by Deirdre Towers, Dance on Camera Festival Curator
In 1994, I looked out at the sparse Dance on Camera Festival (DOCF) audience at Anthology Film Archives and asked anyone whether they had any suggestions for building the festival. Margaret Williams, the brilliant British director of OUTSIDE IN, came out of the dark from the back of the house, to shake my hand but within that handshake was the affirmation that DOCF indeed needed help.
It was my first year to take on the volunteer job of running the festival. Susan Braun, the founder/prime supporter of DFA, was still stalwartly taking the tickets at the door of Anthology Film Archives, one of many venues she had rented for the Festival, but she was beginning to show her 70 plus years. At that time, DOCF only got a listing in the NY Times, never a review, nor a photo. It was known as the dance world’s best kept secret.
Help came in the very next year when I moved the Festival uptown to The Lighthouse, a corporate rental space down the street from Bloomingdales. Much to our amazement, Joanna Ney, then the Special Events producer for the Film Society of Lincoln Center (FSLC), came to the festival and invited us to bring the festival over to Lincoln Center. Susan Braun died soon after that. Victor Lipari, DFA’s executive director at the time, working part-time and, unbeknownst to us – dying, secured the first contract between DFA and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Pale and wan, he came to the Walter Reade for the first screening there to cheer us on, but he passed soon after as well.
Rescued after the two decades of self-producing, DFA’s Festival began to hit its stride. The innovations of the Internet, also new at that time, also turned around all the efforts of arts administrators. Unthinkable how much work Susan Braun had to do to keep DFA going without computers, without e-mail!
That first year at the Walter Reade Theatre, DOCF 1996 had only one program that repeated once Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The FSLC was definitely unsure that DOCF was a wise investment. Ten years later, we were begging the Film Society to limit the festival to 3 weekends! This year, we have brought the festival down to 20 programs over 5 days in three venues – Walter Reade Theatre, the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, and the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery in the Walter Reade Theatre.
Thank you Joanna! and the FSLC for your steadfast, ever growing support of Dance on Camera Festival. Thank you Susan for your pioneer spirit! Thank you dance filmmakers for making the art we love to celebrate!