Moving pictures

Marion Walker

It might look like they’re falling, but they have it under control: Jessie Marion Smith and Kyle Walker Akins.

It might look like they’re falling, but they have it under control: Jessie Marion Smith and Kyle Walker Akins.

Photo By Brad Bynum

For more information, or to enroll in the Dance Film Workshop, visit

“You put any two things together, it becomes three things, because there’s this invisible relationship between them,” says Kyle Walker Akins.

When Akins and his partner, Jessie Marion Smith, talk about “dance film,” they say the two words together, like a compound phrase, and they discuss dance film as a unique artform, related but distinct from both dance and film.

Another example of two things coming together and creating a third thing: Marion Walker—a portmanteau of their middle names—is Akins and Smith’s catchall name for all their creative collaborations—art, music, dance, film and dance film.

On June 19-23, Marion Walker will present a workshop on dance film at the Holland Project, 140 Vesta St., followed, on June 27, by a screening at the Nevada Museum of Art, 160 W. Liberty, of the films created at the workshop and international dance films. For the workshop, they’ll be using video equipment loaned by the University of Nevada, Reno.

Holland director Britt Curtis approached Smith about doing a dance event at the Holland Project.

“I didn’t want to just do a performance, because that’s a one-night thing that doesn’t help build a community at all,” says Smith. “I wanted to do something that would help build dance more in the community.”

Interestingly, though the films produced in the workshop will feature the rhythms of bodies in motion, the choreographed pieces will not be set to prerecorded music.

“Music often will dictate the style of movement that you’re going to do or even the way that you’re going to edit something,” says Smith. “So, since we want to focus on dance and choreography and film, we want to take music out of it. … It makes you have to think about movement in a different way. If you want to come up with a concept for your film, then you make your own storyline rather than letting the song dictate that. Or, it doesn’t have to be a storyline, it can also be a completely abstract thing. Maybe find a location that you want to develop the choreography around. You’re finding other things to spark your creativity.”

The all-ages workshop is five days, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.—practically a summer camp. Smith and Akins designed the workshop to be open to beginners—no training in dance, cinematography or video editing necessary. For a “negotiable” $30 enrollment fee, The couple will lead participants through conceptualizing and choreographing a film, setting up locations, lighting and camera techniques, and post-production.

They say that part of what makes dance film a unique artform is that the pieces can take place anywhere—unlike traditional dance performances which are often contained within a traditional theater or gallery space

“I originally got into making dance films because I was really attracted to all these dangerous locations, like abandoned buildings,” says Smith.

Like a lot of good art, dance film is about reconciling a dichotomy: dance is immediate and exhibitionist, film is remote and voyeuristic.

“That’s what’s so cool about dance film,” says Smith. “It’s a struggle to figure out how to capture it through film, to have it not feel removed. You get to really direct the eye and find the heart of what the movement is. Say, it’s in the details of the hands, you can just zoom right in on what you want people to focus on.”

“The camera’s another dancer,” says Akins. “Movement is a way that you can’t mask anything. Whatever you’re thinking is expressed directly in your movement. So when you’re in a setting and you’re trying to connect with a performer, there’s no line. It’s immediate. If you’re not present, then you’re going to miss it. It almost transports you to a place where there’s no way to talk about it. That’s why there’s dance. That’s why there’s rituals. You’re in this vessel. You’re in this container. Shake it around.”