Avant-garde choreographer Yvonne Rainer went as far as writing what she called the “no manifesto” to encapsulate her wild ideas about dance: virtuosity, magic, make-believe, glamour, style, camp, eccentricity – even moving and being moved – were among attributes she decried.
That revolutionary concept, and much more, are covered in “Feelings are Facts: The Life of Yvonne Rainer,” a riveting documentary by local filmmaker Jack Walsh. The movie screens next week at the sixth San Francisco Dance Film Festival, which opens Monday with a kickoff event and continues Friday through Oct. 11.
Rainer, now a loquacious 80, is featured prominently in the 82-minute movie, which explores her eclectic professional (and personal) life, from the 1950s New York art scene and her connection to modernists Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham (there’s very brief mention of her childhood in San Francisco) to decades later, when Mikhail Baryshnikov invited her to make a dance for his White Oak Dance Project.
Fascinating segments detail the post-modern Judson Dance Theater she founded in New York, and her groundbreaking 1966 “Trio A.” The amorphous solo piece is more or less one phrase, with no real steps, and performed in silence. Extensive video clips of her performing it are mesmerizing.
There’s also eye-opening commentary from friends and performance art colleagues, including Lucinda Childs, Simone Forti and Steve Paxton, with whom she performed, in the nude, in the sixties.
In later decades, she dropped dance and successfully took up experimental filmmaking and feminism. After ill-fated heterosexual relationships as young woman, she came out as a lesbian in her 50s.
Although the parts of “Feelings are Facts” dedicated to Rainer’s films are less compelling than the ones covering the choreography, the movie (based on Rainer’s 2006 memoir of the same name) is ultimately a compelling portrait of a truly original artist, as vital as ever in her senior years.
IF YOU GO
Feelings are Facts: The Life of Yvonne Rainer
Presented by S.F. Dance Film Festival
When: 4:30 p.m. Oct. 11
Where: Brava Theatre, 2781 24th St., S.F.
Tickets: $15 to $20 per film
Note: The festival opens with a screening of “Mia: A Dancer’s Journey” at 7 p.m. Oct. 5 at the Jewish Community Center, 3200 California St., S.F.