Four films from the
The Arthur Hall Collection

One show only
Saturday, 16 September 2000
3:00 PM

Snake Dance Teacher Dance
West African Festival in Winthrop (Maine) Elementary School
Snake Dance was shot on two days in the Year of the Snake 1977. There was a long spring school day in May, the whole school - students, teachers, administrators - rehearsing for that eveningís public performance, and then there was a day in August when we filled in gaps in Arthurís solo, he dancing in the ferns and trees by Great Pond in the Belgrade Lakes, my father carrying the tripod. I cut the film in Philadelphia that winter, Art and Co. often at the editing table with me. Quoth Arthur, "A real art film!" Released in 1978, it won honors for dance education in NYCís Dance Films Festival and was shown by the State Dept. to good effect in African embassies and during debates about the politics of race with the then USSR. For Abbott, Huey, and me, Snake Dance led directly to the commission from Orff-Schulwerk for the film American Odyssey, and it began this long, complex collaboration with Ardor the Snake which has continued all these past twenty-three years.

Orison Omi
The Well

Orison Omi in Yoruba means "the head (source) of water" or "the well." We took it as the title from the classic aphorism, "The village may change, but the well remains the same." The film reflects a 1978 cultural exchange sponsored by the Pennsylvania-Bahia Club of the Partners of the Americas in which Yoruba was the common language between the English speaking Philadelphians and the Portuguese speaking Brazilians. We had only three weeks in Bahia, among the beautiful people dancing free in the luminous "Africa of the New World," culminating in a free Monday night concert to a full house in the cityís Teatro Castro Alves. Nana always longed to return, wistfully suggesting, "Itís about time to go back to Bahia."

Technically, Orison Omi was shot entirely on Bolex, no sync sound. It was three years in editing, partly because of financial delays, but mostly because of the complex use of superimposition, which required three printing rolls instead of the usual two. Only two good prints of the film were ever made. Arthurís print was lost in Philadelphia in 1989, so the print seen here is in effect unique. Orison Omi premiered in 1982 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art during the Treasures of Ancient Nigeria exhibit and has been seen rarely since - at the University of Ile Ife itself in Nigeria, at the Museum of African Art in NYC during Robert Farris Thompsonís Face of the Gods exhibit, and most recently in the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Maine. Earlier this year I made a CD copy of the soundtrack directly from the master of the original sound mix.

ILE IFE
House of Love

When I first started working at Ile Ife in Philadelphia in 1978, I was often introduced as "the new Ray Hartung," the implication being that the center should have a documentarian always on call. Arturo was a great one for reminding us that what we are doing is "Historical." ILE IFE had a huge impact when it was released, and now a quarter century later, it is a priceless record of the Ensemble and the Center in full bloom - the interviews with Arthur, James Crawford, and Karen Warrington, the rehearsals and childrenís classes at the Ile Ife Center, the Dance Ensemble in performance, and Obatala as it was before Arthurís pilgrimage to Ife, when the dance was but a dozen years old. The film influenced our later productions and the direction of Ile Ife Films from the beginning.

We looked for Raymond Hartung several times over the years, more urgently when the Philadelphia prints of his film went missing in 1989, but we had to wait for the magic of the internet to find him. As Arthur was in residence in Arizona last winter, Bob Chapin, the soundman on ILE IFE, put us in touch with Ray, now a television producer in California. Mr. Hartung sent the Arthur Hall Collection a video copy of his best print of ILE IFE, along with original sound recordings of the Dance Ensemble performing Orpheus and in studio performing Ebierio, Iya Ni Hura, Ode to Yemanya, and Obatala, songs which are excerpted on the soundtrack. This then, to my knowledge is the first public screening of ILE IFE: House of Love in fifteen years.

Arthur Hallís Obatala
a work in progress

Obatala is central to the creation myths of the Yoruba culture of West Africa, a culture which has thrived throughout the Americas. Obatala is literally the Lord of the White Cloth, the blank canvas. He is the patron saint of children, childbirth, and all created form. He is not God, but the son of God, associated with Jesus Christ, though it is believed only God can breathe life into Obatala's creations. The oldest and wisest of the Orishas, Obatala is associated with creativity, purity, and justice, He is the gentle patron of albinos and anyone with a birth defect or birthmark. It is said, "Obatala marks his children." He has many names. He is Alamo Re Re, the one who turns blood into children. He is Alabalashe, the wielder of the scepter of life. He is the patron saint of artists, called The Divine Sculptor, and he is O Ho Ho, the father of laughter, "Who sits in the sky like a swarm of bees."

Arthur Hallís Obatala in this edition contains footage from the 1978 residency in Bahia; from Philadelphia in 1982 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1993 at Movement Theater International celebrating Arthur Hall Day, and 1995 at Odunde; from Harrisburg PA in 1980 at the Hazlett Award Ceremony; and from the 1995 Ile Ife Philadelphia Maine concerts. This dance has been a work in progress since it first emerged from Arthurís dreams onto the stage in 1958. It is central to the proposed film about Arthurís life and legacy and will no doubt continue as a work in progress long after the proposed feature is complete.

Acknowledgments

Many thanks to Marcia Lovell for suggesting this screening, to Hamilton Hall for arranging all the technical and aesthetic details, to Hamís father Douglas Hall for providing the Bayview Street Cinema and maintaining the 16mm projection facilities, David Lyman and the International Film and Television Workshops for providing the video projection equipment, and to Geof Parker and Chromunique Audio-Visual for providing the tape deck.

The silhouette photograph of Arthur mercurius is by me, Bruce Williams, taken in Belgrade Lakes, Maine in 1977. The silhouette photograph of Celebration ballerina is by Arthur Hall taken in Bahia in 1978. The pen and ink drawing of Arthur Hallís Obatala is by Al Crichton, 1995.

Ile Ife Films and the Arthur Hall Collection is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to the arts and education, especially as they reflect the work of Arthur Hall. Ongoing production and preservation work is made possible by public and private support.


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