Improvement Club: Dayna Hanson’s Dance/Film Hybrid

Improvement Club

Runs Fri., Dec. 13–Thurs., Dec. 19 at Northwest Film Forum. Not rated. 98 minutes.

Local choreographer Dayna Hanson’s 2010 production Gloria’s Cause was an interpretive vision of the American Revolution. Now it’s the inspiration for her film, but the original show’s notions of American identity and modern art are fairly inaccessible here. In a garbled fashion, Improvement Club retells the origins of Gloria’s Cause from the ensemble’s point of view. The plot loosely hangs on Hanson’s promise to the group that the show will run in New York. Already struggling with difficult material, the avant-garde performers—also playing themselves—grapple with whether or not to carry on when the deal falls through.

Scenes unfold through snippets of rehearsals, performances, and after-parties, which are slightly interesting in a peripatetic, Linklater-esque way. But the more the film lurchingly attempts to weave a narrative out of its many layers, the more confounding it becomes. For all her talents, the multi-hyphenate Hanson exhibits few of them within her tale. She leaves the bulk of the action to her cast members, awkwardly confined to caricatures of themselves. In such a deliberately crafted vessel with so much heart, it’s a shame Hanson couldn’t find a cinematic form for the language she speaks so fluently onstage.

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