‘Iowa Screendance’ brings female perspective to an evolving art form

Female-focused film: Muirín, a 10-minute dance film by Iowa Screendance co-curator Tori Lawrence, is about a woman in the Irish countryside. Watch the trailer.

Iowa Screendance

FilmScene — Tuesday, March 31 at 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Screendance is a visual artform that combines elements of live dance performance, post-production and cinematography to create works that couldn’t exist independently of this inter-genre space. On Tuesday, March 31, as part of the Mission Creek Festival, the Iowa Screendance will present a collection of screendance work at FilmScene.

Through their programming, curators Elizabeth June Bergman and Tori Lawrence aim to incorporate a mix of local and foreign screendance, focusing on female choreographers, filmmakers and performers. They hope that this festival will highlight distinctly female perspectives in the male-dominated sphere of filmmaking.

“There is a history of women’s bodies being objectified and ‘gazed upon’ for pleasure within Western concert dance forms and narrative cinema,” said Bergman. “Many of the works we’re screening at Iowa Screendance are created collaboratively, and there are many men who were involved in an array of capacities with these films … but we were drawn to ones that seemed specifically interested in a female’s point of view.”

The way that the dance films interact with the medium differs from piece to piece. That Dizzying Crest, a 16mm film by Lancaster filmmakers Jeremy Moss and Pamela Vail, is one example that took the use of film more literally, manipulating the celluloid itself to produce secondary images; Lawrence’s film, Muirín, has a more mystical setting in the Irish countryside and tells the story of a woman and her companion, a sea snail, using the landscape of the area as a creative material for storytelling.

“As curators, Elizabeth and I set out to look for films that aren’t just dances shot in interesting locations,” said Lawrence. “We’re looking for works where the choreography, cinematography and post-production are actively collaborating with one another.”

Bergman and Lawrence will both have films of their own featured at the festival, and will be available after the second showing to talk with attendees about screendance as a genre and what the making of these pieces entails. They hope to inspire a conversation that encourages people’s appreciation of both dance and film.

“Screendance is a smaller niche genre within the dance, performance and intermedia world, but is proving itself to be a really rich and conceptually potent way to frame dance and the moving body,” said Bergman.

“The genre has been growing quite rapidly within the past decade and will no doubt keep developing,” said Lawrence.

The Iowa Screendance is free to attend. The first showing of the films will begin at 6:30 p.m. The second showing at 8 p.m. will be followed by a talkback session with Bergman and Lawrence, moderated by University of Iowa Professor of Dance and media artist Michael Sakamoto.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 173

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