Third Coast Dance Film Festival
There is a small cross-section of people who follow dance and study film with the same degree of tunnel vision. And when these two art forms intersect, practitioners of the dance film genre always say the same thing. Dance film is an emergent art—it’s neither traditional film nor straightforward performance. Drawing from conventional cinematography, dance film uses the camera to reveal something that’s not possible in real life, then takes it a step further by pairing the filmmaker’s gaze with the power of a dancer’s body to evoke feelings that often go undetected by language.
To the layperson who is neither an expert in dance nor a great connoisseur of film, dance film is an entry point for both. On Feb. 12 at 6 p.m., the Nevada Museum of Art will screen the Third Coast Dance Film Festival for the first time in Reno.
University of Nevada, Reno dance professor Rosie Trump is the founder of Third Coast. “My point of view is inclusive when it comes to dance,” she said. “I like to think it can be accessible to anybody.”
When she started Third Coast five years ago in Houston, it was partly a response to the lack of opportunity for small-time filmmakers. Year after year, Trump would watch as local films were passed over for Hollywood productions at major film festivals around the country. It was always something noteworthy when a regional director would make the cut, and Trump couldn’t help but feel that both the filmmakers and audiences were getting a raw deal. Third Coast now encourages entries that value presence over dollars. The resulting line-up is a reflection of this low-budget, high-impact aesthetic.
Of the 150 entries submitted, only 19 shorts will be screened. The films vary in length from 2 to 10 minutes and run the gamut of subject matter. Highlights include a clever short that simply features a man dancing alone in a German theater, appropriately titled, Alone? In The Theater! Another film, called Floor 6, brings the camera into focus as two dancers appear and disappear through the magic of cinematography, picking up steps where the other dancer left off.
In these films, the directors are often the choreographers. Most of them are also new to interpreting dance for the camera. Although there are challenges, there is a certain appeal in adapting dance for film.
“I find it really magical and freeing in terms of the kind of spatial shift you can make,” said Jennifer Keller, director of Floor 6. “There is an ability to manipulate time.”
This time-shifting is prominent in the film Nearby Far. This black-and-white picture was shot as a time-lapse sequence against a backdrop of Oregon sand-dunes. Throughout the 10-minute feature, dancers rise and fall, at times moving gracefully and at other times tumbling through an imposing environment, never quite getting up to human speed.
Without a screening, these beautiful films are only available online. Being able to view them in person is a treat that the museum was happy to oblige. Colin Robertson, the museum’s Curator of Education, sees this collaboration as a natural extension of the NMA’s identity as a museum of ideas: “[The festival] combines two art forms that don’t have a platform in Reno, and places them in front.”