Sarah Elgart is an award-winning Choreographer, Director and Producer who has worked extensively in stage, film, television, music videos, circus, alternative venues and more. She is one of the leading choreographers and dance and music filmmakers in both New York and Los Angeles, and she is the founder and Artistic Director of Sarah Elgart/Arrogant Elbow. Elgart is also a writer and educator. For the on-line magazine Cultural Weekly, she authors a bi-weekly column called ScreenDance Diaries about the intersections of dance and film.
For the purpose of this article, however, I am focusing on Elgart’s project for Dare to Dance in Public Film Festival (D2D) which she founded and launched via Cultural Weekly. Aptly named, Six Foot Distance Dances is an initiative directly in response to the sheltering-in-place conditions that we all find ourselves living through due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many artists from all artforms, Elgart has found a way to not only use her talents, but to help other artists re-invent themselves yet again; something that artists have being doing since the beginning of recorded history.
Elgart describes D2D as “an online film festival that takes film of up to 6 minutes that happen in public places, preferably engaging unsuspected passersby”. Each year she and her colleagues form a panel of well-known dance and film professionals such as Desmond Richardson, Valerie Faris, Tony Testa, and others to give creative criticism to six festival winners from varying categories. This year, however, things are different because the candidates may not be able to film in public and they certainly could not safely engage with strangers on the street. Therein lies the challenge for these inspiring dance and film makers.
The creative team behind Six Foot Distance Dances consists solely of Elgart and her colleague Zoe Rappaport, a creative/movement director, choreographer, arts producer, and interdisciplinary dance-artist based in Los Angeles and New York City.
“This was born in response to something that hit us all broadside and no one saw coming so there wasn’t a lot of planning involved.” Elgart wrote in response to my questions. “Dancers and the dance community in general is so adaptive and amazing! They are used to having no money and no time, and ridiculous conditions in almost every respect, but dancers and dance makers need to make dance! So, as long as there is a need to respond to this virus creatively and engage remotely from our own homes, we will hope to be there!”
Elgart, as we all do, hopes that this period that has taken on the names Stay-at-Home and Shelter-In-Place will not go on much longer, but in the meantime, she will continue to be an innovator by making use of computer technology and film.
In press release for Six Foot Distance Dances, Elgart and Rappaport ask: How do we dance in isolation…and how do we connect? How do we create relevance dance in the privacy of our own homes? What do we feel while being physically limited by an invisible enemy? Over the past several weeks during this outbreak, I have found that the leading answer to these questions is that we rise to the occasion and if anything, accelerate our creativity.
D2D lists the following guidelines to artists who wish to a submit film:
Conceptualize, choreograph, direct, art direct, and in all ways engage in the creation of a 1 minute or less site specific.
Dance film inside the privacy of your home.
Respond directly to the site!
Explore shooting coverage and employing multiple camera angles…. Experiment!!
Use quick cuts, speed ramps… circle the dance, invite the camera inside of the dance.
Try to capture the feeling of the dance…
Avoid using only frontal coverage!
Feel free to express exactly how you feel about what you’re going through – what we’re all going through…
From the films submitted, six winners will be announced and receive a cash award as well as coverage in Cultural Weekly.
When is the deadline to submit your film? “With no end in sight to this lockdown, we are extending this challenge indefinitely” Elgart said. “We will select several one minute or less movies to post to our Instagram and Facebook, and at some point TBA we will select 6.”
Instructions to submit:
* Post your film on Instagram/Facebook
* Tag @dare2danceinpublic, Founder/Director @arrogantelbow & Associate Producer @zoe.rappaport
* Send in $6 via PayPal to email@example.com
* Make sure to include the social handles of you and/or anyone else involved (be it remotely or in person.)
* If you are not on social media, please e-mail your film to firstname.lastname@example.org
Be creative, Be moving, Be wild, Be whoever or however you want to be, Be prepared to make it PUBLIC!
Written and compiled by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle, April 18, 2020.
Feature image: Frame from “Solitude” – Dancer and Filmmaker Hanna-Mari Ojala – Courtesy of Sarah Elgart