A still from Nicole Berger's Holes. Courtesy Shut In Dance Film Fest

The Choreographer of "The Good Place" Just Launched an At-Home Dance Film Fest With Free Tutorials

Looking for a change from all that social-media scrolling while you're social distancing? Check out the Shut In Dance Film Fest, a newly launched opportunity for dancers are home. Helmed by Nicole Berger, Andrew Pearson and Cain DeVore, the all-remote festival is doubling as free training grounds for artists who want to boost their dance-for-camera skills.


Here's how it works: Select one of four prompts—like camouflaging yourself in your apartment or playing with your silhouette and profile—and create a short film using your smartphone. (The Shut In team recommends using FiLMiC Pro, a $14.99 app available for Apple and Android devices.)

Submissions will be evaluated by the creative directors who came up with the prompts: Los Angeles–based dance duo WHYTEBERG, choreographer and freelancer Madison Hicks, spoken word artist City James, and Mark Dendy and Stephen Donovan of dendy/donovan projects. They will choose footage from the submitted videos to each create a final dance film cut together by professional editors.

The best part? Artists who work in the dance-for-camera vein have created 11 video tutorials (and counting) for those who want to dive into their craft. Learn about shifting your perspective from dancemaker to filmmaker in a lesson led by Nicole Berger, festival director and choreographer for "The Good Place." Filmmaker/dancer Nadav Heyman chats about creating quality films on a budget, and dance photographer and videographer Josh S. Rose answers questions like "how many takes should you do?"

The Shut In Dance Film Fest is accepting submissions now through May 30.

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Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West

How Do Choreographers Bring Something Fresh to Music We've Heard Over and Over?

In 2007, Oregon Ballet Theatre asked Nicolo Fonte to choreograph a ballet to Maurice Ravel's Boléro. "I said, 'No way. I'm not going near it,' " recalls Fonte. "I don't want to compete with the Béjart version, ice skaters or the movie 10. No, no, no!"

But Fonte's husband encouraged him to "just listen and get a visceral reaction." He did. And Bolero turned into one of Fonte's most requested and successful ballets.

Not all dance renditions of similar warhorse scores have worked out so well. Yet the irresistible siren song of pieces like Stravinsky's The Firebird and The Rite of Spring, as well as the perennial Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, seem too magnetic for choreographers to ignore.

And there are reasons for their popularity. Some were commissioned specifically for dance: Rite and Firebird for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes; Boléro for dance diva Ida Rubinstein's post–Ballets Russes troupe. Hypnotic rhythms (Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel) and danceable melodies (Bizet's Carmen) make a case for physical eye candy. Audience familiarity can also help box office receipts. Still, many choreographers have been sabotaged by the formidable nature and Muzak-y overuse of these iconic compositions.

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