Rain, which is competing for IDFA's First Appearance award, follows choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker as she brings one of her most famous creations to the Paris Opera Ballet. The challenge is to teach her contemporary choreography, with music by Steve Reich, to classically trained ballet dancers.

Still from Gerard-Jan Claes & Olivia Rochette's Rain“They start dancing aged eight or nine and their bodies are conditioned, whereas with Anne Teresa it's more about the individual expression of a dancer,” explains Gerard-Jan Claes, co-director of the film with Olivia Rochette. Compared to De Keersmaeker's own company, Rosas, the atmosphere in Paris was quite different. “When entering the impressive building, you arrive in a different, almost magical world with a strict hierarchy and rules.”

The film follows the ballet dancers as they take on this challenge, contrasting rehearsals for Rain with their performance of a classical ballet from company's repertoire. But it also observes the effect on De Keersmaeker. “She asked us to make this documentary as she wanted traces of this project to be preserved,” says Rochette.  “It was the first time that she had another dance company perform one of her creations.”

Claes and Rochette have been working together since studying film at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent, and their graduation film, Because We Are Visual, competed at IDFA in 2010. This weaves together fragments of video gathered from the internet, combining moments of personal intimacy with simple observations for the world.

Rain unfolds in a different world, but draws on their experience of making Because We Are Visual, for example by combining security camera footage and telephone conversations with discrete observational camerawork. “It's a documentary, but it has to be an experience as well,' says Claes. 'We have a very cinematographic approach.”

The film is produced by Bart Van Langendonck of Savage Film. IM

Published on Friday 16 November 2012

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