ScreenDance Miami Shows Carefully Choreographed Body Movement in a New Light

A still from Melanin Migration: Brothers in Arms by David Blake and Reece Darlington-Delaire
A still from Melanin Migration: Brothers in Arms by David Blake and Reece Darlington-Delaire Photo courtesy of ScreenDance Miami
It might be argued that dancing is as essential to the human experience as talking. So much can be said through the body. For centuries, people have been using body movement in social settings, from celebrations to funerals.

So why is it that as an art form, dance can feel so inaccessible to the masses? Everyone can dance — hell, even "bad" dancing is still dancing.

"What ScreenDance Miami tries to do is expand the definition of what can be done with movement, and not just movement of bodies, but movement of hair, eyes, mouth, birds," says Pioneer Winter. "We've gotten some amazing films over the years that have really answered that need to expanded that definition."

A celebrated choreographer in his own right, Winter is in charge of directing this year's festival, created by Tigertail Productions and presented by Miami Light Project. ScreenDance takes place January 18-28 at various venues across town as well as online and features more than 27 films, four of them full-length features.

ScreenDance highlights body movement in all of its forms while celebrating dance as an art form. The festival also incorporates workshops throughout its run to reinforce the practice.

"For someone who's never been to the festival, it's a mixture of a bunch of different types of film techniques and dance styles," Winter says. "The things that all these films have in common is that when they were created, they were created with the camera in mind."

The focus on capturing movement on camera is what separates ScreenDance from your average dance recital. On the stage, dancers must appear larger than life so they can capture the attention of the whole room, but in front of a camera, the movement can be revealed as nuanced. Even with the slightest body movements, a lot can be said through film that might otherwise get lost on stage.

"The director of the film also has the power to direct your gaze. I can be the most controlling director in the world, but once an audience is watching on stage, they can look wherever they want," Winter says. "Film allows for that specificity. Where should I be looking? Where should I be focused?"

ScreenDance also is a great way for audiences who might have trouble finding art form relevant to familiarize themselves with it. From bite-size short films to longer features, the festival aims to dispel the notion that dance is esoteric. The festival will screen shorts by Hattie Williams, GeoVanna Gonzalez, Dale Andree, Amadeus McCaskill, Rosy Simas, Sean Dorsey, Marta Renzi, and Gina Margillo, among others.

Then there are the four feature films, which help highlight some of the biggest names in the dance world.

Things kick off on Thursday, January 20, with a screening of Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters, directed by Tom Hurwitz and Rosalynde LeBlanc, at the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse.

"This is the film I'm most excited about," Winter says. "It focuses on [Rosalynde LeBlanc], a former dancer of Bill T. Jones' company, and she's also the codirector on the film, and she's restaging a work that choreographed by Bill T. Jones in 1989. That dance was about HIV and loss and about specific members in the company that had either passed or were in the process of passing. How do you translate a work like that to now? And how do you do that when you have a bunch of adults seeing their friends die at the height of the AIDS crisis versus 2017-18 to undergrad students in a dance program? How are they finding that connection?"

Winter describes the film as intense and beautiful, bringing together many different perspectives.

Other features set to screen at the festival include Breath Made Visible, a film directed by Ruedi Gerber about postmodern dancer and choreographer Anna Halprin's life and career, at O Cinema South Beach (January 23). Attendees can also catch screenings at SoundScape Park, including Dance (January 21), the 2006 film by Sol LeWitt of Lucinda Childs' performance of the same name with music by Philip Glass, and Connie Hochman's 2021 documentary In Balanchine's Classroom (January 28), which takes audiences back to the days of George Balanchine time at the New York City Ballet.

"Last year we got a lot of films involved the quarantine, very isolation-based," Winter notes. "It was nice to see what the other trends were this year — more work being done outside; this desire to connect with nature. This idea of ecological entanglement; that we are inextricably linked to our environment and cannot separate ourselves from it. It's a buffet, and I think there is some really strong work this year."

ScreenDance Miami Festival. Tuesday, January 18, through Friday, January 28, at various locations; Admission is free with RSVP to all events, though Can You Bring It tickets cost $10.
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Jose D. Duran is the associate editor of Miami New Times. He's the strategist behind the publication's eyebrow-raising Facebook and Twitter feeds. He has also been reporting on Miami's cultural scene since 2006. He has a BS in journalism and will live in Miami as long as climate change permits.
Contact: Jose D. Duran