DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt


Movement, Rhythm, Feeling: “Shadows of Hiroshima” and Other Dance Films

Filed under: Video: Dance and Performance — fred @ 10:00
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Still from “Shadows of Hiroshima” by Yuko Takebe


Please join us for a screening of dance films

Friday, January 29, 2016

The entire program will screen at 5:00 pm and again at 6:30 pm

1 East 53rd Street, Ground Floor Theater

$3 donation

Reservations: janetaisawa@gmail.com – Seating is limited.

Films by Yuko Takebe, Fred Hatt, Lili White, Milan Misko, Michele Cappello, Aya Shibahara, and Julie Ludwick

Still from "#55 - CITADEL", film by Lili White

Still from “#55 – CITADEL” by Lili White

Lili White’s video layers images inspired by I Ching hexagram #55, the elements of thunder over lightning/fire, portraying expanded intelligence and energetic movement.


Still from untitled 8mm film by Michele Cappello

Michele Cappello creates hand-processed analog films. Featured dancers: Celeste Hastings and Djuna Passman.

Emergence 1080P24.00_03_58_16.Still003s

Still from “Emergence” by Fred Hatt with Corinna Brown and Craig Colorusso

A primal drama of woman and man plays out beneath the surface at a loft party, in a butoh improvisation created by Corinna Brown and Craig Colorusso, in which Fred Hatt’s camera and light dance along with the performers.

Still from "Out From Under", film by Julie Ludwick

Still from “Out From Under” conceived by Julie Ludwick

An excerpt from Julie Ludwick’s evening-length multi media aerial dance production “Passages”, exploring our relationship with death, featuring dancer Janet Aisawa.

Still from "Seeds" by Aya Shibahara

Still from “Seeds” by Aya Shibahara

In “Seeds” choreographer Aya Shibahara’s sensual, liquid movement thrives in an environment of altered views and perspectives.

Still from "Transportation" by Milan Misko

Still from “Transportation” by Milan Misko

A man is swept away on an unpredictable journey through New York City and encounters himself in a battle for control.

Still from "Oonossa" by Fred Hatt and Kelly Buwalda

Still from “Oonossa” by Fred Hatt and Kelly Buwalda

A dance in dunes, among the beach heather, in wind and mist. Time moves forward and back, a dry branch partners the grounded movement.

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Still from “Shadows of Hiroshima” by Yuko Takebe

Our featured presentation, “Shadows of Hiroshima”, by Yuko Takebe, conceived by Janet Aisawa, is a four-part piece about the wandering soul of a woman killed in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, filmed on location in Hiroshima, Japan.


Falling Water

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

There is a kind of holy awe in feeling dwarfed by nature, going where our habitual self-importance dissolves in the face of grandeur. We feel ourselves as mere specks in a vastness, and yet to know our minuteness is in itself a kind of expanded consciousness. In our limited everyday sense of ourselves we are great and important, but also limited and mortal. When we are even a little bit aware of the immensity of the universe, we know that we are nothing, but also that in some way we are that vastness, for it has manifested in us in the form of awareness.

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Last year, as the warm weather was just starting to give way to the first chills of autumn, I took a drive up to New York’s Ulster County with my friend the dancer and teacher Mariko Endo. Mariko has a background in butoh, the postwar Japanese performance movement. She wanted to dance under a waterfall. My great friend Alex Kahan, who lives in the area, took us to Awosting Falls in Minnewaska State Park, where we shot this video.

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Awosting Falls is no mighty Niagara or Iguazu or Victoria falls. It’s just one of hundreds of cascades in the ancient, eroded mountains of the Eastern United States. It draws much of its majesty from its natural amphitheater, a nearly perfectly vertical semi-cylindrical backdrop around its rusty-colored plungepool that seems to contain and magnify the roaring cataract. It is a perfect proscenium to make a solo dancer look and feel small.

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Mariko entered upon this stage to feel the frightful power of the water crashing around her, and to channel that power through her body in dance. Both Mariko’s movement and my shooting were improvised. We hadn’t known enough in advance about what the falls would be like to really plan or choreograph something. I had to shoot from a distance and we couldn’t talk to each other over the thunderous waters, so each of us entered into our own experience of responding to the energy of water and stone.

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Mariko and I worked together to edit the video, returning to it several times over several months to try to find some structure. Mariko approaches editing as a kind of choreography, selecting bits of movement and sequencing and manipulating them to create a progression of feelings and transformations.

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

When I asked Mariko what the piece was about for her, she gave me this quote from Tatsumi Hijikata (1928-1986), the originator of the butoh movement in dance: “We should be afraid! The reason that we suffer from anxiety is that we are unable to live with our fear. Anxiety is something created by adults. The dancer, through the butoh spirit, confronts the origins of his fears: a dance which crawls towards the bowel of the earth.” Mariko added, “The wind and the sound of massive amount of water falling which occupies my whole body. Speed and movement is the energy itself. When you are there, Nature foces you to face yourself and where you really are. I wanted to make a film which the audience can feel the texture of the rocks and the speed of the water fall through me.”

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

I hope a little bit of that feeling of being surrounded by overpowering natural forces, and of surrendering to let those forces flow through oneself, is communicated in this brief video piece. We borrowed a piece of music by the great English composer Jocelyn Pook – I also hope this video will turn some people on to her wonderful music.

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

If you receive this blog by email, or if you want to watch in HD (strongly recommended), you’ll need to click this link to see the “Awosting” on Vimeo.

Awosting from Fred Hatt on Vimeo.



Exploring Together

Still from "Rocks Remember", 2011, video edited by Yuko Takebe

Still from “Rocks Remember”, 2011, video edited by Yuko Takebe

I’m interested in the moving body and movement in nature, and I’m always trying to capture the spirit of motion in my drawings, but of course I love actual moving pictures too. I like to make simple, non-narrative films, often working with dancers. A couple of years ago I suggested to my friend, dancer Kristin Hatleberg that if she would like to do some kind of dance film, I’d be up for it. She mentioned a curious landscape she wanted to explore, Ringing Rocks State Park, in Pennsylvania.

Still from "Ringing Rocks", 2011, video edited by Fred Hatt

Still from “Ringing Rocks”, 2011, video edited by Fred Hatt

Ringing Rocks Park has a large field of boulders that ring like metal bells when struck with a hammer or with another stone. These boulders are called “lithophonic” or “sonorous rocks”. Geologists believe the tones emitted by these stones are the result of “internal elastic stresses”, but the science isn’t settled. It’s a mysterious and enchanting phenomenon.

Still from "Rocks Remember", 2011, video edited by Yuko Takebe

Still from “Rocks Remember”, 2011, video edited by Yuko Takebe

So one day Kristin rented a Zipcar and we took a day trip to Bucks County, Pennsylvania. With us were Kristin’s friend Jim Smith, a composer and music producer, and my friend Yuko Takebe, a talented dance filmmaker who’d just gotten a new HD camcorder and was eager to put it to use. I had my camera with me too.

Still from "Ringing Rocks", 2011, video edited by Fred Hatt

Still from “Ringing Rocks”, 2011, video edited by Fred Hatt

We had almost no plan about how to film at this site, aside from the idea that Jim was going to go around and hammer on the rocks and record sounds, and Kristin was going to dance in the environment, and Yuko and I were going to film Kristin and the landscape. None of us had ever been to Ringing Rocks before, so we didn’t know exactly what we’d encounter. Together we would explore and collect images and sounds, and then we would see what we could make of them. It was a fairly egalitarian collaboration, and the whole process would be a journey without a map.

Still from "Rocks Remember", 2011, video edited by Yuko Takebe

Still from “Rocks Remember”, 2011, video edited by Yuko Takebe

There was a large clearing covered with big jagged boulders, a forested area, and a small ravine with a waterfall. It was a late autumn day so our daylight hours would be limited, and the angle of the sun would change quickly through the afternoon.

Still from "Ringing Rocks", 2011, video edited by Fred Hatt

Still from “Ringing Rocks”, 2011, video edited by Fred Hatt

Dancing on a jumble of sharp and irregular rocks is nothing like dancing in a studio with open space and a nice smooth hardwood floor. In fact, it’s a bit dangerous. I’m not sure if Kristin imagined doing balletic leaps from stone to stone, but when she actually started moving in the boulder field, she found herself hugging the rocks, rolling over them and in and out of the crevices. It looked a little like contact improvisation with very heavy, very hard dance partners.  Kristin took the same grounded, tactile approach to other elements of the landscape as well.

Still from "Rocks Remember", 2011, video edited by Yuko Takebe

Still from “Rocks Remember”, 2011, video edited by Yuko Takebe

Since there was no script and almost no plan, we all just sort of went about doing our own explorations in whatever way felt appropriate in the moment. Jim rang the rocks until he got the birds to join in the symphony. Yuko and I looked for aesthetically pleasing compositions and dynamic camera angles. Kristin climbed and stroked and became one with the earth.

Still from "Ringing Rocks", 2011, video edited by Fred Hatt

Still from “Ringing Rocks”, 2011, video edited by Fred Hatt

We decided that Yuko and I would share all our footage and sound recordings, but each of us would edit our own version of the material. When I started editing, I found it really challenging. It felt like a random collection of shots that just wouldn’t gel. There was no clear beginning, middle, or end, no unifying design, no choreographic continuity. The color and visual quality of the images from the two cameras was way different, and there were lots of technical problems such as sun glare and noisy tourists who were also at the park that day on the sound track. The rapidly changing light meant a shot made at 2:00 would never match with one made at 3:00.

Still from "Rocks Remember", 2011, video edited by Yuko Takebe

Still from “Rocks Remember”, 2011, video edited by Yuko Takebe

For my first edit, I decided to use just two parts of our footage, the waterfall scene and the field of boulders. I decided to convert everything to black and white, both to eliminate the color differences between the two cameras and to make Kristin, who was dressed in tones of pink and purple, blend in more with the textures of stone and earth. I pulled out what I thought were the best bits of movement and labeled them according to whether the movement was up or down or rotating or whatever, and then basically assembled those movements into an illusion of continuity. It sort of worked, but it had a monotonous rhythm, and after test-screening it for Kristin and my filmmaker friend David Finkelstein, I ended up making it more fragmented and spare, maybe more about the landscape and less about the dance. For my version of the piece, Jim Smith structured some of the sound recordings from the site into a simple composition.

I think my final version captures something beautiful about experiencing oneself as part of the earth by direct contact with it. Human beings are of the earth just as much as are stones or trees, and we should feel it in our bones and in our skin.

A video piece is something different than the experience by which its source material came to be.  In the end it becomes something in itself, something that is experienced as a moving image, by people who have no knowledge of its making. My struggle to structure this material into a piece helped me to find a new sense of how to assemble moving images, and after editing this piece I found I was finally able to complete several other video pieces I had shot that had lingered unfinished for years.

Still from "Ringing Rocks", 2011, video edited by Fred Hatt

Still from “Ringing Rocks”, 2011, video edited by Fred Hatt

I don’t know too much about how Yuko approached the task of editing. Her basic impulse is more narrative and less formal than mine, and she has a knack for making good use of “flaws” like camera shake and lens flare. Her version is in color,and I feel it gives more of a sense of Kristin as a person interacting with the landscape, where mine seems more like some kind of elemental ritual.

Still from "Rocks Remember", 2011, video edited by Yuko Takebe

Still from “Rocks Remember”, 2011, video edited by Yuko Takebe

Here’s what Kristin wrote about the experience:

When Fred asked what I’d like to collaborate on, I thought here’s a rare opportunity to distill a moment. What if every element of this lasting capsule, this film, results completely from its environment? I chose Ringing Rocks State Park because of how literally it could yield all the elements. Our agreement was to focus fully on the park itself, and for me the rocks were a solidity into which I could melt away. I set out to evaporate over them, roll like an ocean wave across their challenging formations. What a metaphorical parallel this act was to dealing with life. I used all my strength to simply be, there.

For me our experience at the Ringing Rocks State Park was a meditative experience, and I think that spills over into the intent of each of the resulting films. It was meditation that arose from necessity, for the sake of harmonious survival. While we were in the park, I was not there to recreate or mimic anything. Instead, my focus was to listen to all the textures. I dove into my senses and I tried to absorb every texture of the place until the most dominant ones seeped back out of me. Because I was approaching it through absorption, I was meditating and accepting. Accepting the jagged contours into my flesh as I rolled over them, softening the harshness of the landscape by joining a wave of air and riding its current over the topography. When each element has its autonomy, it is simpler to find harmony.

All I am doing in my actions is revealing what was revealed to me, simply by being there: there, hanging off the top of that rock upside down; there, perched between three trunks of a tree without a limb on which to sit; there, hearing the beautiful water while feeling the cold, smooth stone slide away from under me. The films that resulted therefore do not give me any answers or pose questions to me. They simply reveal contours, light, textures. Watching them, I can momentarily breathe again a cleaner air.

Still from "Ringing Rocks", 2011, video edited by Fred Hatt

Still from “Ringing Rocks”, 2011, video edited by Fred Hatt

Yuko said this about the experience:

I had never known stone that resonates like a bell until Kristin took me to Ringing Rocks Park. The high-pitched tone, but involving the profound sound as hit by a hammer, brought me to feel time immemorial. Kristin danced as if she were swimming, freely and slowly, between big rough rocks. Her movement looked like just a spirit of the rocks to me. The rock has immanent memories since the earth has existed, and its sound tells us the history of our life. The water flows and wind blows on the surface of the rocks. The beautiful golden strings are spun by a spider and gnats are flying between rocks. That moment fulfilled by stillness and serenity only appeared in an early evening glow. I wanted to capture the eternal flow of time and the spiritual harmony between the perpetuity of nature and a mortal life through Kristin’s dance and my lenses.

So now I have told you my story. My collaborators have offered their beautiful perspectives on this joint exploration of the land in movement and film. There is nothing left but for you to watch the two films, first, “Rocks Remember”, Yuko’s edit, and then “Ringing Rocks”, my version.

Rocks Remember from Yuko Takebe on Vimeo.

Ringing Rocks from Fred Hatt on Vimeo.

Both of these films will be projected outdoors as part of the SB-ADaPT Festival of Dance and Physical Theater in Santa Barbara, California, this summer. I’ll add the dates and more info here when I have it. 


A Trio of Birthdays

Still from the film “2001: A Space Odyssey”, 1968, directed by Stanley Kubrick

1. This week, on March 15, Drawing Life turns three years old.

2. Minerva Durham’s Spring Studio, New York’s busy basement of figure drawing and one of the forges of my creative life, is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this month.

3. On the 12th, my brother Frank Hatt is celebrating another one of those decade birthdays.

Please indulge me as I share a few images and video clips to trumpet this triumvirate of things that matter to me.  (Note to email subscribers: embedded video and audio clips don’t work on the email versions of posts, so you’ll need to click the links or visit the blog on the web to see the things I’m talking about.)

Honestly, each of these three anniversaries merits its own post.  I’ll blame my jamming them together on cosmic conjunction.

Let’s start with Frank.  Long-time readers of Drawing Life may recall seeing some videos I made that featured Frank: “Subway Sax“, “The Silo“, and “Glossolalia + Katharsis“, all from twenty or more years ago.  Well, Frank’s still around, and still plays a sweet alto saxophone.  In January of this year, we filmed some of his improvisations on an animal farm/petting zoo in the Catskills – thanks to my great friend Alex for taking us to this beautiful place.

“Sax Stream” – saxophone solo by Frank Hatt, video by Fred Hatt

Frank has long been fascinated with “extended vocal techniques” such as overtone singing and vocalizing on the inbreath, both of which you’ll see in the clip below, as well as toy instruments and noisemakers.  Frank’s approach is playful, often frenetic, sometimes downright wacky.  Here his voice blends with those of chickens, geese, ducks, turkeys, and emus.

“Down on the Farm” – vocals and noisemakers by Frank Hatt, video by Fred Hatt

Maybe the best moment we got where Frank really seems to be vocally interacting with the birds is this brief improvisation on sax mouthpiece, without the rest of the instrument.  This one is presented as an audio-only file, as the visuals didn’t add much.


In the 1990’s I was mostly known for body painting, and Minerva thought body painting would be an effective way to demonstrate anatomy, so I shared a few pointers on materials and techniques, and Minerva took off with it.  Here she is painting the muscular system on the renowned dancer, model, and choreographer Arthur Aviles, a former dancer in the Bill T. Jones company and one of the founders of the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD).

Minerva Durham paints muscles on Arthur Aviles at Spring Studio, 1998, photo by Fred Hatt

Spring Studio also hosts art exhibitions, and I had a show there in 1998.  At the opening I did a couple of body art performances, including a blacklight body painting performance with Sue Doe, with whom I’d developed a nightclub act that we were then presenting regularly at the Blue Angel Cabaret.  Here’s a condensed version of that performance.

Art Underground from Fred Hatt on Vimeo.

This month, the walls of Spring Studio are filled with hundreds of drawings and paintings made in the studio by the many artists that pursue their practice there.  I love Spring Studio’s annual anniversary exhibitions, which reveal the incredible diversity of styles and approaches that flourish in such an environment.  The work of seasoned professional artists is hung cheek-by-jowl with the work of beginners, and somehow the juxtaposition makes both look better!  This kind of show also highlights the talents of Spring Studio’s great models, especially when you notice multiple artists’ interpretations of the same pose.

Next Sunday, March 18, starting at 6:30, Spring Studio will host an anniversary party with performances.  Here are the details:

Andrew Bolotowsky, flute,  and Mary Hurlbut, voice, Leon Axel’s compositions for flute and voice, 6:30 pm

We will paint muscles on Arthur Aviles, 7:00 with a backdrop of Andrew Bolotowsky’s flute, then Aviles will dance.

Dance, 8:00 pm: Kuan, Leticia and Esteban, Jason Durivou, Linda Diamond, Raj Kapoor, Nepali folk tune with Sherry Onna, and Anna Schrage painting a canvas to music played by Godfrey Daniel. Open MikeElizabeth Hellman, Flo Reines,  Nina Kovolenko, George Spencer, Susie Amato, Trevor Todd, Others. 

I’ll note that Kuan’s dance will be based on some of the poses she’s developed for modeling at Spring Studio, and that she’s using my drawings of her as choreographic source material, so I’m excited to see that.  You’ll notice too that Minerva is still painting on Arthur, and Arthur’s an incredible performer, not to be missed.  So if you’re in NYC next weekend, it would be a pretty interesting time to check out the studio!

[Late addition to this post, now that Spring Studio’s 20th Anniversary Party is past – a video I shot of Kuan’s dance based on her poses from Spring Studio:]

All right, so now I’ve gone on and on and bombarded you with pictures and videos and information about Frank Hatt and Spring Studio, and this post is also serving as Drawing Life‘s anniversary post.  In the first and second year anniversary posts, I highlighted the top articles, the ones that got the most page views.  This time, I’d like to thank my most regular commenters.  I know from the site stats that quite a few people alight upon these pages every day, but most probably don’t read much of what I write.  I’m sure there are some who read these posts regularly, but don’t comment.  There are also those who comment only by email or on Facebook.  I appreciate all of that, but I have a special affection for those who follow Drawing Life and join in the conversation with thoughtful responses, right here on the site.  Thank you, star commenters!

Jennifer, from the UK, a devoted student of figurative art

Andrew, author of the highly recommended “Art Model’s Handbook”

Jim in Alaska, always has great observations or reminiscences

Claudia (Museworthy blogger and star model)

Daniel Maidman (fellow blogger and master painter)

David Finkelstein (experimental filmmaker and performer)

I love you all, and the less frequent commenters as well.  Feedback is good, and when my writing threatens to dissolve into pompous monologue, you save it by making it a conversation!


Fierce Fire


Still from "Inner Heat", video by Fred Hatt with Corinna Brown

If you emerge from a hot tub or shower into the cold night, you may see rivulets of steam rising from your skin.  If the environment is dark and a light source illuminates the steam from behind, you can see it clearly.  A runner on a chilly morning may also generate steam from the body, but it’s usually difficult to see in daylight.

Still from "Inner Heat", video by Fred Hatt with Corinna Brown

My longtime friend and collaborator, Corinna Hiller Brown, a butoh dancer and movement therapist, had the idea of trying to capture this effect on video, combined with trancelike butoh dance.  On a snowy winter night in 2005, in my studio in Brooklyn, we turned off the heat, opened all the windows and doors, and pulled a box fan out of off-season storage, trying to get the room as cold as possible.  Corinna repeatedly got in and out of a hot shower, so when she entered the chilly studio her skin would steam for a couple of minutes – just enough to get a quick take.  Later that same night, I filmed the snowflakes eddying under the street lamps outside.

There was no way to assemble the fragments of dance into a connected choreography, but the slow downward drift of the snow through shifting currents of air worked well as a transitional element, echoing in reverse the movement of the glowing steam curling up from the warm skin.  The first, simple edit of this material was used as a projection element with “My Love Bleeds Fire”, a choreographed piece that Corinna premiered at the Cool New York Dance Festival at White Wave.

Still from "Inner Heat", video by Fred Hatt with Corinna Brown

Seven years later, I’ve finally completed a version of the video that I feel stands alone as a piece of poetic cinema.  For the soundtrack, multi-instrumentalist Gregory Reynolds created a jangly droning sound with swelling bass notes, which I mixed with recordings I’d made of ocean surf and rain.

Still from "Inner Heat", video by Fred Hatt with Corinna Brown

For me, the film is a vision of the warmth of life in the cold world.  I described it thus:  “The body is a slow flame, a campfire in the snow, a star in the vastness of space, a pulsing heart in the ocean.”  Every living being is a kind of fire.  Metabolism is combustion.  Life force is like a flame, cohering as long as it consumes experience, adhering to the body as a candle flame clings to its wick.  The heart and mind of a sentient being give warmth and light into the world.

Still from "Inner Heat", video by Fred Hatt with Corinna Brown

The title, “Inner Heat”, refers to a traditional Tibetan meditation practice called tummo.  A combination of breathing exercises and highly focused visualizations can produce enough heat in the body to survive in the snows of the Himalayas.  This is more than just legendary tantric magic, as Harvard researchers have documented the ability of experienced tummo practitioners to produce striking changes in body heat and other supposedly autonomic bodily functions.

Still from "Inner Heat", video by Fred Hatt with Corinna Brown

I suggest viewing this video as a meditation.  Give yourself over to the waves of slow movement and feel the warmth generating within your own belly and heart, and be a source of light in the darkness.  The video is embedded below (except in the email subscription version of the blog), or click the link to see “Inner Heat” on my Vimeo page.

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