by Jacob Pierce on Jul 31, 2012
Daniel Mollner's definition of dance has broadened since he began his yearlong project. (KatKimDesign.com)
Filmmaker Daniel Mollner waited over four decades before calling himself a dancer. Now he’s making up for lost time.
“It’s almost like this slingshot thing,” Mollner says. “After years of resisting and being afraid to call myself a dancer, there’s all this pent-up energy. I’ve been holding back for so long. I don’t want to do that anymore.”
This week, Mollner will release his 27th dance video of the year, putting him more or less on track to meet his goal of releasing a dance video on YouTube every week in a collection he’s calling Project 52.
“I have no business doing a dance video a week,” says Mollner, sitting in his Lower Ocean living room, his strawberry blond hair still wet from a morning shower. “That’s insane. Nobody in his right mind would do that. But somebody who had been holding back for years and was ready to fully embrace their identity might.”
Last month, Mollner wrapped up two screenings of the second installment of his films—weeks 14 through 26—at the Santa Cruz Fringe Festival. Audiences saw a wide range of film styles, many with simple but empowering messages.
In “Sign of the Times,” Mollner plays a barbershop employee stuck on sign shaker duty on Soquel Avenue. After a minute or so of tentatively bouncing a cardboard “Sure Cuts” sign, his character spins the board around, takes out a can of red spray paint, writes the words “I Am Free” on the back and proceeds to dance on the sidewalk like a maniac. During the second Fringe screening, as if inspired by it all over again, Mollner jumped from his seat at Center Stage to dance up and down the theater aisle.
“Sign of the Times” isn’t a typical Mollner production. But the word “typical” doesn’t seem to appear anywhere in Mollner’s vocabulary. His videos don’t follow a three-and-a-half-minute MTV formula—or any formula at all, for that matter. “The Person,” in which Mollner dances through a field of yellow flowers, features only him. In other films like “Room 105,” which chronicles the hardships of high school adolescence through an impromptu dance party spliced with interviews, the 47-year-old director doesn’t dance at all. And in “Naturata,” a meditative series of human body movements set against the running water and dappled shade of a creek, nothing like an ordinary definition of “dance” appears at all.
“What I’m finding now, especially, during the project—because I’m taking some chances and experimenting and exploring—I’m finding dance is any rhythmic and/or expressive movement,” says Mollner. “I’m seeing animals doing what I experience as dance. I’m watching the natural world—plants, the air, the breeze, insects. Any place there’s movement of any kind I’m starting to experience as dance.”