At the 2015 Mead: Dancing in the Dark

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Dance is at the heart of three documentaries appearing in the 2015 Margaret Mead Film Festival, which runs from Thursday, October 22 though Sunday, October 25.

The old saw “those who can’t, teach” has never been less true than in this seductive documentary about a legendary Argentinian dancer’s efforts to save a struggling Uruguayan ballet company. In Avant, we follow along for a year as Julio Bocca, who took over the Ballet Nacional Sodre of Uruguay in 2010, works his personal magic on the company.

A national treasure in his native Argentina, Bocca listens with focused attention to the fears and frustrations of his soloists and the corps. He gently offers guidance, encouraging without being overbearing. After all, he has been there and wants nothing more than to see these dancers achieve the same level of success he once enjoyed.

Befitting this years’ festival theme of “threshholds,” the Uruguayan company travels to Spain where they hope to enchant sophisticated audiences abroad. As they prepare, we go behind the scenes, meeting everyone from the costume seamstresses to the man who reconditions the dancers’ ballet slippers. No detail is beyond Bocca either, whether monitoring ticket sales or checking the settings on sound equipment. In one of the most moving scenes, he also performs the happy task of informing two young women they will now be prima ballerinas. In the end, we are all rewarded by Bocca’s patient presence.

Co-presented by Cinema Tropical and the Consulate General of Argentina in New York, Avant will make its U.S. premiere Saturday, October 24, at 7 pm. Director Juan Alvarez Neme, a Margaret Mead Filmmaker Award contender, will be in attendance, as will Bocca himself.  [10/22 correction: Bocca will not be in attendance.]

Dance is at the center of two other festival features this year. In How to Dance in Ohio, young people on the autism spectrum face what for them is a daunting prospect: participating in a spring prom. Director Alexandra Shiva will be in attendance when the film, co-presented by HBO Documentary Films and New York University Council for the Study of Disability, makes its New York City premiere at 5 pm Sunday, October 25.

Also making its New York City premiere is Enter the Faun,which tells the story of a veteran choreographer and the actor with cerebral palsy she trains to become a dancer. The Sunday screening is sold out, though some tickets may be available at the door. This showing is co-presented by the New York University Council for the Study of Disability, and directors Tamar Rogoff and Daisy Wright will be in attendance.

For a complete schedule of the films showing at this year's Mead, click here.