, an exaggeration and an understatement. Things are more complicated than that; we can find a secret written in invisible ink throughout the history of each bicycle. A couple of months ago I was convinced by some evidence to get a tube of silicone spray for my road bike. There was the strange need to make this object – slender, light, robust – even more beautiful. The shameless pride was almost physical. One year before, after I bought the bike in a bourgeois village near Paris from an aging man who unloaded it from his cranky Peugeot and told me with a sigh: “I’m done with le vélo”, I would watch it furtively, as if in fear of discovering myself an impostor, filling a corner of my empty, sad student dorm. “My first road bike”, I thought, and to my mind came all these sepia pictures of rectangular bicycle frames from a working-class France, all of them long gone by now. I was finally joining the imaginary peloton at a time when the bike, as a social activity, was once again gaining terrain (it’s unbelievable how the pandemic prompted people to start commuting by bike in Paris), while simultaneously losing its soul. But that is another matter.

In the Romanian town where I spent most of my life, bikes would come into your life before cars: unhandy, ugly bikes that the boys could take for a Friday evening ride by the Danube. It was fun. We all had them: some had on “full” wheels for show, while others styled some strange, completely senseless drops for the handlebars. Then the boys would grow up, discover love, and forget about the bike. By the time most of them were of age to drive a car, no one would think anymore of the so adequately named “First Bike” (the most common Romanian bike manufacturer of the time) and the memories it brought. I myself followed the designated path up to a point. Once or twice, around 14, I took part in the so-called “Saturday ride” that the local cycling club would organize weekly. I still remember the feeling of belonging with the cool guys, as we would form a long chain and slowly cross the city center. The ride always finished with a short but steep climb which, for me, acted as a wake-up call: I was the last one to reach the top, panting, while the others would give me a dismissive look. Nowadays I follow some of their accounts on my Strava app, and sometimes we even get together for a ride in the countryside. Some are now firefighters and engineers – back then their cheeks were red with acne, and they were already fighting gravity.

Luckily, I had no interest in getting a driver’s license. It somehow made it easier for me to get back into cycling. During high school, I clearly found it smarter to impress my sweetheart by reciting a poem than by climbing a hill “en danseuse”. I’d think twice now about that now, though. There was this very firm idea, instilled by our teachers and by the entire society, to be honest, that some habits were appropriate, while others were not. I could feel it, without reading Bourdieu, that literature was acceptable and sport wasn’t, at least for a young man destined for a career in the cultural field. (By a similar logic, I chose to study cinema, a sort of ideal mauvais objet which, during those years, still gave off a sulfurous smell to some of my teachers.) Getting back in the saddle, in the aftermath of a painful breakup, also meant completing the loop. Like cinema, although in greater measure, sports are still looked down on by a whole range of intellectuals. I skip their fallacious reasons, for I don’t want to give any credit to their ignorance: it goes without saying, for instance, that the meanings a football coach extracts from a match in front of him can achieve unsuspected levels of complexity. On the other hand, sports fans only seldom have the opportunity to develop a reflection about their passion. This is why, nowadays more than ever, paying close attention to what a sport such as cycling does to us – in terms of image, gesture, passion – feels necessary.

Back in 2013, I read a book about a journalist who had a longtime interest in cycling, and was then assembling his dream bike. The frame was from Raleigh, the saddle was from Brooks… I don’t know how I would feel about this dandy position of his now, but I remember the lasting influence that this book had on me. Two years later, I would watch cycling races on Eurosport, just for the pleasure of the immersion into a bike-filled flow of images. Life for me, at the end of junior high, was as plotless as a transition stage from a grand tour. There was a form of absolute beauty inscribed into the frame, with its synthetic explosion of colors and the eerie equipment that covered as much as it revealed, which suddenly didn’t require any context at all. Indeed, I lacked all information necessary to establish a minimal context, like what the names of the competing teams were, how this strategy game worked, what race was on, what the sport’s history was (I was no child of the doping controversies), or even what a technical guideline for the complex progression of a course par étapes was. Some names I recollect vaguely, like Valverde, who was already “old”, or Bardet, who had very bold moves, and also rode for a French team, so he stood away from big money…

I now hold televised cycling to be the challenge of truth for any proclaimed image analyst. In terms of boredom, it doesn’t get any better than a five hour plain stage, when an indistinct mass of wheels glide through the arid valleys of Oman or Andalusia, going on forever. While we can easily understand the point of televised football or tennis, one cannot help but wonder at the massive audience success of this endearing, if somehow perplexing, enterprise of recording, under every possible angle, kilometer after kilometer. Yet the epic quality of a grand tour was by no means destined for television, nor was it enhanced by its live broadcast. Having started as a promotion event for a printed journal, the Tour de France would be nowhere near the mythological exploit it has become had it not been for the writers and journalists who saw heroes and epics where previously there had only been reportage. Could some of this enthusiasm be revived in our age, when all the images have been seen and all the heroes have fallen from grace, compromised by substances with angry names? Regardless of the outcome, I think it’s worth a try.

© Victor Morozov

The Yellow of Pirates

by Patrick Holzapfel

It took a long time until I was able to understand how the seemingly weightless movements of the cyclists I observed on television were basically of the same nature as the painful fidgeting I undertook while struggling on my own bike to get to school. My imagination followed its very own cadence, and suddenly I found myself imitating the gestures and movements I saw on television: lifting myself above the saddle to accelerate until my legs exploded, stretching while descending, merging onto the other side of the road right before sprinting against a surprised sheep grassing in the field next to where I imagined the Flamme Rouge to be. As my father runs a bicycle shop, he was able to get me a few items that helped to spark my imagination further: sunglasses, drinking bottles, helmets, shoes for my clip-less pedals (I learned to fall and get up again), power gels, rain-jackets, speedos and most importantly, the bike itself. It was shaped like my Pulmo dexter, pitch black with a fire red saddle. Everything about it smelled like oil and blood and nobody was allowed to touch it.

Imagination was also key to my initiation into the world of professional cycling, a world that had been blown away by a storm of horrible betrayal and moralistic witch-hunts as soon as I discovered it. It’s all worthy of Greek myths, really, but I don’t know who lives up on Olympus anymore.

I remember strained hours in front of a tiny tube television my grandfather put on top of a shelf in a cubbyhole in his cottage. It was 1997. The colours were hardly distinguishable on the screen far above me, but I was barely able to make out a yellow shirt in the midst of a moving serpent weaving through the most famous streets of Paris. I have never seen so many impressions of yellow dots in my eyes as I did that night after spending so long trying to find the one on that screen. They told me, “If he doesn’t fall, he will win.” I was sure he would fall. Even as a child, I’ve always been certain of coming tragedies, and years later he really would fall. He would fall so often until I couldn’t care anymore. But in 1997 I cared and he didn’t fall. He crossed the finish line at the Champs-Élysées and there he was, in yellow.

The next thing I remember is rain. Heavy rain and again I had to imagine things. Due to the heavy rain there were no televised images from the road and those competing on it. Instead I heard worried voices declaring: “Er hat einen Hungerast” (he hit a wall). He didn’t eat enough and it was cold and it rained and he felt like shit and another man, much more inspiring, took the stage. He was bold and everybody called him a pirate and he took the yellow shirt I was still looking for with feverish eyes (both of us had feverish eyes). He really seemed to be from another world. As he moved up mountain roads through corridors of cheering people, I observed something I understood very well as a child: the relief of climbing, which is the same as the relief of growing-up. When ingredients, opponents, strategic thoughts, parents and the world are overcome in a painful scream for recognition, I really felt joy for the pirate in yellow climbing with the fury of someone who is bound to lose everything but inspires everybody. There it was, Mount Olympus, even if only for a second, I saw it. The pirate had conquered it.

It was all beautiful beyond comprehension. I didn’t understand anything about cycling but slowly I learned a whole new vocabulary and more importantly, I learned about its myths and heroes, and something took flight in me which hasn’t ceased to inspire my imagination up to this day.

Variations on T.S. Eliot — V

T.S. Eliot: Spleen

Sunday: this satisfied procession
Of definite Sunday faces;
Bonnets, silk hats, and conscious graces
In repetition that displaces
Your mental self-possession
By this unwarranted digression.

Evening, lights, and tea!
Children and cats in the alley;
Dejection unable to rally
Against this dull conspiracy.

And Life, a little bald and gray,
Languid, fastidious and bland,
Waits, hat and gloves in hand,
Punctilious of tie and suit
(Somewhat impatient of delay)
On the doorstep of the Absolute.

Variations on T.S. Eliot — IV

T.S. Eliot: Virginia

Red river, red river,
Slow flow heat is silence
No will is still as a river
Still, Will heat move
Only through the mocking-bird
Heard once? Still hills
Wait. Gates wait. Purple trees,
White trees, wait, wait,
Delay, decay. Living, living,
Never moving. Ever moving
Iron thoughts came with me
And go with me:
Red river, river, river.

Variations on T.S. Eliot — III

T.S. Eliot: Conversation Galante

I observe: „Our sentimental friend the moon!
Or possibly (fantastic, I confess)
It may be Prester John’s balloon
Or an old battered lantern hung aloft
To light poor travellers to their distress.“
She then: „How you digress!“

And I then: „Some one frames upon the keys
That exquisite nocturne, with which we explain
The night and moonshine; music which we seize
To body forth our own vacuity.“
She then: „Does this refer to me?“
„Oh no, it is I who am inane.“

„You, madam, are the eternal humorist,
The eternal enemy of the absolute,
Giving our vagrant moods the slightest twist!
With your aid indifferent and imperious
At a stroke our mad poetics to confute—“
And—“Are we then so serious?“

Glimpses at DANCING

PATRICK HOLZAPFEL: Only the slow ones oder zumindest so wie Grégoire Colin in US Go Home, das heißt so, dass man sich allein und frei wähnt (sich selbst vergessen). 

Agnès Godard ist die beste Kamerafrau, wenn es ums Tanzen geht, ich weiß es. Ich glaube, dass sie verstanden hat, dass man Tanzende so filmen muss, als wäre man an zwei Orten zugleich. Die eine Hälfte ist in einem Schlafzimmer, alles ist in Zärtlichkeitsfarben getüncht, man sieht durch die Haut und wie sich Finger umschlingen. Die andere Hälfte ist in einem Raubtierkäfig, auf Zehenspitzen und darum wissend, dass jeder Schritt, ach jeder Mucks ins Verderben führen kann. Wenn Godard im Schlafzimmer ist, tanzt sie mit. Wenn sie im Käfig filmt, verharrt sie am Rand der Tanzfläche, so wie jene, die sich nicht ganz trauen, aber die trotzdem jeden Abend dastehen und warten, dass was passiert oder sie wer anspricht. 

Ich stelle mir gern vor, dass die, die ins Kino gehen, eigentlich nur kommen, weil sie hoffen, dass sie angesprochen werden. Sie schauen auf die Leinwand und für einige Minuten scheint diese Vorstellung zumindest halbwegs plausibel, ja, warum eigentlich nicht…aber wenn die Lichter angehen (und das ist etwas, was die Lichter immer tun), dann verpufft diese kurz aufkeimende Hoffnung genau so wie die erschöpften Körper nach einem Tanz plötzlich merken, dass sie atmen. Inzwischen gibt es eine ganze Apotheke an Medikamenten, die man sich auf verschiedenste Arten einverleiben kann und die dafür sorgen, dass die Musik weiter durch den Körper fließt, auch wenn sie längst verstummt ist. Hört man die gleichen Rhythmen wie sie, schwingt die ganze Erde wie eine Schaukel und man tanzt, wie es so abgedroschen heißt, durch die Nacht. Hört man den Rhythmus aber nicht, fragt man sich, wer da mit krummen Rücken und ulkigen Sprüngen über den Asphalt torkelt. 

Ich habe festgestellt, dass man eine Tanzszene in einem Film ohne Ton betrachten muss, um zu sehen, ob die Menschen wirklich tanzen oder ob sie nur Bewegungen für die Kamera vollführen. Sie tanzen wirklich, wenn sie verstummt auf mich wirken, wie die durch die Nacht Stolpernden auf den Straßen, also die, die spüren, dass sich die Erde dreht. 

Trotzdem only the slow ones, denn nur dann hilft das Tanzen dabei, die Gefühle zu verlangsamen und ich will wenig so sehr, wie langsamer zu fühlen.

JAMES WATERS: Until recently, I’d assumed a level of irony in Claire Denis’ use of Corona’s Rhythm of the Night in Beau travail; an irony stemming from my belief that there has to be something behind a filmmaker as established resorting to such music. The implication I carried to it was that “Rhythm of the Night” isn’t what I consider “real music” – at least, compared to Tindersticks. Poisoned by a sense of irony, the closest I’d gotten to Galoup’s (Denis Lavant) final, transcendent dance was in my conception of Corona as a “guilty pleasure”, a perspective inevitably eclipsed by Denis’ filmmaking; one deprived of irony and yielding to the perfect club song that mirrors Galoup’s eventual, mortal submission (aided by a lit cigarette, a glaring spotlight and rising tempo of the song’s build-up). 

Dealing with a more recent song that has yet to be “reclaimed” in the same way, Valeska Grisebach’s Sehnsucht also shows – through dance – the untainted bliss that can be elicited from an excerpt of Robbie Williams’ Feel, a piece of music I’d also dismissed up until watching Grisebach’s film. One can read as much as they like into the choice and the film’s general music editing, but its intent can be nailed down to the facts that: 

a) It was popular enough at the time to circulate the airwaves (or, at least, within the 5–10- year release window in which a song like “Feel” existed; remaining a ubiquitous chart- topper/record holder for years without seeming either old or new). 

b) As with most public spaces, an environment like a small, mess hall party for German firefighters would be absent from on-the-pulse music curation. So, the best choice of song should re-create what’d already exist if Grisebach and her crew weren’t there to film it.

The film’s lead, Markus (Andreas Müller), seems timid at first, swaying timidly in front of the camera as the song’s percussive beat kicks in. He shuffles along in what could equally be attributed to his character’s drunkenness or the first-time actor’s reticence at being vulnerable in front of the camera. He sways according to the song’s continual build-up, with two jump-cuts interrupting his flow (yet the song flows through these cuts’ continuity, uninterrupted). After the jump-cuts he seems genuinely into the song’s rhythms, carrying the viewer along with him. He evolves as a listener and dancer, swaying – with eyes closed – to the ecstatic build-up of Williams’ song. It’s an evolution that mimics my own cynicism as a listener: I may hesitate to listen to it because of previous misgivings, but the song will continue playing regardless. It’s only up to the listener to submit to its sway.

IVANA MILOŠ: There are few things I love more than my favorite dance scenes in cinema. Not only do I watch them time and time again, I hear them, I listen to them, I dance to them, together with them, for them, for the characters whose movements are akin to mine, whose ears are akin to mine, and whose musical hearts beat to the same rhythm, even if for just a few brief instances. In truth, what is better than music? This is, undoubtedly, a rhetorical question, and let’s not leave it at that.

1, 2, 3, 4, it’s time to share and more.

Gregoire Colin and The Animals getting down, cigarette-in-mouth, youth in body, what a dance, what a feast of feeling:

Denis Lavant and David Bowie, the epitome of modern love in all its shapes and forms. Let me run like that for once in my life, I might never stop. He hardly does.

Denis Lavant again, now and forever, in a rendition of Corona’s Rhythm of the Night unlike anything else known to humankind:

Melina Mercouri takes up Ta Paidia tou Peiraia, dancing and singing in her bedroom, not to mention those snapping fingers:

Ana Torrent plays a record of Porque te vas in Cría cuervos. It’s music and joy on a whole new level, and childhood at its most moving:

Everyone can dance beautifully in Ermanno Olmi’s I fidanzati. A motion goes through the room and the importance of dance becomes vividly manifest:

Don’t let it end at that. Dance, dance, dance to the music!

ANDREW CHRISTOPHER GREEN: Not long into Angela Schanelec’s Plätze in Städten the main character Mimi dances with her mother at a public swimming pool to Joni Michell’s California. They’re listening to it on a portable speaker at first, and we’re listening to the song with them as it echoes through the room, but then the track gets louder and is synchronized over the ambient audio. There is a curtain of glass windows behind them, and they twirl around in their swimsuits against a cold cityscape. The shot is three and a half minutes long, long enough for Schanelec’s strange composition to take our focus from the dancers moving peripherally through some pillars to the space they’re in and its relation to the barren trees and environs beyond. They stand over the hostile outside like one of Caspar David Friedrich’s Rückenfiguren, only they’re not contemplating their relationship to the distance beyond as Friedrich’s figures would. They dance indifferently to the foreground/background and inside/outside dialectics the framing composes, absorbed in themselves and their movements.

I don’t know how one ought to dance to Joni Mitchell’s folkish songs, but the way they do seems wrong, or at least excessive. The mother is more enthusiastic than Mimi is, but they’re both very present in this scene, experiencing something like joy and togetherness. It’s a presentness which foreshadows Mimi’s constant displacements between cities and sexual partners and her estrangement from her mother. Towards the end of the film she gets pregnant and runs away, probably to Paris (her locations aren’t always made explicit but just appear in the backgrounds), winds up homeless, and is sitting in the cold outside a bar when someone sees her and invites her in to dance. A bass-heavy, electronic song plays first, and she just stands there. The flickering lights show everyones bodies in different positions as they strobe, but Mimi doesn’t hardly move at all. She’s offered a drink, an outrageously nostalgic song by Ben Folds Five comes on (we heard her listening to this same song at home earlier), and she sways around like a zombie. Somebody probably slipped something. Next we hear a song by Portishead, which itself sounds like a bad drug trip. Another composition; there aren’t surroundings anymore, just a black wall behind Mimi. We see outlines of her body in an ominous red with sporadic flashes of blues and greens. She’s not twirling but spiraling, something like the inverse of her mother at the beginning of the film when they were together at the swimming pool. She falls asleep on a chair and we don’t know what happens after. I couldn’t help but think that the lights were perfect in their sobering irregularity, plotting out the spatial coordinates of Mimi’s regression into a womb of darkness. It’s a cruel and ironic twist of fate that the ones who feel the most intensely in our world are the ones most vulnerable to being disarticulated by it. In these final scenes I thought of Friedrich again, this time one of his moonlit compositions, Der Mönch am Meer. They share the motif of an individual surrounded by darkness. One stands looking out into the abyss, the other is being swallowed up by it.

ANNA BABOS: “It’s not the music that gets to you. It’s the marching feet.“

Máté and Mari, the peasant protagonists of Fábri Zoltán’s Körhinta, are in love. Their longing for each other is hindered by political circumstances and the expectations of Mari’s family. Mari has a fiancé, Sándor, and her parents rather support their marriage, because Sándor, like them, opposes the concept of forced collectivization of land. The family and Sándor hope to keep their land and unite them by marriage, in accordance with the tradition. 

Despite the difficulties, Máté does not give up his love for Mari. His fiery and combative desire culminates during the wedding of another girl from the village. To the astonishment of the community, Máté asks Mari to dance. The provocation manifests physically in his virtuoso and intimidating dancing: like the stars of the classical Hollywood musical, Máté uses movement to express dominance. But it is not strictly choreographed, nuanced movement, and Máté is not aware of his virtuosity. Folk dance is his only weapon in the fight for the freedom of their love, which has the undertone of fighting those who are against the new regime and refuse collectivization. When other men from the village ask Mari to dance, Máté seizes her, and, seizes the day. They dance until they light-headed; Mari hallucinates in exhaustion.  

The increasingly rapid spinning recalls an earlier encounter when Máté and Mari were on a rapidly spinning merry-go-round (the title of the film) at a village fair. The combination of dance and flight, set to the liberating rhythm of Hungarian folk music, evokes a romantic image of the burning flame or the free-flying youth. At the same time, the scene conveys something else.

La grand illusion comes to mind. “It’s not the music that gets to you. It’s the marching feet“, says Jean Gabin as lieutenant Maréchal. 

The sounds of Máté’s and Mari’s dance steps slowly take the place of the joyful violin playing, and the music almost gets disoriented by the hard thuds of feet in a dreamlike tangle. Dance becomes a militant gesture through Máté’s wilfulness. He experiences the fight for communism through his fight for love.

DAVID PERRIN: „Im Pariser Jeu de Paume hängt ein Bild von Cezanne, vor dem ich dann zu verstehen glaubte, worum es geht, nicht nur ihm, dem Maler, und nicht nur jetzt mir, einem Schriftsteller…

Schwer zu sagen, was ich da verstand. Damals hatte ich vor allem das Gefühl ‚Nähe‘. Im Bedürfnis, das Erlebte doch weiterzugeben, kommt mir jetzt, nach langem ‚Bedenken des Geschehen‘ (eher ein Denksturm), ein Filmbild in den Sinn: Henry Fonda, wie er in John Fords The Grapes of Wrath mit der eigenen Mutter tanzt.

In jener Szene tanzen alle Anwesenden miteinander, zur Abwehr einer lebensgefährlichen Bedrohung: so verteidigen sie, vor der Landnot Umgetriebene, das Stücken Erde, auf dem sie endlich Bleibe gefunden haben, gegen die sie umzingelnden Feinde. Obwohl das Tanzen demnach pure List ist (Mutter und Sohn, sich rundum drehend, werfen einander, wie auch den übrigen, schlaue wachsame Blicke zu) ist es doch ein Tanz wie nur je einer (und wie noch keiner) der überspringt als ein herzlicher Zusammenhalt.“ – Peter Handke, Die Lehre von Saint-Victoire, S. 60-61.

RONNY GÜNL: Alltäglichen Bewegungen gleicht selten etwas Tänzerischem angesichts ihre Unbeholfenheit. Routinemäßig lässt sich das Geschirr durch die eigenen Hände abspülen, ohne dabei nur einen Gedanken daran zu verschwenden. Fast scheint es so, als bestimme das Geschirr den Vorgang selbst. Im Film ist dem offenbar nicht so; es ist möglich jede noch so erdenkliche Schwerfälligkeit tänzelnd in Schwebe aufzuheben. Der Unterschied ist zwar ein geringer, aber umso entscheidender. Nicht der Ort der Bewegung beziehungsweise dessen Gravitation hat sich verändert, sondern die Zeit.

Die Filme von Maya Deren erkunden diese Verschiebung. In Rituals in Transfigured Time erlangen die tanzenden Bewegungen nicht jene absoluten Form, worin die Person ganz in der Choreografie transzendiere. Vielmehr beschreibt der Film – ohne Musik – nur mit seinen Bildern einen balancierenden Zustand, der um seinen Schwerpunkt kreist: Für kleine Momente deuten sich rhythmisierende Fragmente an, die sogleich verschwinden, als wären sie nie geschehen. Immer wieder wird der Fluss der Bewegung unterbrochen und zeitlich versetzt weitergeführt.

Es ist eine Tanzfläche in einem Lokal zu sehen. Menschen sind willkürlich im Raum aufgestellt. Sie gestikulieren und reden aneinander vorbei. Sie treffen aufeinander und trennen sich. Weder Orientierung noch Sinn fängt das Bild der Kamera dabei ein. Während die Protagonistin (Rita Christiani) Hals über Kopf im wellenartigen Treiben genau danach zu suchen scheint, sehen wir Anbahnungen, von etwas, das beginnen könnte, sich jedoch unmittelbar – zugleich zyklisch – in der Luft verflüchtigt.

SIMON WIENER: Often I think of experimental film as a dance. I think it is no coincidence that both can give me joy like little else can, maybe because both are expressions of a peculiar movement through space, one not usually explored in our day-to-day-life. They both estrange us from our usual movements, which can be seen as the most efficient means of connecting the dots that make up a space. One leaps through space in order to reap it, thereby distilling space into movement. A hierarchy is created: space serves us, feeds our desires, adorns us. If our usual movement affirms the self, Dance-Film-movement, instead, proposes an opening for the abandonment of the self, it proposes a spring-board for dissolving into the Other… dis-selving. The joy of this dissolution is best denoted by the German word aufgehoben; we are lifted, nullified by the object of our devotion, namely space. Maybe the hierarchy is inverted; space cracks us open, finds a means of expression through us, a revenge of sorts; or maybe the hierarchy is preserved but given a twist, wherein the desire fed by space is directed towards space itself. An urge to move, in order to reveal and preserve space – a negative expression where the self is defined by its surroundings.

SEBASTIAN BOBIK: Like many other things in life that bring us joy, dancing is something that always seems to have been a part of cinema. One of the earliest films to show us a dance is the beautiful Danse serpentine by the Lumiere Brothers. Since then dances have been everywhere in films, and every film has at least one or two dancing scenes, which are especially important and touching. Dancing also seems to be something that shows up in the oeuvres of even the most different filmmakers. They can be found in images as different as those of Agnès and Jean-Luc Godard, Donen and Donschen, Deren and Leisen, Chaplin and Tashlin and many, many more.

When I am asked to think about a scene of people dancing in a film my mind will often go back to one of the early instances of a dance being captured on celluloid. The Dickson Experimental Sound Film was an early attempt to create a film with synchronized sound to accompany the images. The attempt failed at its time. The film is only about 30 seconds long. We see several things in one image: On the left side we see a man playing the violin into a device, which is supposed to have recorded the sound. On the right hand two men are sharing a small dance with each other. Are they waltzing? As they dance one of the men can be seen visibly smiling. Another man walks into the image from the left, then the film ends.There are versions of this film that are silent, though I have also seen some versions with the sound of a violin. It is a small film, but it sparks of joy and delight. Somehow it always touches me, whenever I see it.

SIMON PETRI: Dance scenes in cinema are often described as liberating although the characters in motion in the image are already liberated; they have either overcome the constraints of self-consciousness or never suffered it to begin with, unlike those sitting around them, squirming on the margins of the frame. They go well together, those who enjoy the attention (or at least don’t mind it) and those who attract attention by existing in the shadow of the spectacle just to performatively deny it.

Trees, leaves and flowers dance involuntarily, without an audience for the most part: algae in the unexplored depth of oceans, miniature branches of lichen in the Scandinavian frost, odorous linden towering over entire counties give themselves up to forces without a predictable trajectory.

For the fortunate the wind blows a metronomic rhythm to the fertile pollution. More violent movements happen in and because of human presence: mimosa leaves close and open with the discipline of Busby Berkeley’s objectified legs, grass and pine fall and whirl as dictated by the scythe and the jigsaw. 

The most heavenly of dance genres is heliotropism. It’s free of contact and violence: there’s unparalleled distance between choreographer and dancer, yet each movement follows a perfect curve.