On a balmy 21st of October evening, our destination was The Glorya Kaufman Performing Arts Center hosting Dare to Dance in Public Film Festival: Round 6. It was the brainchild of the unbounded creative energy and talent of Sarah Elgart, Choreographer, Director and the Founder of D2D Film Festival and Creative Producer Zoe Rappaport.
An eclectic audience was already gathering and focused on the activity on the walkway in front of the building. Dancer/performer, Kyra Cole, in white blouse and baggy blue jeans settled into a site specific environ of a make-shift living area; round oriental rug, ‘20s fringed standing lamp, and a wood high-backed chair. She pulled the attention of the audience with her clear focus on pedestrian activities, random bursts of energetic searching, and the arrival of her counterpart, Ryan Green, who came parading in to join her. Then with intermittent dance moves and secret whisperings, the couple ended their “conversation” with Green painting a small moustache on Cole’s face. And while executing their bows, a stately woman in a flowing mauve dress strutted down the hill behind them refocusing the final moments and existentially signaling, The End. It was time to transition to the Meet and Greet.
The gathering was then nourished by a lovely vegan stew and Baguettes, served before the anticipated screenings. Elgart warmly welcomed the lovely mixture of artists and appreciators of Art, Dance and Film. The event brought together fans of all ages, family and friends, which consisted of an energetic 101 year “young” aficionado of the arts.
At 6:30 all were guided into a large screening room and settled to watch a program of Award Winning Films and Honorable Mentions with contributions from Vietnam, UK, China, Hungary, Canada, Colombia and the United States. This followed the day of Experimental and Student films along with International Shorts.
The intro by Elgart let the audience know that D2D Film Festival hoped to democratize dance’s range of styles, budgets, talent, etc.…with an art form that “reaches beyond borders and explores what it is to be human.” Then came the Festival’s video montage, a pastiche that added to the anticipation of the filmmaking, movement and stories of the 16 award winners and honorable mentioned.
Out of all the excellent pieces, there were particular films that peaked this writer’s attention and moved the audience with their stark truths, unique and artful affects, and/or messaging. The following is an overview of their contributions with the list of additional filmmakers that contributed, won and were mentioned in Round 6 :
Two particularly Artfully Visual, Scenic and Costumed films were Burning Gold and Wintersweet on the Snow. Burning Gold was Directed by Matt McDermott, Choreography by Lice + Synne with Cast: Yuma Sylla, Théïa Maldoom, and Anouk Jouanne from UK. This film used costumes reminiscent of Picasso’s “Parade” (Ballet Russes). The dancers, placed in a field of golden wheat, created unique gestures encumbered by the box-like wearable designs that hid both bodies and movement. Finally breaking free, the dancers began to shed each hindrance to reveal the flow and form of their own bodies to complete this unique piece.
The next was a thrilling piece of film-art titled Wintersweet on the Snow by Director cuiying Li and performed by dancers jiayu Han and binglin Li from China. The director captures the startling visuals of two striking female dancers with pitch black tresses, and blood red and mauve netted gowns moving against white snow mountains and an Ice Palace while they move to disentangle themselves from an icy maze. A stunning piece of filmic movement makes this a feast of oppositions. Their stark figures judiciously move, while the camera shoots high above them panning down to find their tracks in the snow. This film is stark and intoxicating for the viewer, making its vision impossible to forget.
What appears to be the strongest dance work of the evening was DisInteGrated, Directed by Wade Robson & Tony Testa, with Cody Bingham in the role of Assistant to the choreographers, Tony Testa’s passionate representation of the film’s message. This is a shamelessly fierce dance film and beautifully shot. Testa carries the audience through forests, over savage seas, on sand flats and finally, from his intense internal protest, a flower grows from his lips.
Several films were also memorable for their message of humanity and empathy
Dysmorphia (Abnormal), by Director David Alan Stanek, and Cast: Precious Miracle Ellis, Alexandria Jones, Bailey Ramierz, George Raney, Chrissy Grey, Monique Ford, Chantel Vaultz, and Cley Kim. This film intimately shares up-close-and-personal conversations about self and body. Stanek, divulged in an interview after the screening, that he struggled with his own difficulties, being that he is a bipolar filmmaker. Yet his captured snippets of discussions about pregnancy, Alopecia, skin color, obesity, and more were revelatory. Stanek later said that the challenge was in stringing everyone’s stories together from the chaos of highs and lows, yet for the audience it was a moving exposure.
From Colombia, Thick Skin examined identity, asking the questions “What kind of skin”[do you have]. Thick Skin, Directed by Laura Steiner with dancers Ana Contreras, Daniel Corredor, Sebastián Arenales, and David Arenales, is an active movement piece that asked about black, brown and white skin, rear view mirror skin, grown up skin, helping change skin…All helped to provoke action and examination.
They Saw the Sun First from the United States, was Directed by Stefan Hunt, with Dancers: Roxanna Kadyrova, Ilya Kityrev, Catherine Moore, Asian Lauture, Derrell Bolling, Reyna Nunez, Ryota Yamasaki, Stefan Hunt, Yiannis Logothetls, Yuriko Miyake, Latoya Edwards, and Luca Renzi. The film began with the phrase, “The biggest job you have is getting old” and proceeded to include the visuals and voices of young and old folks moving together. With a reminder from a young person, “Dear young people, They saw the sun first.” A beautiful poignant vision was of the young communing and moving with the old and wizened in appreciation of their joy in living… and dancing together.
The film that somehow, in these barbaric times, touched the heart, was Dance With Me, a simple quiet film, Directed & Danced by Gabriel Diamond from United States. Diamond, after working with a group of seekers and experimenters, decided to do his own discoveries on the streets of San Francisco. He went out, found an appropriate place to put a sign saying, “Come Dance With Me” near a subway entrance. He then stood blindfolded, waiting, moving, arms outstretched. With sparse movement to the music that seemed to come from nowhere…he waited… no takers, waited … then after a long while the first touch, the first taker was a young Asian man, who carefully put his hand in Diamond’s outstretched palm and they began to dance. It was stunning, the connection evoked shivers – then tears. This moment of simple trust became an invitation to others; a strapping Latino man, a kid, a full figured Latina, and a frail white haired woman.
The experience and discussion after the Festival with Diamond and David Alan Stanek was also moving and insightful as they explained their rediscovery of the humanity of the human species. Diamond’s imagery of Lady Justice reflected on equanimity and balance, while Stanek’s courage came through with acceptance of differences. It was clear that we all came away with the importance and reason for art in a chaotic world.
In many of these beautiful pieces, the music embellished the action, often haunting us even after the work had moved on. However, the composers for the pieces were unnamed.
Thank you to Sarah Elgart, staff , judges and all the wonderful filmmakers for a truly life changing experience. It is important to attend and support this truly inspiring event and superb event. If you have not been, make sure to catch D2D when it comes again.
The Additional Award Winning Filmmakers and Honorable Mentions.
Saigon Souls, Directed by Robin Mahieux, Choreography by Nhon Vo, and danced by Aindy Lu, Minsun, Milo, Uin, and Gau.
Mandela, Director and Dancer Shicheng Tu.
The Lost Mission Directed by Fang Guan, Yue Jia Yu Dancer: shuai En Wang.
Well, Director Wei Jiang, Dancer: Yuting Zhang.
Central Station – Directed by DNailong Song, Peixian Wang.
Shading – Directed & Performed by Kun Ling.
Healed by Director Emil Goodman and Dancer: Timea Papp.
Undertones – Director Kat Castro, Movement Artists: Jayson Collantes, Kosi Eze, Frances Antoinette Honoridez.
For more information about D2D in Public Film Festival, please visit their website.
This article was edited on October 31, 2023 to correct errors.
Written by Joanne DiVito for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Saigon Souls by Robin Mahieux (Saigon) – Screenshot courtesy of D2D Film Festival