Mission and History
is the catalyst for the production, presentation, and preservation of dance on camera. We are dedicated to furthering the art of dance film by connecting artists and organizations, fostering new works for new audiences, and sharing essential resources.
A non profit membership organization, Dance Films Association builds upon founder Susan Braun’s vision by encouraging choreographers to enter the world of filmmaking, for filmmakers to discover the rich history of dance, and for audiences to engage with the broad spectrum of these films. Today, DFA serves the global dance film community by providing membership opportunities, connecting artists and organizations, fostering new works for new audiences, and sharing essential resources. Its constituency includes dance and film artists, academics and critics, as well as students and established professionals. Based on the principle of movement, dance, like cinema, began as an art form centered on the human body, physical performance, and communication through action and image. Today, technology allows for more artistic experimentation than ever and the language of moving images enriches viewers’ experience. Forging a truly unique vision, dance filmmakers continue to question creative boundaries, producing films that speak through the universal language of movement, unifying cultures and generating wider audiences. DFA champions the fundamental art forms of dance and film by encouraging the pervasive affinities between the two, providing infrastructure for the dance film genre, and serving as an international hub for dance on camera. DFA strives to promote films of value which engage viewers to question the world around them.
Dance Films Association was founded by Susan Braun in 1956 and incorporated in 1959 as a clearinghouse for the distribution of films on dance, from experimental work to instructional films and documentaries. Modern dance pioneer Jose Limon was a charter members, as was Ted Shawn, founder of Jacob’s Pillow, and prima ballerina Alicia Markarova. A tireless advocate, Ms. Braun devoted her life to finding, showcasing and preserving dance films and videos until her death in 1995. With generous foresight, she left a Trust of $500,000 to continue DFA’s mission with Melvin Spain as Executor until the year 2016.
Today, DFA carries on Susan Braun’s spirit of creativity and collaboration in a time of extraordinary transformation. Initiated in 1971 to foster creativity and encourage collaborations between choreographers and film makers, DFA’s annual Dance On Camera Festival presents dance film premieres as well as retrospective programs. The Festival is a mecca for artists, curators and scholars as well as aficionados of dance who come from around the world to see new work and share ideas. The Film Society of Lincoln Center joined as Festival co-presenter in 1996. Two years later, the Dance On Camera Festival began to tour nationally and, in 2000, internationally, acquiring more than 114 touring partners to date.
As of 1998, DFA began offering Post-Production Grants and Fiscal Sponsorship. Alongside an archive film library of more than 500 dance film works, it maintains a database of distributors and dance film/videos. In 2007, DFA initiated the Susan Braun Award: The Young Choreographers Initiative to encourage young dance filmmakers and in 2011 started Capturing Motion NYC, an annual high school student film competition with workshops aimed at teaching the art of capturing dance on film. Selected by a jury, the high school student’s films are presented at the Dance on Camera Festival, and the winning film screens alongside one of the main features at Lincoln Center.
DFA has worked with Alexander Street Press to create the Dance in Video database, culminating in an expansive library of dance on film for students worldwide. DFA hosts a Kickstarter curated page for dance films seeking funding, and in July 2011, DFA was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation New York City Cultural Innovation Fund grant in the amount of $250,000 to produce, market and distribute 3D/HD films of New York City dance companies. The project is the touchstone project of DFA’s Dance Film Productions initiative. The overarching goal of the initiative is to create funded opportunities for mid-level and established choreographers to collaborate with filmmakers on high quality film projects using HD and 3D technology.