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Thursday, October 17, 2013

@PolariFest Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival – “Five Dances” Opening Night Film

By Adam Ruhl

2013 is the 26th annual Polari Film Festival, not just Austin’s oldest Gay and Lesbian Film Fest, but apparently the longest running Film Festival in Austin altogether. All of the festival-goers were gathered at the Stateside Theater in downtown Austin for the opening ceremony and opening film. Artistic Director Curran Nault gave a welcoming speech and spoke of the festival audience award which has been renamed the Scott Dinger Audience Award, in honor of the festivals founder. Then it was time to dig into the opening film.

Five Dances
Five Dances is apparently already playing in New York and will soon be available on DVD and Netflix. It’s the story of an 18-year-old dancer named Chip (Ryan Steele in his debut) who has come to New York from Kanas and has taken a job with a ballet troupe to perform a set of five dances at a festival. The film follows Chip and three other dancers during the rehearsals. The movie feels a bit like a short film blown up to feature length, but it works on several levels. The director stated that they began with an unfinished script and allowed the story to grow organically.

Though the characters move about the city; for the bulk of the movie they are all in one room. The twist on the one-room-drama here is that this room is a rehearsal studio and the dramas of the characters personal lives are played out in the midst of some truly stunning and talented dance performances. During the Q&A afterwards the director revealed that all five principles were dancers and not professional actors in real life. Even so, the whole cast turns in great performances, especially Steele who portrays Chip with a lot of charm but also a naïve trust.

One of the most stand-out elements is the cinematography. For a self-proclaimed “low-budget Independent Film”, produced partially with Kickstarter funds, Cinematographer Derek Mckane makes this film look like a Hollywood production. The shot composition was beautiful and it made the film very easy to get immersed in. Artist Scott Matthew provides some wonderful music for most of the dance sequences (another version of one of the songs was also used in Shortbus). Taken together, Five Dances is a small picture that comes together beautifully and rises about its humble budget to provide a very professional and enjoyable experience.

Adam Ruhl is a cinema writer for PCB and a fiction author. His latest novel, The Devil is My Co-Pilot is now available from! 

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