When Kristen Brogdon moved to Wilmington from Chicago last year to take the job as executive director of UNCW Presents, she immediately met with Cucalorus director Dan Brawley to immerse herself into Wilmington’s creative community. Though she had just missed the 20th annual film festival, she knew she wanted to be a part of its massive artistic reach. As it happened, Brawley was looking for a Dance-a-lorus coordinator for the 21st festival.
“I signed on right away,” remembers Brodgon, who received her masters in arts administration and worked as director of dance programming at the Kennedy Center in D.C. for nine years. “It was a great way for me to meet creative people here in Wilmington, especially dance makers and filmmakers.”
Though Brogdon worked with several dance-specific festivals before, this will be her first curating the art of movement with the art of moving pictures. The collaboration has fascinated her thus far. “I’m a bit of a process geek,” she tells, “so it’s been fun for me to learn how the process of making a film differs from that of making a dance.”
Thirteen pieces will be shown and will be performed by choreographers and dancers in the locally run Dance Cooperative. “Several are Dance-a-lorus regulars, some are performing in the festival for the first time,” Brogdon says.
We interviewed the curator to get a better idea of what to expect of Cucalorus’ opening-night performance, which takes place at the historic Thalian Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 11.
encore (e): Are all pieces new works? What styles of dance will we see?
Kristen Brogdon (KB): Most of these pieces are new, but several of them are further developments of pieces seen in Wilmington in a different setting. Anne Firmender and Linda Ann Webb have teamed up with their long-time collaborators Dylan Patterson and Patrick Ogelvie to create enhanced collaborative versions of the works they premiered in the Wilmington Dance Festival earlier this year.
Karola Lüttringhaus makes her Dance-a-lorus premiere with a new version of one of her solos that features animation as both a backdrop to and lighting source for her movement.
Most of the dance will be contemporary, and that encompasses a lot of different movement styles and creative processes. Some of the pieces tell a story, and some are very abstract. Some of the movement is more pedestrian, some is more classical, and some has urban hip-hop influences. There’s also a bit of musical theater-style jazz at the end of the program.
This year we also extended the program to include dance, which means that two of the pieces were developed as part of a Summer Dance Residency Program last year, and another two of the pieces are shorter versions of works that we expect to continue supporting throughout the next year.
e: How did choreographers and filmmakers pair up? What was the process?
KB: Several of these pairs—Linda and Patrick, Anne and Dylan, as well as Daniel Smith and Patrick McGee with Adam Getz, and Amber Patee Adams with Nick Westfall—have worked together in the past. We also have several choreographers who are filmmakers. That’s one of the functions Dance-a-lorus has had over its 10-year history: developing the skill set of choreographers who are filmmakers in their own right and create movement specifically for the camera. Harper Piver, Sarah Kinlaw, and Karola fall into this group.
Earlier this year, a number of choreographers came to Cucalorus with requests for assistance in finding film collaborators. Natalie, the programming coordinator for Cucalorus, reached out to filmmakers who she and Dan thought would be interested and willing, and we put together a resource list for choreographers with contact information and work samples. I know that’s how Grace Ojeda and Ava Lowery found each other—possibly others as well.
e: Can you tell me about some of the films shown here; how are they interpreted/represented via movement?
KB: Dance-a-lorus really requires its filmmakers to integrate their films seamlessly into the choreography, so rather than seeing the film interpreted or represented onstage, we think of it as a dialogue between the choreography and the film. The great thing is that this can work well in lots of different ways. Occasionally, the film will be a beautiful backdrop to the dance, adding visual interest or depth to the movement. Sometimes you will see interaction between characters onstage and characters onscreen, sharing movement phrases or “responding” to one another (even though the film might be pre-recorded). In one of the pieces—and this has happened in past festivals, too—instead of using one screen at the back of the stage, the filmmaker and choreographer have moved the projections into the stage space or even into the audience. When it works really well, the collaboration is seamless and you can’t imagine the dance without the film, and vice-versa.