Phoenix Dance

From The Fanlight Collection

Directed by Karina Epperlein

22 minutes / Color
Release: 2007
Copyright: 2006

A heroic journey of transformation and healing, Phoenix Dance challenges our expectations of what it means to be "disabled." In March, 2001, renowned dancer Homer Avila discovered that the pain in his hip was cancer. A month later, his right leg and most of his hip were amputated.

Through interviews, studio rehearsals, and performances, Phoenix Dance follows the evolution of Pas, a pas de deux created for Avila by choreographer Alonzo King. In a deeply moving and intimate collaboration with dancer Andrea Flores, Avila creates a new unity — a beautiful creature with three legs and four arms — in which traditional roles are reversed: the man's vulnerability and the woman's strength sweetly complement each other, and their solo outbursts develop themes of interdependence, trust, and strength.

"For me," Alonzo King says in the film, "a pas de deux is a microscopic look into relationship, and relationship could mean you with yourself...It could mean a part of you that's dying. It could be you and your God, you and nature... wherever there is two negotiating or becoming one, or struggling."

film still

When his cancer recurred, Homer told only a few friends that he was going to forego treatment in order to continue the life he loved — dancing. Both 16 and 22 minute versions are included.

"Deeply inspirational."— The New York Times

"This extraordinary film draws a wonderful portrait of the late, great Homer Avila, an icon of American contemporary dance."— Toronto Globe and Mail

"One of those rare poignant films that touches the very depths of the soul and dwells within."— Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival

"Unsentimental and deeply moving. Reveals Avila's unwavering strength, as well as his tender and playful nature, in the face of reinventing himself."— Dance Magazine

"I was blown away. Not only is it an amazing story but the dancing, filming and editing are gorgeous."— Deirdre McGrath, Community Resources for Independence

"Not a lamentation or a ploy to evoke sympathy from the audience, the film transcends Avila's story and speaks to the meaning of true artistry."—

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By Karina Epperlein

Karina Films
2006 Academy Awards, Documentary Short List

Select Accolades

  • Selected for Documentary Short List, Academy Awards 2006
  • Special Achievement, Isadora Duncan Dance Award 2006
  • Golden Gate Award, San Francisco International Film Festival 2006
  • World Premiere, Dance on Camera Festival 2006
  • Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2006


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