CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The Flatlands Dance Film Festival will present the feature film “A Ballerina’s Tale,” about American Ballet Theater principal dancer Misty Copeland, as well as short films created for Snapchat and the winners of the Flatlands film competition.
The University of Illinois dance department’s third annual film festival will take place over a weekend this year, rather than over three consecutive Tuesdays as in the past. It also has a new venue: Spurlock Museum.
“Bhairavi Sky” shows women dancing against beautiful landscapes.
Photo courtesy of the University of Illinois Department of Dance
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The film festival opens at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 26, with a program of short films.
“It’s amazing to see how much production and creativity go into a three-minute film,” said Rebecca Ferrell, the director of the festival, adding that the festival had a lot of submissions in the Snapchat format.
All the films, both those in the short films program and those that are competition winners, are 15 minutes or less in length.
“They give you a different look, a different feel,” Ferrell said. “There’s a mix of things that are highly technical, that you can tell were produced with film-editing software, and some that are very simplistic – a one-shot black and white film. There’s high production and low production.”
The short film program opens with “Escualo,” by the Lombard Twins, Martin and Facundo Lombard.
“They have a very explosive, rhythmic tap film,” Ferrell said.
The short films are presented in part by Sans Souchi Festival of Dance Cinema and curated by Ferrell.
“A Ballerina’s Tale” will be screened at 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27. The feature film tells the story of the obstacles Misty Copeland overcame, including the lack of women of color in many ballet companies and Copeland’s struggle for acceptance as a ballerina with a different body type than that traditionally considered the ideal. Endalyn Taylor, a U. of I. dance professor and a former principal dancer with the Dance Theatre of Harlem, and Ashley Murphy, a ballerina with the Washington Ballet and a former dancer with the Dance Theatre of Harlem, will discuss those issues during a talkback conversation following the film. The conversation will be moderated by Samuel Smith, the engagement director for Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.
“(Copeland) was on the cover of Time magazine. She’s in an Under Armour commercial. She’s everywhere,” Ferrell said. “Many African-American dancers have paved the way for this to happen, and Endalyn Taylor is one of them.”
Taylor noted Copeland is not the first African-American dancer to be named a principal with a ballet company. Lauren Anderson was a principal dancer with the Houston Ballet from 1990 to 2006. But, Taylor noted, “(Copeland) has broken the mold. She is a ballerina with a brand name.”
Taylor said Copeland’s popularity is allowing directors to rethink the aesthetics of ballet and realize it can look different than how it has in the past.
“She is making wonderful strides in opening up diversity in more companies,” Taylor said.
During the talkback with Murphy, “I’d like to talk about that journey of a dancer of color and where they get the inspiration and determination to continue when adversity comes up,” Taylor said. Adversity may come in the form of lack of availability of classes or in affording the lessons and pointe shoes, she said.
Taylor has met Copeland several times through outreach Copeland has done with the Dance Theatre of Harlem.
“She has been wonderfully kind and generous, and she wears the mantra very well,” Taylor said. “She does a number of things to inspire and share her experiences with dancers of color.”
Also on Aug. 27, Murphy will conduct a ballet master class, open to the community. The class, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Aug. 27, is for dancers ages 13 and up who are at an intermediate ballet level or above. Pre-registration is required, and the class is limited to 40 people.
The festival concludes with screenings of films selected from its film competition, at 7 p.m. Aug. 27. More than 100 films from 23 countries were submitted. Three outside judges watched all the submissions and rated them. Eleven films will be shown, and awards for best in show and audience favorite will be given at the end of the night.
Ferrell said one popular subject matter is the exploration of nature. One of the films, “Four Elements,” incorporates ideas about water, earth, air and fire.
The competition screening opens with a Dutch film, “Sink or Swim,” showing boys at play in an abandoned water park. “They have West Side Story moments of battling it out with towels. It’s very charming,” Ferrell said.
Another film, “Bhairavi Sky,” shows a woman of Indian descent and one of European descent dancing together against beautiful scenery.
“The background is gorgeous. I’m very excited to see those landscapes on a very large scale,” Ferrell said.
Festival passes are $20 (student) and $25 (general). Matinee screening tickets are $5 (student) and $10 (general). Evening screenings are $10 (student) and $15 (general).