words by Josy Jones, photos by Christy Bolingbroke of NCCAkron
NOTE: This is part of an online series. Read Josy’s first piece here and her second piece here.
At the beginning of March, the National Center for Choreography at the University of Akron (or NCCAkron, because acronyms make everything easier) invited a diverse group to the university to participate in Dance Club, a learning experience to cultivate dance audiences. We would meet, watch dance, learn new facets of the medium and acquire the tools, confidence and exposure to be dance viewers.
In my last two installments of “Welcome to Dance Club” I talked a little about our classes. It’s been such an interesting journey. Unfortunately, Dance Club has come to an end:
JULY 10, 2018
Another Dance Club gathering, another step closer to understanding the world of dance. New fact, dance is not always meant to be experienced live. Today we learn that Dance on Film is its own section of the genre. No, it’s not music videos. No, it’s not filming a dance performance designed for the stage. It is a genuine collaboration between filmmakers and dancers, designed for the screen. The NCCAkron is in partnership with Dance Film SF to host “Dancing Lab: Screendance.”
The process is Netflix-worthy, really. It pairs filmmakers, choreographers, dancers and production teams from Akron, Cleveland, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. For nine days, these artists will focus on creating dance for film. The finished pieces will premiere at the 2018 San Francisco Dance Film Festival (SFDFF) in October. Akron will be the birthplace of these collaborative creations.
During our July 10 meeting, Dance Club members were encouraged to bring a guest and the rest of Akron was also extended an invitation. Together, we watched a few films from SFDFF’s past years. I was pleasantly surprised at how entertaining each film was.
These pieces carry a sense of humor, quirkiness and striking beauty; each one is intentionally created through collaboration. My favorite was “Ceiling,” a piece directed and choreographed by Katherine Helen Fisher. It’s rare to get to see the precision, strength and beauty of a dance from afar. This film slows everything down so you get to appreciate the shapes and movements. I can’t wait to see what our nine-day guests create in their time here.
WHAT DID I TAKE AWAY
The experience of Dance Club was fulfilling. It is not every day that we get the opportunity to gather with our fellow citizens — cheesy, I know — and discuss art and how to talk about dance. Essentially, NCCAkron is designing methodology to preserve the medium of dance by nurturing its artists and cultivating its audiences. They cultivated a core of supporters who have been introduced to the world of dance and have the tools to talk about it and share dance with others.
I hope to see the Dance Club members again. Specifically, I hope to see them when I’m out dancing or when I’m going to see dance. We have all been equipped with the power to spark curiosity in those around us. You don’t have to be a dancer to appreciate dance and you don’t have to like everything you see. However, if you’re given the tools, the world of dance opens up and it is satisfying to explore.
As an artist, I am slightly envious of the platform that NCCAkron has created. In many ways, dance and theater face a lot of the same problems with audience participation and engagement. Those challenges are true for many mediums. I think that all artists should have a support system like NCCAkron: a place where artists are given room to blossom and explore, and a space for audiences to learn and be welcomed. I hope that the methodology they have created will continue to be an inspiration for artists everywhere.
So, what I think I’m trying to say is thank you, Dance Club. Thank you for teaching me new things. Thank you for preserving your craft. Thank you for letting us in and thank you for trusting Akron to help and learn. Welcome to Dance Club: thank you for coming.
Josy Jones’ hobbies include rubberducks, spoonfuls of peanut butter, struggling to keep a neutral expression and caffeine.