Stills by Director of Photography Wolfgangheld, courtesy of Severine Reisp
With Deceive, Bronxville filmmaker Severine Reisp delivers a short film that echoes a long time in the dance industry and beyond.
In a stark, white industrial building, a young woman pulls back the hood of her purple dress and begins to dance. She is Amira, who emigrated from Brazil to pursue her dreams as a dancer in New York. “Dance has always been my safe place,” she tells us in a voiceover in Portuguese with English subtitles. Amira is excited for what the future may hold, yet she’s also lonely, so it seems serendipitous when she locks eyes with an attractive man in a bookstore while perusing a copy of Misty Copeland’s Life in Motion. The man’s business card identifies him as a CEO; he says he “has friends in New York City Ballet.”
The two begin seeing each other, and the ensuing montage of them frolicking around the city tells us things are good — until, that is, the CEO takes her to a hotel instead of the movie theater he’d said they were going to. In the room, the trepidation on Amira’s face and the nondiegetic music that scores it make clear that things are about to change. What follows is a powerful yet beautiful crosscut sequence that juxtaposes parallel choreography: one is the repellant choreography of the CEO’s predation; the other is of Amira on a darkened dance floor as she fights to rise above her impending victimhood.
The next morning, as they prepare to say their goodbyes on the street in front of the hotel, there is a heartbreaking, almost pleading look of hope on Amira’s face that somehow, something positive might be salvaged from the previous night’s events. As the CEO walks away, the optimism drains from Amira’s face in rivulets, foreshadowing her inevitable rejection. When the CEO later texts Amira that he can no longer see her, Amira’s eyelids descend with the oppressive weight of a shame she didn’t earn.
Written and directed by award-winning filmmaker and Bronxville resident Severine Reisp, Deceive features Ballet Hispanico principal dancer Dandara Veiga as Amira and Marty Lawson (Smash) as the CEO. In this 17-minute short, told only in voiceover narrative, issues of power, abuse, and exploitation are succinctly yet elegantly examined by Reisp, herself a former professional dancer. The film’s tagline, “Based on a true story… that happens every day,” reminds us of realities that have dominated the headlines in recent years while alluding to events that have visited Reisp’s own life. Shot by Emmy-winning cinematographer Wolfgang Held, Deceive is ultimately a triumph of personal empowerment and the indomitable human spirit, told through the universal language of dance.