Now in its 38th year, the DANCE ON CAMERA Festival is New York’s annual landmark for dance on film and films on dance. Coproduced by DANCE FILMS ASSOCIATION and the FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER and curated and programmed by artistic director Deirdre Towers with support from programmer and writer Joanna Ney and festival assistant Kathryn Lockstone, this year’s festival presented a packed week of dance and film. There were numerous film programs, events and discussions all around town in such prestigious places like the beautiful Mark Morris Dance Center in Brooklyn, downtown’s landmark Judson Memorial Church – birthplace of the 1960’s Judson Dance Theater – and the Upper West Side’s elegant Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center.
The diversity and uniqueness of its locations was well reflected in the festival program. Ranging from documentaries about legendary choreographers and performers like Anna Halprin, Alwin Nikolais and Meredith Monk to contemporary NY choreographers like Sara Michelson, Ralph Lemon, Christopher Wheeldon and John Jasperse, these documentaries offered in-depth portraits of veteran choreographers as well as insights into artistic processes and concerns today’s dance makers are dealing with. In addition to these documentaries, DANCE ON CAMERA also presented a full slate of short dance films, animations and experimental films – a playground to explore new directions in film making and choreography as well as a calling card, especially for emerging filmmakers, like Ana Cembrero, winner of this year’s short film award.
The three members of the jury Terry Fox, Arthur Aviles and Zsoka Nej awarded first-time-filmmaker Cembrero, from Spain, for her work CINETICA, calling it “a cinematic poem that places women dancers in surreal atmosphere, natural and interior with mysterious beauty and inexplicable feeling.” This black and white short features some some stunning photography by Jorge Piquer Rodriguez who also composed the music. Overflowing with ideas, images and endings, director, choreographer and performer Cembrero has an eye for striking images and staging movement in mesmerizing environments, all set to a fitting original score.
Also nominated for the short film award was Kriota Willberg’s SUNSCREN SERENADE. Inspired by Busby Berkley, SUNSCREN SERENADE is an animation and live action hybrid short on global warming. Through song and dance it addresses the disappearance of the ozone layer and how important it is to use sun screen lotion to protect our skin from the dangers of the sun. In a most entertaining way, Willberg tackles an important universal issue.
Likewise short, but in the field of documentary, Douglas Turnbaugh and Gregory Vander Veer’s collaboration KEEP DANCING is a 18 min short about 80 + old veteran dance couple Marge Champion and Donald Saddler. Mixing gems from their personal archives with contemporary footage of them reminiscing and rehearsing, the film addresses the passage of time and the dancers urge to “keep dancing”. A lot of big issues are touched upon in this short documentary that asks for a longer piece about these two charismatic protagonists.
The week-long celebration of film and dance was well received by audience and critics alike and all screenings and events I attended played to full houses with a thoroughly engaged audience. Many of the filmmakers and choreographers were present for the screenings of their films and eager to discuss their work. In addition, DANCE ON CAMERA hosted a number of receptions to give filmmakers and audience another chance to interact and network. Plus, the festival produced a comprehensive and stylish festival catalog, prominently featuring the films of the festival and listing the most important dance film festivals world-wide – a most valuable reference guide!
In addition to curating and producing the annual DANCE ON CAMERA festival, DANCE FILMS ASSOCIATION also distributes and tours many of the festival’s films domestically, as well as internationally. So watch out for a selection of this year’s DANCE ON CAMERA festival coming to a theater near you. For more information on the films and the touring schedule, please visit www.dancefilmsassn.org