Dance artist Andrew Pearson and his colleagues pondered, “As many performing artists are, we’ve been asking ourselves, how do we progress an art form based on human connection and collaboration in times of isolation and separation.” Well, they came up with a wonderful solution for this dilemma by creating a digital festival for artistic growth and collaboration called Shut In Dance Film Fest.

The team of artists that have been working together to provide an opportunity for remote or virtual collaboration between artists include award winning choreographer for stage, film and television in Los Angeles California Nicole Berger; actor, writer, producer, director and founding member of the Filmmakers Alliance Cain DeVore; and dancer/choreographer and founder of bodies in play Andrew Pearson. Artists who have agreed to be contributing Creative Directors include Los Angeles-based contemporary dance duo Gracie Whyte and Laura Berg (WHYTEBERG); dance and theater collaborators Mark Dendy and Stephen Donovan (dendy/donovan projects); dancer/choreographer Madi Hicks; and poet/musician City James.

Festival Producer Andrew Pearson Festival Director Nicole Berger. Creative Director dendydonovan projects Photo by Patrick MacLeod Creative Director WHYTEBERG photo by Emily Duncan Creative Director Madison Hicks photo by Danel Photography Master Editor Cain DeVore photo by Jaymes Camery
Andrew Pearson - Dancer, Choreographer,Founder of Bodies In Play - Photo by Casey Kringlen

Pearson first met Nicole Berger, who has choreographed for television programs including Good Place, VEEP, and Brooklyn Nine Nine, when he began teaching at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) in Hollywood just a little over two years ago. Berger had been on faculty for almost eight years teaching ballet and contemporary techniques, as well as industry classes such as Career Preparation and Dance for Camera. Pearson was impressed with Berger’s wealth of knowledge accumulated via her extensive career in stage and feature films and approached her about working together on what has developed into the Shut In Dance Film Fest.

“Over the course of the past two years, we’ve had several conversations and various iterations of projects that could meld our passions for dance creation and education.” Pearson said. “We were finally starting to make headway on a project that we were both very excited about when we got the email that AMDA would be closing campus for the foreseeable future.” Although he admits feeling defeated and uncertain about the future of their project, Berger “was all the more determined, recognizing her work with film and television provided a unique preparation for the world’s new situation”.

The team is also in talks with other film directors, musicians, and actors to be contributing Creative Directors who will be providing film directives for dancers or other performing artists to respond to physically for future installations.

The mission and goal of the Shut In Dance Film Fest is simple: provide dance artists education and resources to not only pass the time during social distancing but grow as artists. Through a process of distanced collaboration, we will create and premier a series of high-quality short dance films.

The creative team is also in talks with additional film directors, musicians, and actors to become contributing Creative Directors who will be providing film directives for dancers or other performing artists to respond to physically for future installations.

One might ask, How is this different than other Social Distancing projects?

The press release explains it this way: A major part of the Shut In Dance Film Fest is FREE lessons from LA Filmmakers and Directors on how to shoot movement and dance for the camera.  Lessons will include information on how to use your iPhone or Android as a nice quality alternative to an expensive DSLR Video Camera.  Participants will provide information on Framing, Shooting, and Lighting that could be done from home to use in response to the prompts from the Creative Directors.

Selected submissions will be edited together for a high-quality short dance/movement film, made in collaboration while separated. The Creative Directors will own the rights to the final films, but every participant will be fully credited, and all participants will maintain full rights to their original submission material.

Submissions will open this Wednesday, April 15 and close May 15 for digital premiers in June.

Participation is open to anyone and everyone.  Guidelines and submission info can be found at The Shut In Dance Festival website. Participation and submission is entirely FREE!  If you would like to be a participant and submit your information, the Shut In Dance Film Fest website provides a Submissions Guidelines Page and a How To Page. There is also an Instagram page, cut to HERE.

Written and compiled by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle, April 14, 2020.

Featured Image: Logo for Shut In Dance Film Fest – Photo Courtesy of the artists.