Cinedans is a must-go-to international festival for dance, film and media. The Amsterdam-based event is housed at the architecturally stunning Eye, the Dutch film institute, on the north bank of the IJ River, just opposite the city’s Central Station. Cinedans is where festival programmers and filmmakers, as well as commissioning editors and producers, from around the world converge.
The festival describes a “dancefilm” as “a true synthesis between two different media — dance and cinematography.” The event emphasizes choreographies created specifically for the camera and on-film adaptations of existing dance performances. It’s also an opportunity to highlight the expanding new realms for dancefilm dissemination.
In the past, a number of films that I’ve co-directed with Marlene Millar have been included in the festival. This year our trio of urban dance documentaries, CRU, created for Télé-Québec’s Fabrique culturelle web platform, had its theatrical premiere.
During this year’s thirteenth edition of Cinedans approximately 100-plus films (shorts, documentaries, retrospectives) from all over the world were screened. If you had the stamina, you could binge-watch from noon to midnight to your heart’s content. In addition to the film program, there were talks on funding and co-production, diverse workshops on capturing movement and interfacing with technology as performance, a kids’ stop-motion session, as well as installation events including Marloeke van der Vlugt’s Chair_Jump_Chute inspired by Merce Cunningham’s Antic Meet.
Canadians were well represented. Marites Carino’s Crack the Cypher, Brian Johnson’s Inheritor Recordings, Jules de Niverville’s Twitch, Fréderique Cournoyer-Lessard’s Step and Nellie Carrier’s Néants were all part of one of the well-attended five competitive short programs. In a particularly captivating special series of films featuring pedestrian movements, Canadian Ryan Larkin’s Oscar-winning animation from 1968, Walking, was a standout. Though Canadians didn’t win prizes at Cinedans, they made a big impression, based on a wide range of comments I overheard.
An intriguing and ultimately stimulating programming moment featured the work of Mexican filmmaker Teo Hernandez, who lived in Paris until his death in 1992. His films were shot on Super 8 film, and as Centre Pompidou archivist Jonathan Pouthier mentioned in his opening remarks, “[Hernandez’s] interactions with his subjects (dancers, landscapes, the streets of Paris) really stretch the concept of moving pictures to the limit,” and his trancelike movies “challenge the act of seeing.”
Among the feature documentaries, Jaap Flier, Solist by Jellie Decker was a highlight. It is beautifully shot, well researched and follows an incredibly charismatic subject in Flier, one of the co-founders of Nederlands Dans Theater and the eventual head of the Amsterdam School for New Dance Development. Now in his eighties, he’s still dancing, and these segments were among the most entrancing segments of the film portrait.
Question and answer periods following a screening are pro forma activities at festivals. I was pleasantly surprised at how engaged the audience was following the “Urban Dance Docs” series of films. It was a great privilege to be present and gauge the response of the racially diverse and mixed-age crowd. Key issues centred on the place of urban dance in the overall dance scene, but especially on how urban dance can find its place in the dancefilm genre. More specifically, what means do dance filmmakers employ to get both accurate renditions of the various styles in the field, but also what does it take to create a project that will be effective and inspiring in communicating the passion of the dance itself?
The experience in travelling to festivals is usually rich in exchange, dialogue and contacts, in addition to providing a wonderful opportunity to show work and express my perspectives to an international audience. Cinedans is top-notch in both its welcome and the platform it affords.