VCU Dance to host dance film screening this week

Maya Earls
Spectrum Editor

One of the films featured in the Dance on Camera film screening is “Rules of the Game” by Jeff and Rick Kuperman. In the film, the trust between four factory workers is tested when management puts pressure on the group. Photo courtesy of Martha Curtis

VCU Department of Dance and Choreography will hold a dance film screening Thursday, Sept. 25, displaying a hybrid art form which brings choreographers and filmmakers together for one visual product.

Dance professor Martha Curtis selected short films that were featured in the 2014 Dance on Camera Festival, as well as films by directors Mitchell Rose, Seeta Patel and Kamala Devam. Curtis said dance film is also known as “screen dance” or “video dance.” Since the art form is fairly new, an official name has not been chosen.

“What it is not is just a video of a stage performance,” Curtis said. “Those tend to be flat and not very interesting.”

With dance film, the filmmaker can do a close-up on a particular part of the body which is impossible for a stage performance. The filmmaker can also re-sequence a dance during the editing process, basically re-choreographing the dance. In the popular dance film “Birds” director David Hinton re-edits the flight of birds in the wild to make the birds appear as if they are dancing.

“There’s a possibility (with film dance) that the body becomes a visual landscape to the viewer,” Curtis said.

VCU has hosted dance film screenings for more than ten years. This year, 11 short films will be featured at the screening. Some films are humorous, others question life and some feature aesthetic beauty. 

Curtis said she selected films that had some relation to the theme of connecting and disconnecting. One film selected for screening, “Globe Trot” by Mitchell Rose and Bebe Miller, is the combined work of 50 filmmakers in 23 countries, with each dancer performing for two seconds.

Since the beginning of the screenings, Curtis said the art form has exploded in popularity.

“Our younger generation has come in, and they sort of grew up with more technology,” Curtis said. “More and more interesting work is available to present.”

To create a dance film, a choreographer and a filmmaker must meet and decide on the focus of the film. Next, they have to find a location and a team of people to help with filming. Curtis said the final step is raising money through grants or receiving artistic support.

VCU offers classes in dance film, including a dance and animation course. Curtis said she wanted to display films college students would be able to relate to. Featured in the screening, “Pas” by Charli Brissey and Courtney Harris is a satirical parody directed by a VCU alumn and VCU Assistant Professor of Dance.

“(The film) has been in numerous countries all over the world in film festivals,” Curtis said.

Curtis said watching a dance film performance is like listening to music. During the first experience the listener is not trying to find the meaning, they are simply hearing the music.

“Just open your heart and your mind and let the images wash over you,” Curtis said.

The Dance on Camera film screening will take place Thursday, Sept. 25 at 8 p.m. at the Grace Street Theater on 934 West Grace St. Tickets for the general public are $8 or $5 for students with a valid ID. 

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