An online film festival produced by Cultural Weekly & ScreenDance Diaries, Cash awards and an internationally renowned panel of judges. Pedestrian or professional, polished or raw, shot listed or shot from the hip...Submission Deadline: October 31, 2017.
Interview with Founder and Executive Producer Sarah Elgart
What does the Dare To Dance In Public Film Festival mean for Dance and Film?
I can only say what I think it can mean which is this: Dance is an instinct we are all born and in tune with as children, but for reasons unknown to me most people in Western countries disconnect from that instinct over time. And, again in most Western countries at least, we only expect to see dance in some pre-approved venue such as a theater, or club, or outdoor mall, etc. And many non-dance pedestrian people really only dance when they are drunk at clubs or a wedding.
I am interested in challenging the notion that dance should only happen in proscribed venues and even the notion that only professionals can do it. Why shouldn’t it happen anywhere at any time as performed by anyone? Why not in the middle of the grocery store, at the train station, or the doctor's office or wherever? Whether by professional dancers or professional pedestrians, I’m interested in seeing these notions challenged. Dare to Dance in Public Film Festival is also accepting both polished and raw films, so films can be shot listed or shot from the hip. And media is so accessible now people can literally shoot something viable from their smart phones.
On top of all this we are now accepting Student submissions so I’m hopeful that Dare to Dance in Public Film Festival can inspire just about anyone to go out, make or find a dance in a public space, shoot it, and share it. Dance on film or what I call Screen Dance is an international genre of filmmaking. It’s a new way of seeing and I’m interested in sharing that. And via the web, so much information can be shared so quickly and so easily – the web can actually create community. With Dare to Dance in Public Film Festival we are trying to democratize the doing and the seeing of both dance and film on an international level.
This year will be the second year of the film festival. What are some of the themes?
Last year we had a lot of films that were about isolation and connecting people. Too early to say what themes we will be seeing this year, but I’m hoping for more films that respond to issues we are all facing globally as human beings and more films that just break new ground in form.
Can you discuss your involvement?
I’m the founder and executive producer of the festival. I’m also a choreographer and director with a long history of working at the intersections of dance and film. For the past almost four years I have been writing a column – ScreenDance Dairies – about that intersection for an online magazine called Cultural Weekly. As such I am constantly searching out the newest and most exciting dance films from around the globe and sharing them. As a choreographer I also do a lot of site-specific dance, which inherently challenges and decentralizes the idea of the proscenium, so I’m always thinking about dance happening in public space.
Dare to Dance in Public Film Festival is an idea I had a while ago as a way to inspire more people to explore the intersections of dance and film in public places. I worked with a dance film festival for many years and once I began writing for Cultural Weekly, I realized I had readers and a platform to create it so I did. And because of my long history working in dance and film, I have a lot of exceptionally talented friends and colleagues that are very lauded in these same fields and can call on them to participate with me as judges so that it’s not just my decision and voice.
This year we have an amazing roster of judges including Casey Brooks, an incredibly inventive, young dance based, commercial director with an insanely fabulous eye, d. Sabela grimes, a multi-talented choreographer, composer, educator, and 2016 Rockefeller Artist, Julie McDonald, a visionary dance agent (the first dance agent ever for choreographers and dancers!) and co-founder of McDonald Selznick Agency, Vincent Paterson, an internationally acclaimed choreographer and director who has worked extensively with a number of stars including Michael Jackson and Madonna with moves that are etched into popular culture, and Desmond Richardson, an Emmy Award winning and internationally acclaimed dancer who has danced with companies like Alvin Ailey and Complexions and beyond.
While this is a great opportunity for professional dancers to get their work seen by these people, I think all of these acclaimed judges themselves are also really interested in seeing dance spread in the ways I’ve discussed.
What did you find interesting about the first year of the film festival?
What was amazing to me and what I loved was that most of the submitted films, which came from around the world by the way, were made specifically for Dare to Dance in Public Film Festival. So we are actually inspiring creativity at the intersections of dance and film.
Did the films surprise or challenge your point of view?
Yes. I was surprised by the very high level and production value, as well as the spontaneity and simplicity of some of the winning films. We had films that were completely spontaneous and unplanned that worked beautifully as well as films that tackled huge issues like Black Lives Matter that were very powerful in very different ways.
What type of feedback will be given to the filmmakers? How does that work?
To date we have not been able to provide feedback for each submitting filmmaker, but that is something to consider and possibly aspire to moving forward. That being said when people have written me I have responded (I may regret saying that!).
What are you looking to achieve in the film industry as a director and founder?
Dance is ephemeral. Performed live it’s only there when its there, and then it’s gone. You can’t pick it up and take it home with you and regardless of how much it’s rehearsed live dance is never the same twice. Dance’s ephemerality and the personal and community experience of seeing it live is visceral, meaningful, subjective, and irreplaceable. But the intersection of dance and film provides for an extended and recurring experience for viewers, as well as for new possibilities that are unique to the medium of film and which cannot possibly be duplicated live. You can extend time, slow it down, speed it up, go backwards, repeat, etc. It provides for a new way of seeing. Screen dance is an international genre, it has a language and a lexicon that is vital, and dance as an art form can and should be more recognized. It needs to be served up regularly as a main dish, not a side course. That’s what I’m interested in on a larger scale. But of course as a director and choreographer I have my own personal aspirations as well.
What have you enjoyed most about being a director and founder?
Meeting and learning about new people across the globe, and understanding how they are thinking, interpreting, and seeing the universal languages of dance and film.
What type of impact would you like this film festival to have?
I would love to see more people inspired to get up and dance, to create dance films, and to have more people inspired to view and learn about screen dance as a genre of filmmaking as well as about dance in general. In the past twenty years or so dance has spawned a multi-billion dollar industry for film, television, fashion, and advertising, and yet it has always been marginalized as an art form. That makes no sense whatsoever. And the dance scene is changing fast and furiously and finally having its long awaited day in Los Angeles where I’m based. I’d like to see an extended conversation and inquiry going on about dance and film from both the concert, commercial, and pedestrian worlds. We can all learn from each other.
Lastly, what’s a key question that will help spark a debate about the film festival?
When people dance on street corners and random public places without provocation or music, does it make spectators uncomfortable? Are they perceived as inspired or insane, or both, and why?