"I believe dance film needs to be seen as a performance," says Cynthia Pepper from her studio. She's warming up -- like the dancer she is -- to the subject of her Footage Dance Film Festival, now in its fifth year, which springs into the Fine Arts Cinema Thursday for a four-night run through Sunday, December 23 (2451 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-848-1143).
The star "performer" in this year's fest has been dead for 74 years, but still has the power to outrage. Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine's documentary Isadora Duncan: Movement from the Soul tells the story of tempestuous Bay Area dancer/choreographer/ free spirit Duncan, intercut with present-day interpretations of her work by Duncan dancer Lori Bellilove and members of the Oakland Ballet. Indeed, the large and active local dance community is the main reason for the FDFF's success -- they're onscreen and in the audience. "Every year it's different," says Pepper, a teacher and choreographer at Marin Dance Theater. "We had one man last year who cried when he saw his old teacher from Russia in one of the films."
Surprising as it may seem for the casual entertainment consumer, dance has the uncanny ability to touch audiences physically -- even when it's on video or film. And Pepper's fest is being noticed. "I'm [the festival] getting bigger every year," she maintains. "I'm a member of an organization called the Dance Films Association. You'd be amazed at how many films come in." Among them are Hans Beenhakker's WIPED from Holland, Deborah Van Slet's Canadian performance short Link, and an animation from Australia, A Dance Falls from the Sky -- all part of the FDFF program. Asserts Pepper: "Dance film is a great way to get your dancing seen all over the world. You can actually do a close-up of, say, an ear. It lends a new dimension to the performance: the parts of the dance you can't see from the audience. Lots of dancers break their butts to stage these dances. I'm trying to get them out of the studio, to make them more accessible."
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