Dance Film Lab (review)

Dance Film Lab: a playing (not proving) ground by Rebecca Whitehurst

October 6, 2006 On Monday, October 2nd a group of strangers, linked by their craze for creating dance on camera, gathered one-by-one in a sizeable Williamsburg basement.  This basement, aptly tagged The Bunker, boasts a movie screen bigger than my entire Manhattan apartment! It’s a fabulous place and warmly welcomed Dance Film Lab’s successful inauguration. Many thanks to the host Kathleen Fitzgerald. Presented by DFA, the evening of film and discourse was organized and skillfully moderated by Zach Morris, a video artist and choreographer. Morris met his intention of creating “a practical, supportive, no-pressure laboratory where artists are able to genuinely experiment, seek advice or feedback, and make connections with other artists in the field.” Six dance filmmakers presented work: Victoria Murphy, Malene Schjonning, Tori Sparks, Evann Siebens, Anna Brady Nuse and Rebecca Whitehurst.  Pieces ranged from raw footage to finished films. The content varied greatly: from straight narratives to studies of the body moving in horizon-less space. Some works were created using film, others with video. And the artists employed all types of editing applications—from iMovie to Avid. (With the help of Kathleen Fitzgerald, the technical needs were smoothly met.) After each showing, Zach facilitated a 10-minute feedback session. He asked questions that furthered our exploration of a piece and prompted all viewers to participate. What about the piece was successful? What really worked and why? By thus invigorating the discussions, Zach help grant the filmmaker constructive fodder that will surely feed their work and their spirit. While the Lab’s environment was one of inclusion and mutual respect, there was still plenty of room for constructive criticism. Everyone seemed to enjoy discussing the work, as well as talking about the unique technical and artistic challenges of dance filmmaking; information about resources and opportunities was eagerly shared. All in all it was an enjoyable and stimulating evening. (I especially enjoyed the wine and hummus!) It will be great to see the evolution of the artists’ work at the next salon. The Lab plans to meet once every two months. Even if you don’t present material, it is a wonderful way to see cutting-edge work and to help foster a community of dance filmmakers.
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