As a kid she made up dance routines on bikes. Now, on a sunny Sunday behind Citadel High, shes calling out names of configurations: peanut-butter cup, tootsie roll, zipper, spaghetti. Last winter, before the first snowfall, Rebecca Singer got a group of eight friends together to form a synchronized bike team. She called it the Ramblers after a Nova Scotian bike club she read about in a book called Silent Steeds: Cycling in Nova Scotia to 1900.
Singer created the team for a project for AFCOOPs One Minute Film program, but she shies away from taking credit, calling synchronized biking a shared idea that was kicking around for a long time.
The Ramblers: Halifax Synchronized Bike Team is Singers first foray into filmmaking. It screens Monday, June 2 at Park Lane as part of Bike! The Movies. Shot on 16mm film with a hand-cranked Bolex camera, it features Halifaxs north end in black and white (the bike team glides through Falkland, Creighton, Roberts streets and Belle Aire Terrace) and music by north enders Laura Peek and Rob Shedden. Singers intent was to fill the streets with dancing on bikes, and, in particular, the streets of the north end. Its a place I have cared about, she says, and now its changing. I wanted it to be in those streets.
Singer created the dance by drawing up patterns on paper and then experimenting with the team to see what worked. They shot from a friends roof, from the front of a tricycle and from the back of a car, as well as from a stationary position. Her hope was that the film would carry the viewer along for the ride and capture the beauty and poetics of biking and motion. I tried to make it feel as if you were there, she explains.
Rebecca Singer is an artsy cyclist---she bikes everywhere, but shes not what she would call a bike tech. She describes the Ramblers as a mix of sport and dance. Bike culture can be macho, she says. This is another possibility. Its not about being fast or getting somewhere. Its just about enjoying biking.
Bike! The Movies stems from a joint effort by AFCOOPs Monday Night Movies, the May 30 to June 10 HRM Bike Week, CITIZENshift and the Halifax Cycling Coalition (a relatively new advocacy group for cyclists; see cyclehalifax.ca). Alice Morgan, a co-chair of the Halifax Cycling Coalition, helped select the films. A big fan of fluid activities, including cycling, Morgan is a recent geology grad who commutes over the bridge to Dartmouth every day for work. Travelling back and forth daily alerted Morgan to gaps in the local transportation system.
Morgan points out that viewers respond differently to watching cars pass on highways than to watching pedestrians and cyclists. People are dehumanized in cars, she says. You dont see people at all, just metal boxes. She hopes the films will encourage people to enjoy public spaces, and to make them think, I want to get on a bike.
Bike! The Movies will also feature a documentary from New York called Contested Streets: Breaking NYC Gridlock which looks to European cities like London, Paris and transportation-paradise Copenhagen for ways to improve infrastructure. Director/producer Stefan Schaefer points out that bikes, cars and public transportation have to work together: In a city, theres no way youre going to get rid of other modes of transportation.
Anyone who has ever had their bike stolen will find solace in White Vans, another short film on the Bike! screen. Set in East Vancouver over the sounds of Caribou and Pink Mountaintops, White Vans is a personal essay/docudrama by Aren Hansen, who has had it with bike thieves. I remember my stolen bikes, he says in the film, and I fantasize about teaching them a lesson. White Vans laughs its way close to the heart of how much people love their bikes, and how vulnerable they feel when they are stolen.
But is it possible to convey the physical feeling of biking through film? I dont know if you can transmit that feeling, Singer says. Its like hang gliding---you have to do it.... Maybe it could tap into your experience of having done it.
If you bike to the movies on Monday night, that sensation of flying on pavement might be fresh in your mind as you sit down and dig into your popcorn.
Bike! The Movies, Monday, June 2 at Park Lane, 7pm. $9/$7 AFCOOP members. Want to be a rambler? Email firstname.lastname@example.org