Wednesday, August 5, 2009

UMove: A New Step for Dance Video

The Web and other digital technologies are changing the way we look at dance. In the words of Anna Nuse, director of Movement Media (a New York City-based company that helps dancers realize their visions in film format), "Web video has ushered in a new era of exhibitionism, where ordinary people feel able to let down their defenses and show off their moves. The web has allowed dance to come out of the closet."

Nuse and two other dance filmmakers, Kriota Willberg and Marta Renzi, are helping push dance video even closer to the forefront with the first annual UMove Online Videodance Festival, running Oct.1 to Oct. 31. The focus will be on short movement-based videos created for the web and other new media, such as cell phones. The festival will include programming on YouTube and Movement Media's blog, Move the Frame, as well as a launch party and screenings in New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and the UK. In the meantime, the organizers are taking video submissions for the festival. Deadline is August 15.

I recently caught up with Nuse to chat about the festival, the kinds of films they're looking for, and the future of dance video.

1) How did the UMove festival come about?

My friend and colleague Kriota Willberg approached me with the idea of UMove last spring. I’ve been fascinated with the explosion of videos on the Web, and specifically the popularity of dance in web videos. To us, it seemed like there was a treasure trove of content out there just waiting to be mined! There are dozens and dozens of dance film festivals around the world that seem to show the same handful of dance films and videos every year. Meanwhile Web dance videos get virtually ignored. We decided it was time to celebrate this genre and design a festival that would highlight the best qualities of dance videos on the Web – their accessibility, humor, conciseness, resourcefulness, and relevance to this day and age.

2) Why is it personally important to you to be involved with putting the spotlight on this underrecognized art form?

I believe everyone should have opportunities to see great dance. We are in the midst of a gigantic sea change in the way we communicate and experience media, and I want to see dance be part of that. I’m very excited to see so much dance video online, but it isn’t being recognized, studied, or appreciated by the current dance film community. My organizers and I saw that an online dance film festival was something we could do relatively easily. The platforms and the content are there, the form just needs some people to point it out and make it easier to follow and study.

3) What are the most important qualities you are looking for in festival submissions?

We seek work that is strong in concept and execution, rather than sporting fancy production values or large budgets. We want to see how dance can still pack a kinetic punch on intimate viewing devices such as laptops, mobile phones, and iPods. We also welcome work that was created using new media technology, such as Web cams, cell phones, and through interactive processes.

4) What is the most innovative thing you have seen so far in terms of dance and kinetic focused video?

Lately on our blog, Move the Frame, we’ve been writing quite a bit about pop dance phenomenons online. I’m continually amazed by videos of mass dance movements that have been taking hold around the world as a result of the internet and networked communications. The death of the great Lindy Hop legend, Frankie Manning, inspired huge crowds of dancers to take to the street and dance in tribute to him, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller was all ready a mass movement starting last year with the 25th anniversary of the album’s release. I find it so moving to see videos of people from all over the world dancing together, in ways that were never possible to do before.

5) How do you envision the future of dance video?
I imagine in the future that every dance company and every dance-maker will make videos and integrate media work into all of their artistic activities. The art form of dance for screen will develop into a sophisticated discipline, which is studied and practiced with as much rigor as dance for stage. I also envision that dance video will bring dance to greater prominence in our culture, so that a majority of people regularly watch dance, and dance themselves at any age and ability.

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