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Northwest Screendance Expo, October 11, Eugene

The Northwest Screendance Exposition’s second annual presentation drew a variety of engaging short films, both elaborately creative endeavors and interesting documentaries, from around the world.

            What a rich endeavor! We’re fortunate for the Northwest Screendance’s effort to bring new, thought-provoking, international art right to our doorstep.

            In the documentary category, contributions train a light on the art of Screendance itself, with a fascinating look behind the scenes on how dance and film conjoin to create new vistas. Artists explore boundaries of shape and form, relational dimensions between and among dancers, as they connect with spaces, props, and places. These efforts push into new exciting territory, engaging whole cities and cultures with contemporary art.

            The Screendance short film category is equally compelling.

            Damien Smith’s Arrellah provides arresting imagery, both textural and strong. Wake by Holly Wilder and Duncan Wilder explores auditory impulses, and a deep inquiry into gesture.

            In Between, by Blake Horn and Liilian Stamey, is set in a beautiful natural setting, but the jerky filmic technique and repetitive movement led one to wonder: Would the dance be interesting if you saw it on a bare stage?

            That’s an overall question about this art form that walks a tense line between film and dance.

            In some instances, the medium enhances the human expression, brightening the filter, narrowing the focus.

            Such is the case with 1180+More, by Riccardo de Simone. This playful musing on line drawings that morph and transform in keen animation brings out new ideas, without taking itself too seriously.

            Another highlight is My “Best” Friend, According to Him, by Josh Anderson and Logan Hall. The piece thrusts movers into everyday situations, with physical comedy and full-contact gaffs, at the office, the gym, the grocery store. Is it more shtick than dance? Maybe, but it’s not trying to be more than what it presents.

            Another piece that balances dance effort with what film can do is Dance of the Neurons by Jody Oberfelder and Eric Siegel. The piece explores shape and form in whimsical ways, but loses itself at times in editing gimmicks.

            Some pieces seem like cool sketches that could evolve into completed works. Many feature nature, or decrepit buildings, as their settings.

            Mitchell Rose and Bebe Miller have collaborated on an ambitious international piece, Globe Trot that carries simple movement from one person to another, all around the world. Though ambitious, and artfully put together, there’s not much that’s new about this idea, as versions in music and dance have bubbled up and gone viral for the last decade or so. 

            Promenade by Cirila Luz Ferron, Florencia Olivieri and Manislla Pons plays with effects, close-ups, focus, filters, with a disembodied, dramatic edge.

            Eclipse, by Linda Arkelian and David Cooper, offers a meditation on the male dancer, in a well lit, slow motion exploration.

            As a viewer, a question arises throughout the program: Would I want to watch this, if it were just a dance? Is the movement itself interesting, or does the production rely on editing, camera angles, or setting, to create and suspend the effort? What do I get from the movement alone?

            One example is Without Boundaries, by Cara Hagan and Robert Gelber. Great location, fun movers – I just wanted to see dance that was more compelling in its own right, without the trappings of the film.

            It is a treat to see effort from all around the world, right in Eugene. Kudos to the Northwest Screendance producers for their vision and fortitude. We’re fortunate that they see the value of bringing something new to our shores.

            As a student of dance history, I’m fascinated by this new space that dance and multimedia artists are collaborating within. It taps into a current that reminds me of the modernists and post-modernists, and I’m enjoying seeing the further blurring between once-distinct art forms.

            Thank you to the Northwest Screendance folks: Parched for new work, this expo was a tall drink of water.