A still from the film A Town with a Blue Hill by Joowon Song
A still from the film A Town with a Blue Hill by Joowon Song

Brighton Screendance Festival 16-19 Nov

Brand new festival takes joy of movement from stage to cinema

A brand-new festival of dance on film is launching in Sussex on Wed 16 – Sat 19 Nov. As part of its first season in The Dance Space, South East Dance are presenting Brighton Screendance in association with CINECITY The Brighton Film Festival, University of Brighton and Worthing Theatres.

Set over four days, this innovative new event coincides with the charity’s 25th anniversary year. It explores the past, present and future of dance on screen, showcasing its inventive and experimental mix of movement, choreography and the moving image.

“South East Dance was originally created as a screendance agency, to support the development and raise the profile of choreography and dance made specially for the screen,” says artistic director Cath James. “So screendance is in our DNA. And knowing that The Dance Space was coming down the line, I have wanted to launch Brighton Screendance festival for many years.” She points out the serendipity of opening a state-of-the-art facility just as the country emerges from lockdown. So many dancers and choreographers embraced presenting dance for the screen, as they had little to no opportunities to make and present work live in rehearsal spaces or theatres. 

“So, with so many more people interested in making dance – I mean you just have to take a second to look on TikTok at all the young people making dance for the very small screens – it feels absolutely the right moment to launch the new festival.”

A still from the film The World Is Made for me by Roswitha Chesher

From the ballet barre to the silver screen, The Dance Space has established a place where dance can be experienced in all its forms, so it feels right for them to return to their roots and launch Brighton Screendance Festival. James, alongside Claudia Kappenberg and Charles Linehan, have curated a very special celebratory event. The new festival features special screenings of acclaimed independent films made locally and around the world, roundtable discussions with industry experts, as well as a day in which children and young people can watch and create screendance. 

One major strand of the festival is Scenes from South East Dance Past and Present on Weds 16 Nov, which explores the wealth of archival material held by South East Dance. This includes work made with organisations like Channel 4 and the British Council, as well as recent commissions by ground-breaking artists such as Alexandrina Hemsley, whose latest film, Maelstrom Under Glass, is currently touring cinemas nationally.

“Selecting the films from the archive was a brilliant experience,” says James. “We are always keen to involve our Community Steering Group in our programming decisions, and so asked them to co-curate this with me.” Together, the panel gathered films from 2002 to 2012, with the intention of platforming the rich array of films from the archive, and the astonishing scope of artist interests and practices in making films during this period. “So, it is a diverse range of films, from the age of the dancers on screen, to the genre of dance, the range of techniques used on screen and the length of films. So that we had something truly diverse and representative of the South East Dance archive. There are some local legends in there too – the likes of Liz Aggiss and Mim King…”

On Thurs 17 Nov, Never Stop Moving presents audiences with a chance to watch the best of contemporary screendance from around the world. The evening is curated by renowned choreographer Charles Linehan and features highlights from the London International Screendance Festival, of which he is director and producer. It seems that dance intersects extremely well with cinema, both generating a compelling sense of wonder through movement. “Film is moving image – dance is also moving image, the body has this incredible ability to transmit emotion, feeling and sensation, it’s so visceral, and with dance on screen, the camera can move in and get so close to parts of the body, to the detail, the uncurling of a finger, a slowly closing eyelid, that you can’t do in a more traditional theatre setting. The audience can immerse themselves in the music and the images, without having to understand a narrative.”

South East Dance has always been a collaborative organisation, with strong partnerships across the city, regionally and nationally, which neatly folds into the growing trend of artists and curators forming stronger ties across disciplines. Screendance Brighton is working in association with film festival Cinecity, which also takes place this month, because that makes absolute sense. The University of Brighton is also a key partner.

Screendance researcher and Principal Lecturer at Brighton University’s School of Art and Media, Claudia Kappenberg curates Screendancing Histories on Fri 18 Nov. This presents a roundtable discussion on screendance’s relationship with history. Later that evening is, Acts of Memory, which features films curated by Kappenberg and includes the Brighton premiere of Siobhan Davies’ new film Transparent, which will be simultaneously screened at The Connaught Cinema by Worthing Theatres.

A still from the film From Where I’m Standing by Gravity & Levity

Brighton resident Charles Linehan, the curator and director of London International Screendance Festival, is also bringing together the international evening, including a loose ‘best of’ from his London festival. “And with Worthing Theatres now programming more dance, and building their dance audiences, we wanted to bring them into an experiment where we livescreen the same programme at the same time in The Dance Space and in the Connaught in Worthing.” 

Sat 19 Nov is dedicated to exploring screendance’s future. Screentime: Dance Films & Play for Kids invites children aged 4-9 and their adults to watch, play, move and be inspired by dance films. The afternoon welcomes young people aged 14-19 to the Filmmaking for Young Dancers workshop, with professional screendance maker Jo Cork, to learn how to make their own films.  

An arts charity working with dance professionals and people across the region, South East Dance’s simple mission is to make the South East a thriving home for dance. It supports dance artists who specialise in all forms, from breakdancing to ballroom, with funding, tailored advice and networking opportunities throughout their careers. As passionate believers in the health and wellbeing benefits of dance, they also work hard to bring movement to as many people as possible, particularly those who might not have had the opportunity or the confidence to become involved before.

In June 2022 they opened The Dance Space in Brighton’s new Circus Street development, which has become the South East’s new home for dance. Now they provide a packed programme of activities, with the current timetable offering over 30 classes for different ages and abilities, and work with teachers from a whole range of dance disciplines including salsa, contemporary, Indian, tango, movement classes for boys, Pilates and more.

Now, with Brighton Screendance Festival, South East Dance are offering a chance for even more people to delve into the diverse and dynamic world of dance on screen. The hope is to encourage others to feel intrigued, elated, joyous, and potentially a passion to make their own screendances. And they’re looking to the next generation to take things into the future. “We want to have a youth strand of films next year, and so in order to kick that off, we are hosting a screendance workshop during the festival for 14 – 19-year-olds to come along and learn some techniques from a professional. Then hopefully next year we will have some fab work from our local young people.”

Brighton Screendance Festival comes to Brighton’s The Dance Space and Worthing Theatres on Weds 16 – Sat 19 Nov. For more information and tickets, head to: www.southeastdance.org.uk 

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