In an age when iPhones contain the power to shoot a cinematic masterpiece, and a global pandemic continues to render live performance a risky affair, no art form speaks more to the present moment than screendance or dance performance choreographed explicitly for the camera.
The Magic City's long-standing ScreenDance Miami festival, presented by Miami Light Project, returns for its ninth year January 17-27 with feature-length and short-film screenings, panel discussions, and workshops at the Miami Theater Center, the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), O Cinema South Beach, and SoundScape Park.
Miami-based choreographer Pioneer Winter has directed ScreenDance for the last six years. Winter, who serves as artistic director of the intergenerational and physically integrated dance company Pioneer Winter Collective, says audiences and creators have remained enmeshed in ScreenDance's community partly because of the riveting, unique nature of the art form.
"Screendance is an art form completely unto itself," they say. "Dance and film are just a natural fit. Both are so caught up in time, but dance is ephemeral while film is more fixed. What we're able to do with film is direct the eye of the audience — choreographers don't have that power onstage. Audiences will look where they want to look, but through film, you're able to control what they see and how they're seeing it."
This year's curated collection of ScreenDance screenings includes the Florida premiere of Ghostly Labor
, a short film by Vanessa Sanchez and John Jota Leano that uses tap dance, Mexican zapateado, Afro-Caribbean movement, and live music to reflect on the history of labor in the borderlands between the U.S. and Mexico, and Sean Dorsey Dance: Dreaming Trans and Queer Futures
, a short film by San Francisco modern dance choreographer and trans and queer dance activists Sean Dorsey and Lindsay Gauthier.
Winter calls ScreenDance Miami's 2023 offerings "a wide breadth of films that are very timely." One of many highlights of the festival for Winter is the Florida premiere of Not My Enemy
, a feature-length film by Florida State University School of Dance assistant professors Tiffany Rhynard and Kehinde Ishangi at the O Cinema on January 22.
"Not My Enemy
is about uncovering an absent father's past and choices, and in that process, we find a focus on what the Vietnam War did to men of color. It's an experimental documentary," Winter says. "There is conversation, real interviews with Vietnam veterans, and movement is used to process what's being said. It paints this picture of how dehumanizing Vietnam was for Black soldiers."
I Am Not OK, choreographed by Gabrielle Lansner, Pat Hall, and Dahsir Hausif, will screen on January 21 at PAMM.
Miami Light Project photo
The festival kicks off on January 17 at the Miami Theater Center with a workshop led by Caracas-born, Miami-based interdisciplinary artist Carla Forte. The following evening at 7:30 p.m. at the Miami Theater Center, Miami-based performer and dancemaker Roxana Barba and Miami-based artist Claudio Marcotulli will lead a workshop culled from their collective history, creating work that weaves together dance performance, film, and immersive environments.
Barba says she and Marcotulli aim to ignite discussion with the audience around screendance's expansive possibilities as an art form.
"We're going to get into the gritty of the languages we are combining and what happens when you let yourself go into different dimensions," she says. "I come from a dance background, and Claudio from film. We have made dance films together; we have created immersive environments where you see performance and video together, as well as multimedia performances that contain film. We're going to focus on the material, ideas, and concepts behind that work. Hopefully, that will get a conversation going around the way that screendance has been evolving and the ways new technologies work with artists to expand how performance, video, and film come together."
Winter says Barba and Marcotulli's workshop participants will get the chance to be part of ground-level discussions about artistic works that they may very well encounter at a museum or a later iteration of ScreenDance Miami.
"Their work is always strong and interesting, and they'll be speaking about work that is at a pivotal point. I think it's rare that an audience has the opportunity to be a part of that insight at that time in the process," he says.
This year's ScreenDance Miami offers audiences several opportunities to engage with the art they're viewing actively — and its creators — in unexpected ways. Following the screening of Not My Enemy
, filmmaker Tiffany Rhynard will be on hand to answer questions, as will several of the filmmakers presenting their work at PAMM during the festival's open-call film screening presentation on January 21. Bring a picnic to the festival's pair of projection-wall screenings on January 21 and 27 at the New World Center's Wallcast at SoundScape Park. Winter says the projection screenings invite Miami Beach's greater community to experience screendance in all its cinematic glory.
"Some films are just really epic, and they deserve to be larger than life," Winter says.
Inner Bloom, choreographed by Stephanie D. Handjiiska and directed by Kosta Karakashyan, will screen on January 21 at PAMM.
Miami Light Project photo
Many of the films showing at ScreenDance Miami 2023, including Not My Enemy
, were submitted by their creators as part of an open call. Each year, Winter leads a panel to determine the festival lineup, and they say films that made this year's cut were "thoughtful, innovative, and relevant with an emphasis on cinematography and editing."
"With the help of a panel of diverse voices, ScreenDance Miami strikes a balance between high-production films and some that are shot on phones. ScreenDance Miami is a platform for what was a response from Miami artists. We have a very curious, open community that is always pushing the boundaries of dance," Winter says. "I personally find dance everywhere. You can see dance in how people navigate traffic, how they walk. I swear I see some shampoo commercials that border on dance film. To make something screendance, you have to have in mind where the camera is. It's intention from the point of origin that sets screendance apart."
For the last nine years, ScreenDance Miami has been held annually, a testament to the power of both Miami's arts community and the screendance medium. Winter says he's looking forward to ScreenDance's continued evolution, including a tenth anniversary in 2024 featuring a partnership with Amsterdam's Cinedans Dance on Screen Festival.
"Through the pandemic, we all found out that we can't live without the arts, but we also can't always see art live. Dance on film is a really beautiful expression and way of marrying two mediums," Winter says. "This may be the Sagittarius in me, but a lot of arts programs go on for a couple of years and fall off, and I'm really proud that we've been able to hang onto this festival for nearly a decade. We're looking forward to our tenth year and continuing to expand more and more."
Barba says the ScreenDance Miami festival always leaves an indelible mark on her year, whether she's attending as a presenter or audience member.
"It's a beautiful experience when you can have consecutive days of seeing work and opening your mind to issues that maybe we haven't thought of yet. I have fond memories from past festivals. I remember seeing a documentary outdoors when it started pouring. We and many others were committed and stayed to the end of the film," Barba says. "It's also really inspiring and inviting to see works from local and international filmmakers and get to chat with them after the screenings. If there is an interest in screendance, this is the place to go because there's such a strongly curated selection of works, you can go to a workshop that may be useful, and you can meet people who might invite you to be part of their work. You never know."
She and Marcotulli say audiences attending this year's ScreenDance Miami festival will undoubtedly be moved by the art form's synergistic marriage of dance and film.
"Dance films are the ultimate art form. It's a perfect marriage. Filmmaking and dance both create emotions in the audience through movement in time, but it's not just filming choreography. It becomes something much more complex," Marcotulli says.
"It's like being bilingual, using both languages at the same time," Barba says. "It's storytelling."
ScreenDance Miami 2023. Tuesday, January 17, through Friday, January 27, at various locations; miamilightproject.com. Ticket prices vary.