Dance had its hour at the Sundance Film Festival

Based in Park City, Utah Sundance Film Festival is one of the largest film festivals in the world, but even though there is a plethora of dance on film, there usually isn’t much dance represented at the festival. This year, however, there were three opportunities for those who are both film and dance fans to indulge in both passions simultaneously.

One, Girls Calendar, directed by Swedish filmmakers Maria Loohufvud and Love Martinsen, was presented in a standard documentary format. The two others, Cosmogony and Suga’—A Live Virtual Dance Performanceappeared as “experiments” in the New Frontier section of the lineup.

A distinct online platform using the vanity of a spaceship, New Frontier is the Sundance Film Festival’s space for immersive and interactive experiences, including virtual reality and augmented reality. Each audience member was given their own animated avatar, which they manipulated to navigate the immersive experiences, with or without a virtual reality headset.

The three-dimensional nature of these technologies lent themselves perfectly to capturing dance performances for remote audiences.

Girls Calendar

Who said you can’t wear a micromini beyond a certain age? Girls Calendar, who is it. And they’ll wear it in pink and pom-poms, with furry boots and elaborate makeup – and dance in public with it all on, thank you very much. This Florida-based dance troupe is made up of women over 60 who put on more than 150 dance performances each year, dancing to everything from Paul Anka to Aretha Franklin to the Backstreet Boys. Stubbornly defying ageist and sexist conventions, they wear what they want to wear and dance how they want to dance, no matter who is watching.

Program Director Katherine Shortlidge told dance review that the group started in a different iteration in 2005: “We were the senior dance team for the local NBA development team, the Florida Flame. When the team disbanded, we stayed together and became the Calendar Girls in 2006.”

Like Girls Calendar precise, the 36 members of the group dance for the friendship and the camaraderie that they find there as much as for an unfailing love of the movement. Most have no professional dance training. Performances are performed free of charge for non-profit organizations, reunions, an assortment of festivals and retirement homes, all with equal parts class, courage and enthusiasm.

The film follows the women as they interact at meetings, rehearsals and their volunteer performances, examining how they negotiate their passion with biological realities, audience expectations and sometimes lack of family support.

Some of the dancers are also followed individually, giving a more intimate portrait of their personal lives with their own triumphs and struggles. These segments are complemented by touching solo performances, beautiful in their sincerity.

Suga’—A Live Virtual Dance Performance

Performed by the dancer Valencia James and Haitian artist Sandrine Malary, Suga’—A Live Virtual Dance Performance is part interactive history lesson and part dance performance. The event took place entirely in Mozilla Hubs virtual social space, accessible via computer or virtual reality headset.

In work, James travels back in time, taking the journey his ancestors must have taken: across the Atlantic Ocean, from Africa to the West Indies. His ancestors were enslaved and forced to do the arduous work of cutting and harvesting sugar cane, then turning it into sugar in the sugar mill.

James, in a question-and-answer session after one of the performances, said the story was deliberately incorporated. “I was thinking, how can attendees leave this experience feeling empowered or inspired to dig deeper or seek more information about Caribbean history, because there is so much hidden,” he said. she declared.

She also expressed the hope that this technology or similar technologies will be increasingly integrated into artistic events. “I am a dancer and my paradigm has been stage performance. It’s totally game changing. Hope it’s contagious and more people start taking small bites of this fusion [of technology] with traditional performances.

Unlike James, who retains his true physical presentation, each audience member participates as a brightly colored avatar. They take the trip with James (who is actually performing live in his living room), experiencing the sights and sounds of the sea and the unnerving feeling of arriving in a foreign land. James eventually finds herself on a sugar cane plantation, where she dances, in the sugar mill, to the Afro-Caribbean sounds of “Bajan Folk Medley”, by 1688 Orchestra & Collectivefirst solemnly, then in a triumphant crescendo.


In Cosmogony, the visual effects of the film meet animation and live dance. Called a “biodigital live dance performance” by the director and choreographer Gilles Jobinhe and his team have used outdoor video mapping, indoor screen projection, video installation and webcasting to bring live dance performances to audiences around the world, from his studio in Geneva, Swiss.

Three dancers (Susana Panadés Diaz, Rudy van der Merwe and Jozsef Trefeli), all dressed in black jumpsuits fitted with motion capture equipment, had their bodies transformed into sleek, colorful avatars and their movements projected live online during that they were happening. In a hyper-realistic setting and accompanied by the dark and electric sounds of tar pondthe Swiss experimental doom-metal band, they were projected onto a series of sets, each of which had an impact on how the dancers could move.

In a question-and-answer session after one of the performances, Jobin explained that he doesn’t choreograph in the traditional way. “The way I work, I give them ‘rules of the game’, I give them the quality, the context, and then they put their bodies into action.”

The result: The dancer moved across a hilly field, carefully navigated asphalt, the maze-like streets of an urban jungle, slipped and sprawled groundwork on a sandy coast, jumped and rushed through a grassy park and, finally escaping gravity, twisted and tumbled through the cosmos.

Gerald R. Schneider