Filmmaking as dance-making

Performa Dance commissions choreographers for a mini-festival of experimental dance on film


Like many of us, choreographer Jennifer Hart has consumed plenty of digital performances in the last few months.

But not all the dance she watched really considered the mediums of film and video as part of the creative process itself.

“Some videos were straight up filming a dance; others were these incredible pieces of art that use dance and film equally as tools of expression,” said Hart, who is artistic director of Performa Dance, an indie effort.

So Hart commissioned eight choreographers to explore manifestations of current realities using the unique assets of the dance film genre.

“On Film” will stream through Dec. 8 at

“I told the choreographers, don’t make a dance and film it, make something that can only be seen on film,” Hart said.

“I think filming and editing is an act of making dance. You are manipulating what is seen: angles, space, distance, time, duration. All of this is choreography.”

“On Film” choreographers include award-winning Austin artists Kelsey Oliver and Alexa Capareda of Frank Wo/men Collective (recipient of a 2020–2021 Texas Performing Arts/Fusebox Festival residency), as well as three emerging Austin talents: Oliver Greene-Cramer, Ian Bethany, and Preston Patterson. Also featured is work by nationally recognized artists: Sarah Tallman, resident choreographer at Wonderbound in Denver, Colorado.

Hart’s piece “Somnessence” is also part of the line-up.

“For me, the process has exposed the challenges of making choreography — the steps — for film,” she says. “I don’t think we relate to the steps in the same manner we would for live performance. But that’s the joy of it, too. The filmmaker/choreographer has a lot of control over what is communicated to the audience.”

“For ‘Somnessence’ I did make a continuous dance because I still want the work to be about movement. But then I chopped it up, rearranged, added, subtracted, flipped, reversed. It barely looks like the original dance.”



Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
An award-winning arts journalist, Jeanne Claire van Ryzin is the founder and editor-in-chief of Sightlines.

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