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Author: A.H. Goldstein

DAILY CAMERA: Dance cinema has all the moves at CU for the weekend

Sans Souci partners with CU Theatre & Dance to showcase dance cinema.

Erika Randall is willing to use any artistic means necessary to get more people interested in modern dance.

In her role as a professor and chair of the dance department at the University of Colorado, Randall isn’t a purist when it comes to drawing more people into the art form. She’s all for using other artistic mediums to sell the craft of dance.

“I joke that films are a great gateway drug to contemporary dance. They can be slick, they can be sexy. They’re shorter in length, more consumable,” Randall said. “It’s not a matter of screen dance instead of live performance, but films can get people curious and engaged, involved in a conversation about the body’s ability to speak in different ways.”

The power of film to spotlight dance will be on full display as the annual Sans Souci Festival of Dance Cinema kicks off this weekend with screenings of dozens of films from across the world.

Since its inception in 2003, Sans Souci organizers have sought to explore the artistic links between the two art forms, offering audiences a selection of short films that feature dance in myriad forms and expressions.

This year, the crew at Sans Souci will collaborate with another well-respected, Boulder-based dance festival to realize their mission. As in past years, the University of Colorado’s Department of Theatre and Dance is launching its 2017-18 season with [UN]W.R.A.P., an annual dance summit that boasts a different theme every year. This year’s focus is dance cinema, and CU organizers teamed up with the Sans Souci fest to present a united celebration of dance on film.

“This year, screen dance is our focus, and that’s why we thought to work with Sans Souci,” said Randall, one of the [UN]W.R.A.P. organizers who worked with Sans Souci festival administrators to curate submissions to the 2017 event. “They already have a mechanism in place that curates and supports dance on camera.”

Since its launch, Sans Souci has always boasted connections with CU’s dance department, but this year’s formal partnership with the [UN]W.R.A.P. festival has allowed organizers for both events to expand their offerings and broaden their appeal. The opening weekend of Sans Souci will coincide with [UN]W.R.A.P. from today-Sunday, and the weekend will feature a varied program of film screenings, live performances, panel discussions and interactive art installations.

In addition to Sans Souci’s standard fare of compelling films, such as “Cold Storage,” a Finnish piece that follows the adventures of an isolated ice fisherman who finds an unlikely dance partner, the paired events will also feature multimedia works. “Wild-er-ness,” a live installation by CU MFA alumna Ana Baer, fuses video, fashion design and choreography realized by dancers Michelle Nance and Heike Salzer.

According to Michelle Bernier, executive director of the Sans Souci festival, the expanded menu of offerings provides new bridges to a wider audience. The official Sans Souci program extends to December, with additional fall screenings at the Dairy Arts Center in Boulder and a kids-oriented event the Lafayette Public Library in Lafayette, as well as events on college campuses in Texas, Pennsylvania and Montana. Even so, Sans Souci’s partnership with the [UN]W.R.A.P. festival for its opening weekend has opened doors to a new group of attendees and participants — the partnership with CU spurred more submissions and participation from local artists with ties to the university, including Baer, Joy French and Olivia Dwyer.

“With [UN]W.R.A.P., we are able to bring more kinds of programming. There are panel discussions and scholars offering an educated approach. There’s interaction in these installations that allows us to give the audience more than just the experience of watching the film,” Bernier said. “We’re giving them a contextual experience.”

Film is still the main focus of both festivals, and it’s no wonder that Randall, who has experience with what she likes to call “screen dance,” is particularly excited about highlighting cinema. Working with collaborators Daniel Beahm and Markas Henry (associate chair of the CU dance and theater department), Randall has created “More” and “Self Defense,” dance-oriented films that have screened at past Sans Souci events as well as other dance film festivals across the globe. These works feature dance in a way that’s immediate and accessible, and they’ll be beamed onto CU buildings during the weekend.

“These aren’t music videos,” Randall said. “I feel really fortunate this year. My films are complete, and they’ve never been screened all together. That’s exciting for me.”

The strong showing by Randall and other Boulder-based dancers is only part of the appeal of both Sans Souci and [UN]W.R.A.P. The event offers a dynamic that’s simultaneously homegrown and international, with featured works by filmmakers from Romania, Israel, the United Kingdom and beyond.

Organizers are apt to point to the underlying themes that unite both festivals’ diverse body of programming — common storylines rooted in escapism and long shots. But the real uniting power of both Sans Souci and [UN]W.R.A.P. lies in the valuable platform they provide to dancers.

“We’re a platform for screening the films and building an audience for the films,” Bernier said. “We’re trying to open the window for what dance film is; we’re trying to develop an audience for our filmmakers.”