At the Austin Dance Festival, dance thrives onscreen too

A showcase of short dance films from around the world joins the Austin Dance Festival for a second year

Ryan Renshaw's "Happy Ending" is one of 14 short dance films featured in the Austin Dance Festival "Dance on Film" showcase.

Almost immediately after presenting the first Austin Dance Festival five years ago, organizers started scheming to add a showcase of dance on film — a niche but increasingly important element of the international contemporary dance landscape as choreographers and dancemakers look to share their work via video or create dances specifically for the medium.

Festival executive producer Kathy Dunn Hamrick thought the growing genre of dance on film was under-represented in Texas, and Austin in particular. And what better way to spotlight talented international artists that the slimly-funded dance festival couldn’t otherwise afford to support?

The Austin Dance Festival debuted its first “Dance on Film” showcase last year. And it promptly sold-out its tiny 50-seat venue.

This year organizers aren’t taking any chances. The evening-length “Dance on Film” program of 14 short films will take place on the festival’s main stage, the 275-seat AustinVentures Studio Theater at Ballet Austin headquarters.

Running April 5 through 7, the Austin Dance Festival is a program of the Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company. The “Dance on Film” showcase happens at 8 p.m. April 5. Other festival happenings include two showcases on April 6 that feature short dance works by choreographers from around the country as well as master classes and a live interview series. Each of the two showcases offers a different roster of 10 dance companies.

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The “Dance on Film” line-up is curated by KDH Dance Company members Illana Wolanow and Lisa Anne Kobdish.

“It’s a chance to experience dance on a multi-dimensional level, with editing, setting, imagery, focus, and lighting that is different from watching dance onstage,” says Wolanow. “The dance on film genre takes dance as a narrative tool to the next level.”

Though today the number of dancemakers creating films is on the increase, dance and film have been creative collaborators since the very first days of silent movies. As early as 1892, modern dance pioneer Loïe Fuller, for example, fused dance and groundbreaking lighting technology with her “Fire Dance.” 

Wolanow and Kobdish looked to established, international events like the San Francisco’s Dance Film Festival and the Los Angeles’ Dance Film Festival as inspiration for forming a one-night Austin-sized showcase. They put out a call through FilmFreeway and garnered entries from around the world, some already acclaimed at other festivals, like “Digital Afterlives” by Richard James Allen and Karen Pearlman, and Max Rothman’s “Dreamland,” which was named Dance Magazine’s Video of the Month for July 2018.

Jacobi Alvarez’s short dance film “Glamour Baby” depicts a body coming to terms with itself through a series of solo dance vignettes ranging in style from theatrical to abstract.

Attendees will also have an opportunity to view a Virtual Reality screening of “Invention in Three Parts: Development II” a collaboration between by Dorothy O’Shea Overbey and University of Texas Radio-Television-Film faculty member Deepak Chetty. A booth will be set up in the theater lobby where audience members will have the opportunity to individually wear the VR goggles and experience the film through Virtual Reality.

Karen Kloss, Austin’s award-winning filmmaker and editor, will conduct The Director’s Chat immediately following the screening And this year, audience members will select the winners of the Audience Favorite awards.

“We took the adjudication process very seriously based our decisions on tone, conceptual content, artistic messaging, music or sound, number of dancers, length, even coloration,” says Wolanow. “Hopefully, as we continue to grow, we can incorporate even more artists and categories of dance films.”

Sightlines is a media sponsor of the Austin Dance Festival.

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