Sally Gross: The Pleasures of Stillness
A film by Albert Maysles and Kristen Nutile
This work is the biography of one of the quiet dancers who emerged from the Nikolais years at the Henry Street Playhouse. It begins with her childhood on the Lower East Side of New York City and works up to the present. To me it has a special fascination because I do remember, sometime in the 50s, while conducting a rehearsal of the Playhouse Dance Company in which Sally danced I also was baby sitting her two-year-old daughter, Rachel. For others who spring from the Nikolais aesthetic, this may be a reminder of one of Niks tenets, which can be stated this way: If you allow the body to do its thing, it can do no wrong.
As a documentary the film is comprehensive: It includes filmed statements from signal critics (including a conversation with Phyllis Lamhut in the Noguchi Gardens). It has clips from many of her filmed works, with commentary that keeps reiterating the premise that listening to the body can produce motion art. In attempting to cover it all, however, the film seems a little scattered, going from one item to the next without much connection between them and becomes a mite tiresome.
As an historic document of a particular time in dance history, The Pleasures of Stillness is valuable as it alludes to the foment of ideas that churned in the sixties and resolves in the stillness of the quiet goings that are Sallys works.
Ruth Grauert, June 7, 2008