Hear from the Guest Artists for DEL Dance Film: Next Take
DEL’s new three-day dance filmmaking course asks: how can we keep the momentum for Dance Filmmaking in our classrooms?
Teaching via Zoom, course facilitator Andrew Chapman will take a deep dive into the compositional structures which make Dance Film an art-making experience that is here to stay! Andrew will be joined by filmmaker Donald C. Shorter and dance film editor Shayla Benoit, who’ve shared some thoughts about their relationship to dance on film below:
Why do you love dance film as a medium? What excites you? What do you find inspiring?
Donald: I love dance film because it allows you have a much more intimate experience with the subjects. The camera doesn’t lie and it is very intentional with what it sees. A great director draws you into the moment and gives the viewer a unique perspective. If I want to focus on the hands, I can do that with the right framing and lens. When you’re on stage, you’re always working with an extreme wide frame.
Shayla: Sharing dance through film broadens its reach. Not everyone can fly to New York City to see the ballet or a Broadway show. Not everyone can afford a ticket to their local theatre. However, most people have access to the internet, and that gives us a great opportunity to share work. I also love that film gives you the opportunity to explore movement from inside the piece. Depending how you shoot your film, you can give your audience an entirely new perspective and view point. This makes filming dance so exciting to me. Even if it is not your choreography, you can put your own voice into a dance film by the way you shoot and edit it.
What is your biggest objective for this course? What do you most want participants to walk away with?
Shayla: I think editing can be a really daunting part of the filmmaking process, and I like to demystify that. Starting with a solid foundation can open many doors and help an artist start to figure out their own process. My goal is to help someone who is starting at the very beginning and help guide them to what makes the most sense for their goals and budget. Overall, I want to show how editing is a major part in the storytelling process.
Dance film has become particularly important since the start of the pandemic, establishing and maintaining connections with audiences that companies and choreographers haven’t seen live or in person. Do you think this time we’re in has changed the way you talk about, create, or distribute dance film?
Shayla: The pandemic is truly changing the landscape of how we do everything, and especially, how we create art. It’s been inspiring to see people take the resources they have and make some magic with it. I think everyone’s resources are different and limited right now, so there’s a beautiful movement of creativity that is happening to make sure art is getting out there to be consumed. I think dance film is definitely changing and becoming more accessible.
How does knowledge about dance film apply to an educator’s work in the classroom? What lessons do you foresee teachers being able to practically apply with their students after taking your course?
Shayla: The world is turning to video. Take a look at TikTok, Instagram Reels, and Facebook. All these platforms are using film and video to communicate and market. Being able to have a basic understanding of how to create a dance film will help your students do the same. College auditions are requiring many students to create a dance film to apply. This knowledge can help you and your students to create exciting content for your program and it will give your students a great foundation from which to grow as technology is always changing.
What are some of your favorite dance films?
Shayla: I love watching Singin’ in the Rain and West Side Story. These two films were my first introduction to musical theatre on such a scale. In both of these movies, dance truly furthers the plot and adds to each character. I found myself getting lost in the movie magic. I also love Les Sylphides. That is a ballet I can watch over and over again.
Learn more about our guest artists by visiting their websites: