Shirley Clarke (1919-1997)
Shirely Clarke Shorts (1953-1982)
Duration: 85 min.

Films Include:

Dance In the Sun (1953)
Bridges-Go-Round (1958)
A Scary Time (1960)
Savage / Love (1981)
Tongues (1982)


Dance In the Sun
1953/ 6' , color, sound
directed and edited by Shirley Clarke
Choreographed and performed by Daniel Nagrin
Music: Ralph Gilbert
Production: Gryphon films

Drawing from her training as a dancer, Dance In the Sun, Shirley Clarke's first film, is perhaps closest in form to her previous medium of expression. It already displays themes which were to be elaborated on in her later works, and as Clarke explained in an interview with Lauren Rabinovitz, "All these kind of things I discovered about the choreography of editing and the choreography of space/time came from making that very first film". In dance in the sun, produced with dancer/choreographer Daniel Nagrin, Clarke cuts between scenes of the same dance, shot in the studio and on the beach, creating a rhythmic pattern that accelerates at film's climax. Through Clarke's careful attention to choreographic detail and continuity editing, the dancer Daniel Nagrin, moves between an exterior setting, the beach, and an interior studio. The space interchange with increasing intensity, connected by Nagrin's body alone.

A moment in Love
1957/ 8', colour, sound
designed, directed and edited by Shirley Clarke
choreography: Anna Sokolow
dancers: Carmela Gutierrez, Paul Sanasardo
Music: Norman Lloyd
Production: Halcyon films

Clarke moves away from the strictly depictive perspective maintained in Dance in The sun and towards an expressive and interpretive use of the camera in A Moment in Love. As the dancers move, the camera not only follows them but exceeds and breaks their trajectories. It manipulates their perceptible movements to such an extent that the dancers appear to be gliding among the clouds, suspended in endless and even supernatural bliss. As Clarke explains: "I started choreographing the camera as well as the dancers in the frame". With bright, lustrous tone, Clarke goes beyond subjective camera work to the point that her camera becomes subject itself.

colour, 7', 1958
directed and edited by Shirley Clark e,
Electronic score by Louis and Bebe Barron
Jazz score by Teo Macero

In the late 1950s, Clarke was hired by Willard Van Dyke to produce several "sponsored films" for the 1958 Brussels World Fair. Bridges-Go-Round was taken from footage shot for one such film, Bruxelles Loops (1957). The film represents a study on perpetual motion achieved through camera panning, rhythmic editing, and flipping and layering the same scenes shot from different points of view. A static figure of a bridge is transformed into a somewhat abstract, active creature by the camera and the idea of "choreography in editing" or as Clarke once said, "you can make a dance film without dancers". Using the magic of film to set Manhattan's bridges free from their moorings, Clarke sends them on a dizzying carousel ride around the city.
By Clarke's request the film appears twice: first accompanied by an electronic soundtrack by Louis and Bebe Barron and second with jazz performed by Teo Macero and his ensemble. It is her feeling that sound, so essential to music and movement, greatly alters the experience of viewing the dance. These soundtracks are often credited for altering the viewers perception of the images.

A Scary Time (1960)
Music by Peggy Glanville-Hicks
Produced by UNICEF in consultation with Thorold Dickinson

Savage / Love (1981), 25:39 min, color, sound
Director: Shirley Clarke
Writer: Sam Shepard Savage/Love.

Tongues (1981-82)
45:39 min
color, sound

A tour-de-force synthesis of theater and video, Tongues is the collective title of a two-part collaboration by Shirley Clarke, distinguished actor/director Joseph Chaikin, and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Sam Shepard. Both one-act monologues integrate the distinctive styles of these three artists: Shepard's innovative, stream-of-consciousness language; Chaikin's kinetic and exacting performance, which unifies the pieces; and Clarke's dynamic, expressive choreography of image, sound and text. The cadences and inflections of Shepard's jazz-related narrative voice and Chaikin's dramatic expression of a multitude of personalities are heightened by Clarke's syncopated use of digital effects, slow motion, and editing techniques to distort and manipulate the image.

In describing one man's quest for love, Savage/Love mirrors the search for romantic attachment, from infatuation to insecurity and disillusionment. With its propulsive romantic quest, Savage/Love is a prelude to Tongues, in which a dying man delivers his own last rites. As Chaikin enacts the man's fantasies and recollections, Clarke parallels the narrative and emotional intensity of his performance. Through her ingenious camera work, precise editing, and imaginative use of electronic imaging, Clarke powerfully transforms these stage pieces into resonant video drama.

Editors: Shirley Clarke, Steven E. Browne. Camera: Walter Edel, Michel Auder. Music: Sam Shepard, Skip LaPlante. Music Performers: Sam Shepard, Harry Mann. Executive Producers: Women's Interart Center, Inc. Produced by the Other Theatre.