This past weekend at Los Angeles’s newly built Glorya Kaufman Performance Arts Center, Dare To Dance In Public Film Festival celebrated its fifth year with a showing of 46 films from around the world. D2D, as it has come to be called, is led by Founder/Artistic and Executive Director, Sarah Elgart. The Creative Producer for D2D is Zoe Rappaport. Each year, the organization hosts an array of judges who watch hours of dance films to select those that are screened on the festival. This year those included Elgart, Rappaport, Stephen Galloway and Louise Lecavalier. Judges in past years have included Go-to creative movement director and creative consultant Stephen Galloway, award-winning dancer/choreographer Louise Lecavalier, as well as director Casey Brooks, dancer/choreographer/director Peter Chu, Professor E. Moncell Durden, Director/Curator Kristy Edmunds, Director Valerie Faris and many others.
The D2D film festival was divided into three programs, each running approximately 90 minutes, with a live site-specific performance by Roxanne Steinberg + OGURI in between programs two and three. Program A included a selection of International dance films, Program B was a selection of dance films from China, and Program C was composed of The official D2D Winners and Honorably Mentioned Films. I was only able to attend Program A which included films from Canada, Luxembourg, France, Denmark, Ukraine, Poland, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Not all the films were wonderful, but each had its own personality, substance, importance and intriguing movements. It was clear that there is at least one creative benefit produced by the pandemic; a burst of dances made for film. Sadly, the digital program provided by D2D only provided the film’s title, name of director and the country it represented. Fortunately, I was able to look up some of them online.
I CAN SEE YOU (Canada), directed by Ilia Borodine and Miles Benson and filmed in black and white, involved a dividing cell, a woman being pulled into a mirror by another woman, and a duet between the two, beautifully performed by Kier Hill and Alex Kolarik. Though well edited by Chase Ashbaugh and filmed by Ilia Borodine, I Can See You left me wanting more.
Written and directed by Hatim Chebli and Šejla Softić, SO FAR (Luxembourg) was definitely a film inspired by the Covid pandemic. Choreographer Šejla Softić has taken advantage of normally busy spaces, restaurants, gyms, theaters and airports to present her sparce but rich movement to reflect the tensions we all experienced during the height of the pandemic. Directed by Hatim Chebli, filmed and edited by DS Visuals, with Music by Crepon X Smoz, this is a film worth note. The cast of dancers included: Giovanni Zazzera, Joy Ogboi, Lina Schmied, Simi Simoes, Šejla Softić, and Tyana Schartz.
Directed by Cyril Masson, NASATYA – The Twin dancers (France) was a gorgeous film with amazing dancers, stunning scenery and expertly filmed and edited. Costumed to reflect the Ying and Yang of the two women performers, the camera work allows the viewer to see both solos via a split screen and a single screen during their duet. Nasatya is a great example of using the camera as the choreographer. Written and directed by Cyril Masson, Choreographed and performed by Stessy Emelie and Cindy Emelie, filmed by Julien Teissier, Edited by Cyril Masson, and Music by Linky Larson.
One of my favorite films was UNSPOKEN (Denmark), written and directed by William Armstrong, choreographed by Paul Lightfoot and featuring the amazing dancer Sebastian Haynes. It is the story behind a gorgeous solo created to honor the life of Lightfoot’s father. Choreographed during the pandemic, the two men rehearsed via Zoom and one sees part of that process before witnessing the truly lush performance set inside the sanctuary of a spacious cathedral. The spoken word by Lightfoot, the music by Alexander McKenzie, the beige walls of the cathedral, the powerful performance by, and the brown skin tones of Sebastian Haynes, and the black marley floor all come together to make this film a treat for many of ones senses. The editor for Unspoken was Stephen Dunne and the luscious cinematography was by Jacob Møller.
Another favorite and example of a beautifully crafted dance film was PORCH LIGHT (US), written, directed and edited by Ned Farr. A young woman, Mya McClellan, returns home after years of separation from her family and struggles to gather the courage to enter her original home. The entire film takes place at the front of a single story house and the dance occurs along the sidewalk leading from the street to the front porch. Luggage is used to represent the discarding of the pains and neglect inflicted over time. Porch Light is a powerful film choreographed by Mya McClellan and Kelly Bartnik, performed by Mya McClellan with additional cast members Lauren Raynor and Victor Holley.
INNER SELF (Ukraine), choreographed and directed by Polina Shnyptieva is an introspective work performed by Shnyptieva and Daria Shelbak. A dancer, Shnyptieva, is seen running through a forest. As she does so, she questions who she really is, resulting in a duet placed next to a lovely, tree-lined lake. Again, well done, but unmemorable.
One more example of a well-directed and performed film is Austin Hartel’s FROM WHERE I STAND (US). Micah Bullard delivers a strong performance as an actor and a dancer executing choreography by Colin Connor set to the music of J.S. Bach. It is my opinion that the success of this film is completely due to Bullard under the direction of Connor.
Also a reflection on the effects of the pandemic on our lives was BY MYSELF (US) directed by Mesha Kussman, cinematography by Jessica Peterson, and Music by Steve Moore. Four dancers (Jasmine Albuquerque, Micah Moch, Myles Lavalee, and Alise Moss) are first seen wearing face masks. As the film progresses, each removes their mask, and improvises movement in varying locations. By Myself, though well edited, fails to add to this much explored subject matter.
RECONSTRUCTION (US) was directed, choreographed and performed by Los Angeles native Morleigh Steinberg. Filmed using her cellphone, Steinberg took a room in the process of being constructed to investigate how she was going to reconstruct her life following the pandemic. It is a wonderful study of frustration, confinement and looking forward to the future. The music was by The Edge.
Filmed underwater in a large swimming pool, director Jakub Wittchen’s FALLING FREE (Poland) goes nowhere. It simply lets the viewer see a beautiful woman, Natalia Wilk dancing under water to Sid Acharya’s No Way Back. This was one of the films that I was unable to locate online.
A far more intriguing and developed film was DOWNRIVER (Switzerland) directed and wonderfully choreographed by Andrea Boll. The title is somewhat ironic as throughout the film the performers are struggling upstream in a river or against the flow of pedestrian traffic. Only near the end do they end up free floating downstream. Boll’s choreography was influenced by her surroundings; a fast flowing river and its banks, and within a city’s very white painted buildings. The dancers (Ivan Blagajcevic, Andrea Boll, Chris de Feyter, Hella Immler, and Emeric Rabot) are gorgeous and their stamina and ability to endure the force of the raging river is enviable. Kudos to cinematographers Peter Kadar and Chris Fawcett and to Kadar editing.
ALEZAN (France), directed and choreographed by Loïc Faquet involves the powerful Faquet dressed in a wedding gown performing in what looks to be a mud floored barn for auctioning off cattle. A statement perhaps on how women are considered by some. The French translation of Alezan is chestnut which is the color of Faquet’s long hair. Set to music by Adrien Graf, her movements are often laborious, anger driven and exhausting but in the end Faquet liberates the heroine and, one hopes, all of womanhood.
Director Mathew Beckett’s ANYWHERE IS A DANCE FLOOR (UK) is a tribute to the LBGTQ+ community and anyone else who dares to be a nonconformist. Choreographed by Jason Andrew Guest, this is a fun and contagious physical and musical romp for its diverse cast members Black Peppa, Chanda John, Joey Taylor, Simone Mendez, Mama Mamba, Jay Andre, Jason Andrew Guest )Luna Myztique), Blu Romantic, Lacey Lou, Fatt Butcher, Christian Gay, and Yshee Black. These amazing creatures dance their hearts out in several venues including a public fountain. A special mention goes to the makeup artists Liam Hall-Shalton/LiLITH, and Quinn Bragginton
DÉMESURE (Canada), directed by Xavier Curnillon and Louise Bédard is more of a film showcasing an extraordinary l’architecture du Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec than it is one of highlighting the talents of choreographer Louise Bédard. It appears to be how an architect envisions how the humans, that she/he has made a model of, would react to the elaborate curves of her/his creation. Bédard’s movement succumbs to an overuse of contrasts; black costumes and frantic movement against the museum’s sleek and all white interior. The score and music was by Diane Labrosse and the cast of very talented performers was Nicolas Patry, Marie Claire Forté, Louis-Elyan Martin, Alejandro De Leon, Marilyn Daoust, and Sébastien Provencher.
FADE (UK), directed, choreographed, and performed by the beautiful Yuix Jiang is one more dance film in search of a storyline. Dressed in all white, Jiang walks, poses and dances along railroad tracks running alongside a waterway. It was unclear to me if this was a bay or oceanside, but this is irrelevant to the confusion I had trying to place the meaning of a sometimes full but mostly empty wine glass. Fade is nice on the eyes but adds little to the artform of creating dance for the camera.
On the other hand, Mohammad Hossami’s A BUTTERFLY IS KNOCKING ON THE WINDOW (Iran) – not to be confused with Prahlad Prasad’s film …As a Butterfly That Knocks Against Window Pane – is a provocative and extremely powerful film. The film’s performers move between colorful interiors and war ravaged buildings which is made even more powerful by the very realistic sound score that includes windows being smashed or hit by bullets. This is a difficult film to watch knowing what is currently transpiring in Iran, but it is one that everyone will hopefully one day be able to view. A BUTTERFLY IS KNOCKING ON THE WINDOW is about the effects of war and oppression on a country’s people and different ways they continue to make life bearable.
At the showing, Elgart announced that “A Butterfly is Knocking on the Window was actually submitted after the deadline for submissions had passed, and we were not going to consider it for this year. But when we saw what was happening in Iran right now, it became a matter of urgency for all of us.”
The last film on Program A was G Y P S U M (excerpt) (US), a collaboration between dancer Jessy Dae Crist and filmmaker/director Ryan M. Robson states that “explores the relationship between the physical space trauma takes up in the body, paralleled with environmental consequences due to natural trauma. GYPSUM compares the body to the earth, following the “after” of a traumatic event.” Perhaps this screening suffered because it was an excerpt, because it was interesting until its length caused me to begin focusing on the storm-filled clouds and the streaks of lighting flashing in the distance; wondering if the dancer’s safety was in question. Gypsum is a common sulfate mineral of great commercial importance, composed of hydrated calcium sulfate (CaSO4·2H2O) and considered valuable for ornaments and jewelry. In the film, the lone truly gifted dancer, Jessy Dae Crist, dances and carves out designs in the endless dunes of all white sand. While intriguing at times, I was not impressed by what I saw on the screen at the D2D Film Festival.
To find out more about Dare To Dance In Public Film Festival, please visit their website.
Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured Image: Still from Downriver (Switzerland), directed and choreographed by Andrea Boll – D2D In Public Film Festival: Round 5 – Photo courtesy of D2D.