UCI Dance Film Festival

The fourth annual Dance Film Festival was held this week from Oct. 18 to 20. The festival, which was held in the Winifred Smith Hall of the Claire Trevor School of the Arts, was directed and curated by UC Irvine Assistant Professor of dance and media studies John Crawford. The first night of the event was split into two halves, with the first part focusing on the short film ‘9-5.’ The piece was directed and choreographed by UCI alumna Lauren Thompson.
Although Thompson was unable to attend the event due to a teaching commitment in Texas, Crawford said of the work, ‘The piece, I think, is a really interesting way of bringing dance film to a wider audience.’
The short film focuses on what first appears as any other day at an office. However, several minutes into an office meeting, the characters begin to stretch and yawn in a structured format, which then begins to take on the appearance of a loosely organized dance.
Along with dance sequences, the short film puts an emphasis on building up characters. For instance, one of the central characters is Courtney, a seemingly apathetic worker who finds comfort in dancing alone during her lunch break. Alternatively, there are comedic characters, such as one mailroom underling with a fondness for voodoo, dancing in his underwear and eating lipstick.The second half of the event consisted of different variations of the modern dance classic, ‘Angelitos Negros.’
The first footage shown was choreographed in 1998 by Donald McKayle and featured two interpretations of this piece by soloists, one by a dancer in her 20s and the other by a dancer in her 40s.
Following this showing, McKayle and dancer Stephanie Powell were invited onstage by Crawford to say a few words regarding the piece. At one point, McKayle mentioned the importance of interpretation, noting that Powell, who had recently worked on her own interpretation, was unique from the previously shown versions.
‘The final moment of creation in any dance is the performance,’ McKayle said. ‘It’s become a solo performance piece for Stephanie, who is my muse.’
The final showing of the evening was the world premiere of Powell’s interpretation of ‘Angelitos Negros’ on which Crawford and McKayle collaborated. Crawford, who directed this filmed interpretation, spoke of his interest in adapting the staged performance for the visual medium of film.
‘This piece moved me in a very particular way, and I wanted to play some part in bringing it to the screen,’ Crawford said.
very particular way and I wanted to play some part in bringing it to the screen,’ Crawford said.
Powell’s interpretation differed from others with the use of visual effects, which Crawford incorporated into the film. The effects allow viewers to see the performance in a variety of ways as Powell’s image is replicated and shown from different angles. This technique focuses on one motion that can be seen two or three different ways from what the audience could view if they simply watched a recording of a staged performance. Powell described the difficulty of adapting the thought and feeling that goes into her work for film in comparison to stage.
The rest of the festival had an international flavor with the Oct. 19 event focusing on works originating from Germany and France.