Dancers dazzle with dizzying array of ideas

Hoyts Cinema EQ, November 8

The inaugural Inspired Dance Film Fest Australia (IDFFA) attracted 70 entries from 16 countries, from which 13 short films made the finals. These were given a handsome big-screen showing at Hoyts Cinema in Sydney’s Entertainment Quarter as well as being screened online, offering proof – if it was needed – that dancemakers are a diverse lot.

Just when you think they are all busting to break out of a theatre or studio setting and into the great outdoors, there is a dizzying spinning camera’s eye view of a solo dancer confined to four “walls”, appropriately titled Small World.

Between these extremes, locations take viewers into a cabaret venue, backstage at a theatre, a single room, romantically decrepit old warehouses, and, amazingly, underwater.

The emphasis on locations appears to reflect the cinematic role in these projects, freeing up the action. While dance was pivotal, dance creativity did not appear to be the prime objective.

Yet the unusual circumstances and the desire to tell a story often produced movement and theatricality that touched the emotions and the imagination.

Two of my favourites happened to be vying for the best student film in the selection of awards.

Georgie Fabien’s Scarlet Rose, an Australian entry with cinematography by Ben Montague, is sharp and witty, with some crisp cabaret dance. But the prize was won by China’s Jiang Xiong for the hauntingly beautiful Apple, which is set in a spectacularly preserved Chinese village.

“Best of the Fest” was awarded to Traces from Spain, an intriguing scenario when two lives collide, unknown to each other, in a single living space. (Box and Cox to followers of Gilbert and Sullivan.) Cleverly edited to splice their similar existences, their shared domain revealed only by objects they leave behind – a book, glasses – Traces excels in its theatricality, athletic dance, and cinematic vision.

Best Australian film, Reminiscence, has choreography and performance by Lucy Doherty and Sarah Boulter, with cinematography by Patrick Mazzolo. In graceful, introspective moves, it captures a relationship in which the partner is portrayed only by a pair of supportive hands – until right at the end. Cleverly done.

Best avant-garde film was Cristina [correct] Hall’s Tripolar from Spain, one of two strong entrants based on flamenco dance. Reflecting its title, Tripolar is a nightmarish mix of gritty choreography, unlikely locations colourised in red, heavy chains, and character masks, jerkily combined to make uncomfortable viewing.

The program ended peacefully with the best film production winner, Liminality, from the USA. Its seemingly continuous scenes of a dancer swirling around underwater are a breathtaking credit to performer Annali Rose and cinematographer Jennifer Akalina Petuch.

IDFFA co-founders Ian Knowles and Rohan Seinor [correct] are already looking forward to next year’s event. Dance lovers will as well.

Written by Jill Sykes

Ian Knowles

Ian Knowles

On Key

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