It’s time for a new kind of dance film, one that forces you to see the art form differently, that even makes you breathe a little differently. This season’s Dance on Camera festival, now in its 43rd year, presents several unconventional offerings that aim spotlights at the choreographic rigor of hand-clapping games and competitive cheerleading or reveal how Parkinson’s patients can dance with hypnotic purity.
Now in its 40th year, Dance on Camera is at a new level of maturity. The annual event at the Walter Reade Theater that once fit into a three-day weekend has expanded to fill five days, Jan. 27–31, and within its brief duration has its own opening night, centerpiece and closing night films. This year’s festival also takes advantage of the recently opened Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center (across 65th Street from the Walter Reade), which will host free screenings of short films as well as conversations and panel discussions with filmmakers on Saturday and Sunday. Many of the regular screenings will also include appearances by directors and participants.
One premiere to look for is “Check Your Body at the Door,” a collaborative effort by Sally Sommer, Charles Atlas and Michael Schwartz that looks back at three decades of urban dance, particularly the underground evolution of the house dance scene. The 14 programs include a bounty of short performance documentaries, free screenings and special guests at nearly every show.
Dance isn’t the most affordable art form to keep up with. Decent tickets to the ballet can range from $60 to $200. But Dance on Camera, a collaboration of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Dance Films Association, helps keep the Miser rich in high culture, at movie theater prices.
Significant milestones will be marked this year as well. The 50th-anniversary screening of landmark flamenco film Los Tarantos, starring Antonio Gades and Carmen Amaya, is part of the festivities, with Gades’ daughter, actress María Esteve, in attendance. And former Paul Taylor dancers will participate on a panel to coincide with the screening of the documentary Paul Taylor: Dancemaker, celebrating its 15th anniversary.
At the Dance on Camera Festival, which returns today to Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, curious cameramen follow the dancers backstage and even pursue them outdoors, chasing vanishing trails of beauty. Meanwhile technical advances allow viewers to experience dance on film in unexpected ways.
DFA has been at the center of that activity since it was founded in 1956, publishing in print and online, offering workshops, awarding grants, and organizing Dance on Camera in 1971, first as an independent festival then, since 1996, as a program at Film Society of Lincoln Center. The program began touring to venues like universities and museums in the mid-90s, and now it screens internationally with 114 touring partners, the largest touring dance film program in a world increasingly populated with local dance film festivals. For anyone anywhere interested in putting dance on film or video, DFA is the central locus of activity and a required resource.
Admirably eclectic as ever, it reflects changing forms of camerawork and editing, wraps in history and documentary, and ranges in subject from tap, ice, flamenco and Asian idioms to ballet stars and modern-dance choreography, established and experimental. I like a film festival that parallels the extraordinary breadth of the dance I see on stages around this city, and one that keeps adding to the sum of my knowledge.
And now, in its 42nd year, Dance Films Association have again collaborated with Film Society of Lincoln Center to present 2014’s festival—and this time around, its scope is just as broad and fascinating as we’d hope for. Beginning this Friday, they’ll be showing films that highlight dances modern “trend toward unusual collaborations (dance and skating, dance and horses, dance and circus) and a recognition that dance thrives best in the bosom of a creative community.
"There's a dream-like quality to dance films in general," says Dance for the Camera curator Jan Bartoszek. You can go into the psyche and create different environments than you can onstage. The sky's the limit." Bartoszek’s love affair with dance cinema was ignited in a college media-studies class, where she saw Norman McLaren’s 1968 experiment, Pas de deux. In it, blunt side lighting and high contrast reduce two dancers to white outlines in a black void; McLaren used an optical printer to show them shedding and entering freeze-frames of their own movements. “It blew me away,” Bartoszek says.
But an even tougher task emerges when a film is complete; after making the festival-circuit rounds, a movie about dance can disappear back into the can if it’s not able to find more than a niche audience….In June, the Dance Films Association posted selections from this year’s edition of the Dance on Camera festival on Distrify, an online distribution platform based in Scotland and launched in 2011 by filmmakers Peter Gerard and Andy Green. Distrify offers viewers free previews of films, followed by pricing schemes for rentals and downloads to own. Filmmakers or production entities can buy a plan that will allow them to post unlimited films; when a viewer makes a purchase, the host receives a rate ranging from 70% to 90% of the price. Affiliates, or third parties, who post the film can get commissions from sales.
Friends and fans of legendary hoofer and star of stage and screen Marge Champion rocked the boat Saturday, September 13, at the Show Boat Cruise around Manhattan to celebrate the part-time Berkshire resident’s 93rd birthday. The evening was hosted by the Dance Films Association to honor Champion, who has starred in musical classics such as Show Boat, Lovely to Look At, and Three for the Show. Dancers, choreographers, film fans, and longtime friends of Champion boarded the two-story party yacht on the East River, enjoying light refreshments and cocktails before the ship set sail toward Brooklyn. Guests and crew alike gathered to admire the city skyline against a glowing pink sunset. DJ Alberto Denis cranked up the retro tunes and it didn’t take much more than that to draw guests to the dance floor, which was packed by night fall as the ship sailed past the Statue of Liberty and back to shore, where the celebration continued with a screening of classic dance films.
Sponsored by Dance Films Association, the DFL is supporting the surge of interest in dance films -- and in the number of people making them -- by helping artists gain skills and connect with others in the field. "The Lab is envisioned to embrace artists who are coming to the form at whatever level, from beginners just shooting off their iPhone to those making feature-length documentaries," Morris says. The opportunity to have work shown and discussed at a DFL screening session is first-come, first-served, and priority is given to works in progress or very recently completed. The goal is not to showcase films but to give artists the constructive feedback they need to move forward in their process.
Recently, Dance Films Association gave young artists the chance to try merging filmmaking and movement-making, with its inaugural student film competition, Capturing Motion NYC. The four finalists of the contest, which was open to New York City high school students, shared their one- to five-minute shorts at the Dance on Camera Festival in January. The winning selection, Anna Vomacka’s We Three, splices together scenes of a single dance phrase performed in various locations, like a city rooftop and a deserted road. It received the honor of opening for a much-anticipated screening of Sally Sommers’ Check Your Body at the Door, the festival’s final and perhaps most joyous program.
The Dance Films Association, which cosponsors the festival with the Film Society of Lincoln Center, invites NYC high school students to submit their own dance videos for a chance to be featured in the 2013 festival, February 1–5. The only requirements are that students be in grades 9–12 and attend high school in one of NYC’s five boroughs, and that films run 1-5 minutes in length, addressing the relationship between dance and camera. There doesn’t even need to be actual dancing in the footage, so long as the film still evokes dance.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE New York, NY (December 22, 2015) Dance Films Association, Inc. (DFA) announces the recipients of the 2015 Production Grant. DFA strives to support dance film by providing filmmakers with key resources and opportunities to realize their projects at any stage in production,......
Includes 20 features, 36 shorts, 4 retrospective selections, and many exciting free panels New York, NY (December 3, 2015) – The 44th edition of Dance on Camera Festival marks two landmark occasions: the 60th anniversary of the founding of Dance Films Association, which co-presents the......
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE November 4, 2015 Dance Films Association, Inc. (DFA) Announces Annual Programming For Capturing Motion NYC a High School Student Dance Film Competition and Workshop Series New York, NY – Dance Films Association, Inc. (DFA) announces annual programming for Capturing Motion NYC, including......
DFA and DCTV co-present Long Legs Short Films an Evening of Moving Moving Images Friday, June 9, 2015 at 7PM New York, NY After the first wildly successful collaboration between Dance Films Association (DFA) and DCTV to co-present Long Legs Short Films in November 2014, DCTV......