Michelle’s Story and 20 Feet from Stardom

Image credit: Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Image credit: Adelaide Cabaret Festival

While the Adelaide Cabaret Festival has countless live attractions, the films on show are just as impressive and inspiring. Michelle’s Story and 20 Feet from Stardom were screened to an intimate audience along with an introduction by one of the stars involved in each project.

Michelle’s Story

Michelle’s Story is a short documentary directed by former Australian Dance Theatre director and noted choreographer Meryl Tankard. Dancer Michelle Ryan’s story is an inspiration to not just dancers, but to all for overcoming the obstacles she has had to face. A former dancer in the ADT, under Tankard’s direction Michelle had toured the world with the company until receiving shattering health news.  Michelle was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and along with her dance career quickly went her mobility and eventually her marriage.

“I didn’t think I could dance anymore so I put all my energy into making sure other people’s dreams could come true,” said Michelle. She threw herself into working behind the scenes of the dance world in everything from costumes to administration.

But some people are just born to dance and Michelle returned to the world of dancing by performing a solo on stage and eventually becoming the Artistic Director of the Adelaide based Restless Dance Theatre, a company working with young people with and without disabilities.

Restless Dance Theatre puts, “…people on stage with a disability as strong artists,” says Michelle. “We challenge perceptions on what a dancer is”.

In her filmmaking debut, director Meryl Tankard’s uplifting documentary shows how art can truly save and resuscitate the soul.

20 Feet from Stardom

You know in all your favourite songs when there is that catchy hook? Until now I never realised this hook, which we usually sing or hum along to is usually sung by back up vocalists. 20 Feet from Stardom is an American documentary, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 86th Academy Awards. The ninety-minute film, directed by filmmaker Morgan Neville looks unto the lives of background singers.

The film was introduced by one of the stars and 2016 Adelaide Cabaret Festival performer, Lisa Fischer and features an extraordinary collection of singers including Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Judith Hill, Táta Vega, and Jo Lawry.

The inspiring documentary shines a light on the untold stories of these backing vocalists behind some of the greatest musical acts of the last century including Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones, Sting and Bruce Springsteen. 20 Feet from Stardom is about the women with extraordinary gifts trying to emerge from the shadows in the cut throat music industry.

The biggest cheerleaders for these women were always the main act, with many of these world wide sensations appearing in the documentary, speaking nothing but praise for the women who helped to create their records unique sound.

The documentary shows how the vocalists, to some extent, sacrificed their solo careers and their individuality to achieve that blend. Each women reflected on how the entertainment industry does not always deliver. Several of the women had solo careers and record deals which failed to take off and so they returned to background singing.

The film encourages the message of using your talents not for fame, but to express yourself and to live out your passion, no matter what anyone else thinks.

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