The third annual Utah Dance Film Festival, held at Utah Valley University, showcases much more than just Utah County filmmakers. Rapidly growing each year, the festival showcased 40 dance films representing 12 different countries, all demonstrating a wide range of cinematography and creativity.
The films shown at the 1:30 afternoon screening proved that dance can have a different definition and interpretation depending on the filmmaker. The showing began with “The Postman” by Big Door (the winner of the 24-Hour Film Competition). In this film, happy-go-lucky turned creepy, and dance was never the main focus. Rather, the creators incorporated the idea of movement as they followed a day in the life of postman volunteer, Reggie—an avid speed walker. The film opened with a rotund, mustached man, clad in a Polo and khakis, cheerily delivering mail. A recording from his updated audio journal read in the background: “Today was a good one, just like every other day.” The film focuses on his movement—speed-walking through the day. But the light-hearted film takes a twisted turn when the lovable postman is abducted by aliens in his suburban home later that night. Viewers were left with a haunting feeling as Reggie was lifted out of his home in a blinding light while his audio journal played in the background: “Today was a good one, just like every other day.”
“Body Language Zone,” a Finnish film by Kim Saarinen, continued on this idea of movement in everyday life, turning it into a kind of choreography. The film featured a short-haired woman in a business suit, typing at her desk. Her fingers flew over the keyboard, her toes tapping on the floor. The movement became powerful and interesting as the woman changed positions and began typing her fingers on the wall, swiveling in her chair, moving her knees up and down—dancing without ever leaving her confined cubicle space. As the woman moved to different settings in the workplace, the camera focused on her hand, touching a variety of different surfaces. Her hand sliding over countertops, microwaves, and light switches elicited the question, “How can we touch things differently? How can we be more aware of the objects we encounter everyday?” A man’s voice narrated the ordinary, yet choreographed movements of the woman, making the film feel as if we were observing a creature on an Animal Planet show. The quirky ordinary human movements proved to viewers that body language in itself is a type of dance.
Other films captured dance as traditional, technical choreography. Sierra Crawford’s “A Man Who Fell in Love With an Island” had a captivating partnering duet in the medium of a music video. The male dancer emerged from the lead singer—a ghostly, static-y representation of the singer’s past self. The duet between the male and female dancer served as the singer’s reflection of a past relationship. As they continued to move together, the dancers became covered in black sludge. The watery paint dripped down their soaking wet bodies, a strong visual representation of how we leave our mark on people that come in and out of our lives.
One final film, “Woods” by Skyler Sorenson (the product of another 24-hour Film Competition creation) explored movement in the human body, but also movement of the surrounding scenery. As the title indicates, this brief 2-minute film shows a man taking a flickering candle into the woods. Before any dancing is every captured on camera, the audience notices the movement of the pale white aspen trees, highlighted against the pitch-black midnight sky. The reflection of shimmering light and shadow cast upon the trees makes the white aspens a main mover in this visual illusion. As the man dances, silently and smoothly, he and nature choreograph together.
This year’s Film Festival offered a range of approaches to dance filmmaking. From the crafting of ordinary movements to attempts at capturing choreography from new angles, filmmakers proved there is no restriction as to what constitutes “dance in film.”
Chloe Stacey is a student at BYU.