Rosalynde LeBlanc and Tom Hurwitz’s tribute to “D-Man in the Waters,” a trailblazing ballet inspired by the AIDS crisis, has secured distribution. Kino Lorber scored North American rights to “Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters.” Deadline broke the news.
The 2020 DOC NYC title revisits the creative process that led choreographer, dancer, and director Bill T. Jones to make “D-Man in the Waters,” which LeBlanc told us “gave physical manifestation to the fear, anger, grief, and hope for salvation that the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company felt as they were embattled by the AIDS pandemic.” The doc sees a a group of young dancers reconstructing the dance in present day and learning “about this oft forgotten history and [deepening] their understanding of the power of art in a time of plague.”
LeBlanc first saw Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company perform “D-Man in the Waters” as a young dancer in 1989. “What moved me so much was watching this motley crew of dancers that ranged in skin color, gender, size, shape, and training, but who were all spiritually, energetically, and rhythmically moving as one,” she explained. “More so than choreographic unison on the stage, it felt like I was witnessing a transcendent solidarity. I had never experienced a dance, nor a dance company, elicit such a galvanizing response. What I didn’t know at the time was that that community of nine dancers had just lost their co-director, Arnie Zane, to AIDS and was about to lose another company member, Demian ‘D-Man’ Acquavella – the eponymous hero of the dance – to AIDS as well.”
The director added, “The night I saw the dance, I made the decision to become a professional dancer precisely because I wanted to perform that dance one day. Three years later, I got into the Company and performed ‘D-Man in the Waters’ for the next six years. Decades later, I would re-stage this dance in colleges around the country and come upon the revelation that the absence of AIDS from current political and social discourse in this country left successive generations without any way to contextualize the spirit and intensity of the art made in response to it.”
Asked what she’d like people to think about after watching the film, LeBlanc said, “I want people to think about the essential and energizing force that is community, and the ways in which the human condition is vastly more improved by collective thinking than by individualistic thinking. The dance acts as a metaphor for this in the film because we see dancers holding, carrying, and catching one another. But in fact, the meaning of the movement is not really abstract or esoteric at all, it is very universal — we need one another to survive,” she emphasized. “It is something we are realizing every day right now as we find ourselves in another pandemic.”
A theatrical release for “Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters” is being planned planned for July 2021 with a VOD release on Kino Now and home video to follow.
“Not just a dance documentary, Rosalynde and Tom have delved deep into Bill T. Jones’s creative process, giving us a true sense of how the cauldron of art can make us think and feel,” said Kino Lorber SVP Wendy Lidell.
The filmmakers commented, “Because this film is about the experience of making and dancing ‘D-Man in the Waters,’ we filmed it in a new way that expressed the feeling of actually being inside dance along with the dancers. Yet, we made ‘Can You Bring It’ to be more than a ‘dance film.’ We wanted this picture to go beyond the chronicling of Bill T. Jones’s compelling choreography, to show how art, making it, performing it, and even viewing it can work to bring us out of our grief and confusion. It can help us to make sense of challenging times and be more alive. With the backdrop of our current crises, the themes in the film of love, loss, courage, and resilience resonate more than ever.”