Dance on Camera combines dance with film

CeNique Yeldell

The Dance on Camera festival fuses movement and film to show audience members the many possibilities when the two are conjoined.

The annual festival consists of an assortment of films curated by the Dance Films Association in New York, which has a touring program that brings the films across the world. Some of its touring partners include Beijing Dance Academy, Kri Foundation in India, Florida State University and Grand Valley State University, which will be showing the films April 3 at 6 p.m. in room 1600 of the Performing Arts Center on the Allendale Campus. Admission is free.

Carrie Brueck Morris, a dance professor, is organizing the festival this year and said she hopes the films spark an interest in viewers to discover more about dance.

“We try to choose films that are not all going to look alike or have the same story; some of them have a really strong story line, some of them are more experimental in nature,” Morris said. “So, we try to balance all of those out so you end up with a film festival of things that are completely different from one another.”

When selecting films to show, those interested in the tour are only given a picture and a brief synopsis of the films. They range from being off the wall and experimental to telling a story purely through movement.

Jessica Bonenfant, also a professor of dance, said film allows the audience to see details close up or to watch from angles that are otherwise impossible and coupled with skilled editing, and even special effects, the medium opens up myriad possibilities for letting the imagination run wild.

“I think it is important to keep using movement as a means for expression, as a way of processing information, and a way of asking questions about how we relate to the world around us,” Bonenfant said. “We have kinesthetic empathy, which means our bodies and brains actually respond to watching other bodies move.”

A Dance on Camera class is offered at GVSU every three years, and at the end of the class, students vote to determine which final project is the strongest. The work of Alyssa Smith, a dance major, was chosen and will be the opening film for this year’s festival.

Smith said she learned how to create a noteworthy film and editing was the most gratifying aspect of the class. Her film uses one of her closest friends and aspiring dancer, Markus Shields, to portray the idea of starting anew. She said the inspiration came from Sugar Ray Robinson, a renowned boxer of the ’30s and ‘40s, who started from the bottom and worked his way up to the top.

“From my film, I hope that the viewers can see the underlying message that it is never too late to turn your life around, whether it be grades, emotional demeanor, physical struggle or social turmoil,” Smith said. “Everyone has the opportunity to rise to success — it’s just about finding the drive to get started.”

Bonenfant said the films should be thought provoking and entertaining and can offer a new perspective on dance and movement.