If the Dancer Dances

New York Times Critics' Pick
83 mins.
Directed by Maia Wechsler
NR
2019

IF THE DANCER DANCES invites viewers into the intimate world of the dance studio. Stephen Petronio, one of today’s leading dancemakers, is determined to help his dancers breathe new life into Merce Cunningham’s iconic 1968 work RainForest.

With help from three members of the former Cunningham company, the film tracks Petronio’s dancers as they strive to restage this great work, revealing what it takes to keep a dance—and a legacy—alive.

Timed to coincide with Cunningham's centennial, IF THE DANCER DANCES is the first documentary on the subject of Cunningham's work since his passing in 2009.


"As Wechsler allows rehearsal scenes to play out at length, the perfectionism of dancer-to-dancer lessons becomes improbably poignant. The film shows that preserving choreography is difficult not only because muscle memories can’t be handed down like recipes, but because dancing in the present almost by definition means letting go of the past." Ben Kenigsberg. A New York Times Critic's Pick!