The Mother of American Avant-Garde
written by J.A.Bohr
continued from Page Two
"This film remains the most satisfying welding of Deren's major theme; ritual myth, dance and the (search) for Female identity...Deren's use of temporal and spatial dislocations, trance-like states and the expressive and ritualistic spirit of dance makes it one of the highpoints of her film work."17 This film is a dance, but it is also a social statement about the ritual role of women.
Beginning with three women performing household rituals, one young, one middle-age (played by Maya), and one older woman. The younger female then enters a party, where the actions of the people are choreographed in an unending waltz. A man approaches the young female, and the world changes. They are outside, and he pursues her. She runs from him. To escape him, she walks into the water until she is submerged. As she floats down, she is seen in a white gown. This film could easily be viewed as the interior experiences of the female before and into marriage.
Based on the movements of the Chinese boxing styles of Wu-tang and Shaolin, Maya captures the essence of the ritualist dance in this 12 minute film. Meditation runs from warm-up exercises to full sword play and back again to warm-up (which seems like it could be shown backwards). Some of this film's structure is similar to Choreography, but Maya is more intent in showing Ch'oa-li Chi's (the person presented in the film) movements in their entirety. The title of this film is the strongest social statement this film makes. Meditation has a soundtrack written and performed by Maya's third husband, Teiji Ito.
This is a ballet of the cosmos, where the dancers are seen entirely in the negative, and in which the dance is the movements of the constellations which cross the night sky. Running 14 minutes, this film is visually fun, but seems longer than needed, making the ballet movements seem more significant than can be determined. Filmed in collaboration with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet School under the direction of Antony Tuder, this is the last film Maya Deren completed before her sudden death.
Maya Deren is not one who should be mourned, but one who should be admired for her artistic determination, powerful viewpoints and deep expressions which still live on in her films and in all future filmmakers whose works will be influenced by her unique interpretations and bold style. An artist dies only when they are forgotten, and that time has not come for Maya Deren yet. That is quite a feat for a Socialist Russian woman in the Forties who opposed Hollywood and its views.
(Needham Heights: Simon & Schuster, 1996), p. 493.
American Film Institue, Maya Deren Award, 1999.
Joseph Campbell, Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti, 1984.
Clark, Hodgson and Nieman, The Legend of Maya Deren, 1st ed.
New York: McPherson & Company, 1985.
Film and Video Umbrella, Rituals in Transfigured Time, 1988.
Bruce F. Kawin and Gerald Mast, A Short History of the Movies, 6th ed.
Needham Heights: Simon & Schuster, 1996.
McPherson & Company, The Legend of Maya Deren, 1988.
University of Texas, Maya Deren: Biography.
University of Texas, Maya Deren: Filmography.
University of Texas, Maya Deren: Meshes in the Afternoon..
University of Texas, Maya Deren: A Study in Choreography for the Camera.