No patients, only dancers

Dance documentary 'Capturing Grace' to screen at Stanford

It took top audience awards at film festivals in Denver, Sedona and other cities, but if you weren't able to travel to see "Capturing Grace" by Menlo Park resident Dave Iverson, all is not lost: The documentary is being screened in your backyard this weekend.

The film and post-screening panel discussions will be spotlighted on Friday and Saturday, April 17 and 18, at Stanford University, sponsored by the university's dance division of the Department of Theater and Performance Studies and the San Francisco Dance Film Festival.

Filmed over the course of a year and premiered in October at the Mill Valley Film Festival, "Capturing Grace" documents an innovative project partnering two disparate groups of people: dancers with the internationally acclaimed Mark Morris Dance Group and people with Parkinson's disease.

Before making the film, Iverson produced a short piece for the PBS NewsHour on the group's dance therapy program for Parkinson's patients in Brooklyn. In an interview with the Almanac last fall, Iverson said he had been so impressed by what he learned about the program he was determined to document it in a film.

In the documentary, professional dancers work with Parkinson's patients in a project that culminates in a public performance. The film includes poignant scenes of dance sessions in which Parkinson's sufferers seem transformed as they engage with the dance; it also features interviews with both professional and amateur dancers in the program. One interviewee with Parkinson's notes: "When the class is going on, there are no patients. There are only dancers."

Iverson, who grew up in Menlo Park and graduated from Stanford, has a personal as well as a professional interest in Parkinson's: He was diagnosed with the disease in 2004, and his father and brother suffer from it as well.

The filmmaker draws parallels between the demands placed on body and mind by both dance performance and living with Parkinson's. He concludes: "It's grace that's hard-won."

New York Times dance critic Gia Kourlas wrote of the film: "It's moving to witness the power of choreography the way tremors recede in the studio, the way the performers rediscover what they thought they had lost but to Iverson's credit, the bravery of the participants is neither sensationalized nor sugarcoated, even when what they're sharing is nothing short of remarkable."

The two-day Stanford event kicks off at 1:15 p.m. Friday with a presentation by Iverson and David Leventhal, a former principal dancer with the Mark Morris Dance Group who now leads the dance program, called Dance for PD. Film clips will be shown, and there will be a discussion on "the power of art and the intersection between dance and health," according to event organizers. The presentation will be in Pigott Theater in Stanford's Memorial Auditorium.

The film will be screened at 7 p.m. Friday in Stanford's Cubberley Auditorium. It will be followed by a panel discussion and Q&A session with Iverson and Leventhal, as well as Dr. Helen Bronte-Stewart, director of the Stanford Comprehensive Movement Disorders Center. Dr. Maren Grainger-Monsen of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, who is also a filmmaker, will moderate.

The film will be screened again on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in Stanford's CEMEX Auditorium, followed by a panel discussion and Q&A session.

What: "Capturing Grace"

Where: Cubberley Auditorium, 485 Lasuen Mall, and CEMEX Auditorium, 641 Knight Way, Stanford

When: Friday, April 16, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, April 17, at 1:30 p.m.

Cost: $10 general admission; free to Stanford students and staff

Info: Go to sfdancefilmfest.org.

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