Developing New Artforms: The 2nd Contact Dance International Film Festival (May 13-15, 2015)


The Revue Cinema, Toronto

May 15th, 2015

Reviewed by Beverley Daurio for <>

What kind of event could fill a large movie theatre on a beautiful Friday evening in May in Toronto, and keep the audience not only entranced, but frequently bursting into spontaneous applause?

Capping two previous days of films and one performance presentation, the Contact Dance International Film Festival's second incarnation (the festival occurs every two years) culminated in an evening of dance films at the Revue Cinema on Roncesvalles in Toronto's west end.

It is a rare pleasure to witness the growth and nourishment of a new artform. Advanced, inexpensive video and sound technology and editing software have made more cross-disciplinary exploration affordable, and artists are working together to develop new methods and to take their artforms into new areas. Dance and film, for example, seem natural allies, yet the sheer crew and technological requirements-- from lighting to sound technology to editing-- were previously too expensive for most dancers or even companies to experiment with. Further, many dance films were more documentary attempts to capture dance as presented on a stage, for the most part, and riven by very particularly filmic resistances and preoccupations.

This has all been sliding and melding as video technology has become more accessible and multi-disciplinary work creates more fluid cooperations. Kathleen Rea, artistic director of REAson d'etre Productions,  and a dancer, choreographer, writer-- a true contemporary polymath-- brings her considerable talents and energies as organizer and administrator to the task of creating a festival for the presentation of just such a new form-- contact dance on film-- contact improv itself is a relatively new movement, originating 40 years ago in the US. Rea is deeply knowledgeable both about contact dance (as an avid and regular organizer of and participant in contact) and an award-winning dance filmmaker. The care and expertise brought to curating this burgeoning festival show.

This year's films were curated by a jury of dance and film people from submissions sent in from around the world, including Australia, Italy, Israel, Spain, Argentina, Switzerland, the US, Canada, and many more. The films shown the evening of May 15 included a pleasurable mix of longer and shorter works—from a couple of minutes long to more than fifteen minutes— that varied from more observational casual-style contact dance without costume in a bare studio, to large-scale work in costume, and highly designed and focused smaller works. There is a democratic openness to the form— some videos were clearly highly funded, and many created with modest resources—demonstrating the flexibility of the form and its often painterly, musical, physical presence-creating essence.



Highlights and standouts included the highly abstract Caida Libre/Free Fall (excerpts), a moving, flowing almost stately and formal work in pastel costume on a real stage; Poured out, a political film showing dancers freely bonding against the piles of tires in the streets in Ukraine, in a time of dangerous civil unrest; Of the Heart, a charming, attentive film about affection and relationships set against the sky and land, by Douglas Rosenberg and Allen Kaeja; Motel Labyrinthos, set in a squalid, broken building, where two dancers’ seek a kind of beauty as their feet scrape and make the sound of harsh dirt; Cures for Fear, a jolting, involving film with a sense of togetherness, friendship and humour—including a dancer wearing a pail as a hat, about human connection; City Music, that blends poetry and movement against city streets in twilight; and Perpetual Motion, a Canadian film by Ariel Llama, in which two dancers hip-lift each other in different outfits, in different places, creating a winsome portrait of affection and connection through time.



The Contact Dance International Film Festival is presented by REAson d’etre Dance Productions, and news of the next call for submissions and information about the next festival will be available at their website: <>. The standing ovation Festival Director Kathleen Rea received after the showings says everything about how well put together this festival has been.