About the Film:
This project was begun in 1990, when little serious attention was being given to underground House dancers. club footage from 1980 and early 1990 showed hundreds of torsos bouncing to music, but few dancing bodies. check your body at the door is a large project involving 30 years (and counting) of shared relationships and histories, many people, and a lot of thinking, planning, teaching, watching, plus hours and hours of dancing – and years of filming. Its mission is to educate people about underground-club House dancing, and dancers: Through the film and and workshops. The film is shown throughout the world and is subtitled in nine (9) languages, and gives essential information about the people, the dance, dancers, the music, and the scene.
The film,Check your body at the door, was specially made to best show the dancing and the dancers. When Archie Burnett took Sally Sommer (dance critic and historian) to David Mancuso's "the Loft" in 1982 she saw amazing artists: “I wanted to shoot a documentary that put dancers at the heart of the film, using Archie as guide.”
Over time lives changed, dancing changed, and the scene changed. The web of relationships that make up the larger project existed long before the film Check Your Body at the Door was made, and it continues.
The phrase “check your body at the door” came from the dancers. It means all sorts of things. Check your body at the door so your spirit can be free. For Brahms “Bravo” Lafortune it means “at some point tonight, I am going to lose my mind. That’s what I came here to do: to lose my mind.” For Archie Burnett “you take your attitude, your baggage, and all of that, and ‘check it at the door’ and go into the club a totally different person…aggravation free, stress free, life-problem free.” Check your body at the door also means being frisked, or, “Check it out,” it’s good. Burnett explains the metaphysics: "You give up something of yourself in order to get something...and it’s a good way to let the establishment know you come in peace."
"Check Your Body at the Door" has been an exhaustive 35-year+ collaborative project. In 1981 Sally Sommer, Ph.D., Executive Director, met her inspiration and muse (and former student), Archie Burnett; he introduced her to "The Loft." Through years of observation at clubs all over NYC, dancers were chosen. Production began in 1992, initially funded by the National Endowment for the Arts/Dance Heritage Initiative. Directed by co-conspirator and House dancer/skater, the late Michael Schwartz (d.1994) of "Character Generators," filming was done in every available type of equipment from 16mm, Super8, and many different sizes of video cameras on many different kinds of celluloid. It was filmed in the clubs and at Lincoln Center Clark Studio Theater. An 11-minute trailer was edited by Gary Bradley in 1994. In 1996 director and artist, Charles Atlas, joined the project along with Bobbi Tsumagari as co-producer. Important footage was filmed 1996-7 in the clubs, on the jobs and with families by Charles Gelber’s crew of Gelber Television. Director Atlas and Photography Director Paul Brown finished filming in 1998 and Atlas’s edited, final rough-cut of Check Your Body at the Door was completed, September 1999. In 2007 Marc Ray did additional pickup footage. Then in 2009 Shoko Letton began finalizing-editing. In 2007 Alessandra Larson joined the team as co-producer and managed seeing it through to release in 2012.