The Fourth annual Greensboro Dance Film Festival (GDFF) was presented on Saturday at three locations across the downtown area. A celebration of the triumphs of new choreography and digital media, the GDFF exhibits multiple innovative and groundbreaking dance films during its screening each year in an attempt to revitalize and revolutionize the concept of modern-day dance.
The festival ties into the 17 Days Greensboro Arts and Culture Festival in historic downtown and Homecoming Weekend at UNCG.
Across the month of August, the festival took video submissions from student and professional film groups, which underwent an extensive judging process before being selected for screening. Each film was expected to have been produced in 2014 or later, and can’t be longer than 15 minutes apiece. As a result, GDFF screens a larger amount of films in a shorter period of time, further exposing viewers to the beauty that is modern international dance.
Audience selection winners from Saturday’s screening will also be presented at the Fourth annual In-Out Dance Festival in Burkina Faso in 2018, a raucous celebration of dance residencies, workshops and exhibitions, including multiple street performances and a carnival.
The official screening kicked off at 7 p.m., after the presentation of a live dance pre-show and party at HQ Greensboro, developed in collaboration with the NC Dance Project outreach programs and the newly renovated Greensboro Performance Space.
This year’s theme, “Race, Place, and Identity,” aimed to explore issues of diversity and culture within dance and the medium of film. As a result, GDFF received film submissions from troupes and individuals of unique perspectives and varied backgrounds, including multiple submissions from around the world.
Stylistically, the dances ranged from modern to conventional, experimental and relatively “formless” to classic and heavily structured. Some films were recorded in black and white, others in strikingly full color.
Some of the most notable dances pushed the boundaries of tradition and style, featuring revolutionary technique and memorable, socially conscious themes. One in particular, “Stopgap in Stop Motion” directed by Stephen Featherstone, highlighted the experiences of disabled dancers as part of a promotional film for Stopgap Dance Company. The film brought still photos of each dancer to life, producing a stop motion video emphasizing the fluidity of movement and perseverance despite obstacles.
Another, “Separate Sentences” directed by Annie Dowling and Austin Forbord, presented a troupe of dancers comprised of San Francisco Bay Area artists, many of whom have been affected by incarceration indirectly, or have been incarcerated themselves. The film followed the journey of a young boy, walking the streets of downtown San Francisco, witnessing himself at different stages of his own life and interacting with a cast of general dancers who represent the incarcerated. The ethnically diverse cast of “Separate Sentences” raised pertinent questions within the audience about the effects incarceration has on differing races and populations.
Not all films focused on such intense themes, however. One of the most lighthearted films of the series, “MULTIDENTITY” directed by Tycho Hupperets, showcased a man dressed in a myriad of different outfits and styles, dancing wildly and vigorously against a plain background. By exploring movement and fashion, the dance imparted to the audience a powerful lesson on how clothing can influence and even create identity.
In the transitional moments between each dance piece, one could ascertain a lively hum of conversation amongst the crowd. One young person, I spoke to, a Music Education student at UNCG, had a great deal to say about their experience watching the films – “I took a modern dance class my first year of school,” they stated. “Immersing myself in that experience made me think a lot about the concept of movement, and what dance and art truly mean. I get a lot of the same feelings from being here, watching all these films. It is fascinating.”
The breadth of experience exhibited throughout the Greensboro Dance Film Festival ensured that each audience member walked away feeling invigorated and inspired by the idea of modern dance. The multifaceted and heavily diverse nature of the films, dancers and thematic elements provided a little something for everyone and solidified the GDFF as an important cultural pillar of Greensboro.