Next Fest NW’s 2016 theme of pastFORWARD happens to coincide with a time of great change and uncertainty. The past is both horrible and glorious, and the future is terrifying and filled with hope for a better day. It is through this cultural lens that Velocity Dance Center presents the dance film portion of their annual festival, Next Dance Cinema, which features sixteen short dance films from across the country in two back-to-back screenings.
The most tangible grab for the past in Screening 1 of Next Fest NW: Dance Cinema, comes from the nostalgic Pontchartrain. A collaboration from Angelle Hebert, Adam Sekuler, and Shannon Stewart, Pontchartrain has the feel of a silent film, left to deteriorate in an attic. Made using hand processed 16mm film, it stutters, flashing overexposed moments and occasionally revealing the edges of the film strips themselves as two women dance along the shores of the titular Lake Pontchartrain. References to the future dominated the evening, including Shared Space, which features a particularly interesting digitally altered video of a dancer, Sarah Hogland. Hogland’s form fades in and out of definition, as pixels fly away from the edges of her body. It appears as though Hogland exists in a gaseous state, not the de rigueur solid state of a human form. While the digital wonders draw the eye, a voice-over of Capitol Hill residents discuss changes in the neighborhood and the future of the residents who live there.
Annalen Traylor’s the ninety9 felt like a glimpse into the near future—not a science fiction fantasy, but tomorrow. Though dance films often take advantage of the opportunity to escape the traditional stage, here two performers (Megan McCarthy and Raymond Ejiofor) honored a stage space with such fresh, alive dancing that we didn’t miss exotic settings. There was a wildness to every motion, each shoulder roll and animalistic crawl bold and unapologetic. Without any hesitancy or doubt, the two entranced with their uncompromising focus of intention. Their dancing together became a unique language they used to speak to one another without saying a word. The spectacular cinematography by Dane Wagner offered close-ups and angled vantage points that could never be achieved through a traditional audience viewpoint. In this fearless world Traylor created, perhaps there is a glimpse of an innovative future.
Fittingly, the night ended in pure catharsis. In a feminist revolt, from Leah Salcido Pfenning with choreography by Alyza Delpan-Monley, a series of women smothered and suffocating inside of shower curtains, sheets, wedding dresses, and trash bags struggled and fought to get free. Each dancer pressed against her restraints, unrelenting in her struggle. As the woman found their way out of each encasement, they looked physically exhausted. In many ways, a feminist revolt was a perfect culmination to a screening inspired by pastFORWARD—shedding the constraints of the past to face the challenges of tomorrow.
For more information on Velocity Dance Center, visit their website.