Inaugural festival celebrates ‘shared humanity’ of dance, film

The following article was aired and posted online on the InForum on October 15, 2018. You can find the original article online here.

 By Chelsey Engelhard Ewen, The Arts Partnership

FARGO — Dance and filmmaking are two visual art forms that have many differences, but at the heart of each lies one major similarity: the expression of a story.

This is what local organizations The Human Family and Rethink Dance explore in the Rethink Dance Film Festival screening at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16, at the historic Fargo Theatre. The inaugural festival showcases 20 films from eight countries that reflect the beauty and synchronicity between choreography of dance with the choreography of cinematography, says Sean Coffman, local filmmaker and executive director of The Human Family.

“With dance, you have sound, lighting, movement and performance. With film, you have those same components, even if they’re implemented a little differently,” Coffman says. “In either, the use of those tools is to advance an idea, story or emotion.”

With the exception of a 40-minute documentary feature and a 20-minute documentary short, films in the Rethink Dance Film Festival range from three to 10 minutes and tell a variety of stories through diverse dance genres.Two films in the festival are by local filmmakers. “For Nelie and Maria” was made by Minnesota State University film professor Raymond Rea, and the other, “Rise,” was created by Coffman with Rethink Dance Artistic Director and choreographer Haylee Thompson.

 

Combining forces

“Rise” has been in the works for nearly two years and was the impetus for the film festival. Produced with a grant from The Arts Partnership, the short narrative film follows two women trying to overcome their struggles with addiction.

Coffman says he and Thompson wanted to create a work “that reflected the societal challenges we see.”

“There is a lot of struggle in the world, because of ideology or religion or addiction, and we wanted the piece to reflect those themes,” he says.

Thompson, who is also the program director at Red River Dance & Performing Company, says it’s been fun to “combine forces” with Coffman and shed a new light on different types of dance.

“We dance to inspire people to discover our shared humanity, and The Human Family does that (through their work), too,” she says.

Thompson has also enjoyed seeing how her choreography pieces together “seamlessly” in different takes of the two dancers. In a live setting, dancers must perform choreography without stopping from beginning to end. But film offers much more flexibility, she adds.

Coffman shared similar sentiments.

“The fun of fusing dance and cinematography is that collaboration between filmmaker (and the) choreographer or dancer,” Coffman says.

“Traditionally, movement for dance is a little bigger,” he continues. “You’re on a stage and you have to play to the audience in the last row. But when working with a filmmaker, the choreographer and dancer suddenly have the opportunity to work in smaller movements or to focus the attention of a specific movement by shifting the lens because you’re working with the scale of the screen, and not the scale of the theater.”

When producing “Rise,” Coffman and Thompson would share dance videos with one another as inspiration, and they started talking about a way to encourage others to produce their own films and screen them together. That’s when they decided to pursue the Rethink Dance Film Festival.

Nearly 90 films were submitted from more than 20 countries before a volunteer jury narrowed it down to the 20 films at the festival.

Coffman and Thompson were thrilled at the amount of submissions, and have already been contacted by other filmmakers seeking to work with choreographers and vice versa.

“We’re hopeful that the community will continue to grow and that we can see more locally produced pieces in the future,” Coffman says.

If you go

What: Rethink Dance Film Festival
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16
Where: Fargo Theatre, 314 Broadway N.

Info: $7 for general admission or $2 for students and seniors; www.human-family.org/rethink-dance-film-festival

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit theartspartnership.net.

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