'Zorro but not as you know it' – Dan Burns's 'Zorroz' – review

Words by Katie Hagan

As the dying man’s final thoughts enter into the gaping chasm of what his life could have been, we, the viewers, take this moment to ask ourselves if we are living our lives to the full, and not at the expense of losing the ones we love in the process.

This sentiment is the pulse of choreographer Dan Burns’s new short dance-slash-adventure film, Zorroz. Created in association with Zorro Productions Inc., Zorroz is a spin on Hollywood’s 1998 romance film, The Mask of Zorro. In Burns’s re-imagining however, the eponymous hero’s ambitions are slightly more closer to home than Antonio Banderas’s Herculean emancipation of thousands of Mexican slaves.

Alone in his flat, Zorroz’s protagonist dreams of his youth, idolising and idealising boyhood adventures as he pours milk from a puckered carton. His mind races to what could be; the different frames of dimly-lit, drippy-tap kitchen-living stark comparisons to the cloak-and-dagger revelries in the old man’s imagination.

Burns’s cinematography perfectly encapsulates the speed in which we dive in and out of fiction and reality, and the movement maintains this pace and energy. Testament to his roots, Burns’s choreography is undiluted hip-hop and break. A significant portion of Zorroz involves one-on-one battles featuring symmetric isolations, martial-art, high waves and flame-flicker footwork. Gestures are executed and then inverted, the body-popping bubbles and spills. Everything is clean, and each movement is secured, controlled and locked.

As Zorroz reaches its end, I question how and why the multiple Zorro-identities fit into the narrative. Clearly, they are part of Zorro’s personality; maybe they are past forms of his self or simply elements of his character that he has struggled to quash. The reconciliation, exemplified by a final group piece, requires some clarity. Who and what are the fellow Zorros? And why do they come together at the end? Whilst Burns might be keeping this ambiguous, it is better to mark the crossroads, instead of leaving us unsure of which avenue will bring us to a resolution.

A well-made short dance film which brings hip-hop to the fore, the lasting impression of Dan Burns’s Zorroz is its sensitive portrayal of a life which has indulged in fantasy as opposed to have lived. A tender, imaginative parable that treads deep into the complexities of the human memory.

Images: Dan Burns. Cast includes: John Conway, Stefan Dobrev, Aaron Littman, Jordan Alexander, Shay Lee, Dan Burns and Keanu Wilson. Script by Abbey Devoy and narrated by Jake Kearns.

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