Released this month is a special Australia documentary, Life in Movement, about a mesmerising dancing talent whose career was cut tragically short. Set to become the youngest ever director of the Sydney Dance Company, Tanja Liedtke was struck down by a truck when walking by a Sydney highway in a shocking accident.
By Keeva Stratton
As the documentary chronicles, Leidtke was talent personified, as a choreographer and as a dancer. Her perfectionism, her obsession and devotion to her work resulted in two prominent and revolutionary pieces that fused modern dance with effective and emotive storytelling. Although she is gone, Liedtke remains very much present in her work, and indeed she remains an inspiration to those who worked with her. The documentary follows her fellow dancers and Liedtke’s partner, as they choose to perform her work in a powerful last tour, paying homage to Liedtke’s distinctive gifts.
The documentary, which has been produced as a labour of love by her filmmaking friends, draws from the many hours of Tanja’s own footage. It offers a behind-the-scenes look into the creative process, making for compelling and inspiring viewing—rarely has the creative process been captured in such an engaging and insightful manner on film.
We spoke to Co-Director Bryan Mason about his sometimes-challenging task as filmmaker and friend:
RESCU: How did you come to be involved in this project?
Bryan Mason: I first met Tanja in 2001 when she was starting to build her dance career and Sophie and I were building our film careers. She asked us to come and film her work.
RESCU: Where did the film making process begin?
Bryan Mason: Once the dust had settled we (the filmmakers and Tanja’s partner) took a weekend away and talked about what we wanted the film to be and more importantly what we didn’t want it to be. We made a list, which was really helpful. We wanted to make a film about creativity, not just dance.
RESCU: You’ve given us an incredible insight into the workings of a creative person. How did that happen?
Bryan Mason: Tanja filmed so much of her own process and it was an absolute gift. As we reviewed the footage these narrative strands began to appear, and we decided the best way to show the creative process was through the dance. We didn’t want to just have people talking about it. Also, her work was very narrative in itself. Unlike many dance pieces, which can be quite abstract, her voice was very clear in her work and you knew what she was trying to say. We wanted to show how her life influenced her work and we were lucky to have the footage she’d taken—over 90 hours. As we watched we could see where the idea started in her life and where it ended up in her work.
RESCU: Was it a difficult film to make considering she was a friend?
Bryan Mason: Of course it is difficult when you know the person, losing someone like that is very finite. You feel like you can’t do anything. We were all grieving. But by making the film we felt like we were doing something.
RESCU: What do you think made her stand out as a person?
Bryan Mason: Unlike many genius types, the thing I think that struck me most about Tanja was just how personable and warm and friendly she was. She was a fun person to be around and I knew her first as a friend.
Directed by: Bryan Mason and Sophie Hyde
Starring: Tanja Liedtke, Solon Ulbrich, Kristina Chan, Paul White
Release Date: April 12 (limited release, screening at Dendy)
Reviewer rating: 4/5
For more details visit: https://lifeinmovementfilm.com/index.htm