Pittsburgh hosts new dance-to-film festival
A pandemic shift to online programming has inspired a local dance troupe to create what may be Pittsburgh’s first-ever dance film festival.
The Constructed Sight Dance Film Festival shares its name with Constructed Sight, the online dance short film platform created in 2020 by Shana Simmons Dance. It begins Friday, March 11 with a one-night, in-person opening event featuring a dozen films at the Attack Theater in Lawrenceville. It continues online until March 20, with 50 films from 20 countries.
Constructed Sight began as a way for the troupe to create dance films inspired by local public artwork, says company founder Shana Simmons. He soon began accepting applications from outside Pittsburgh, including overseas. The festival, hosted by Simmons, Jamie Erin Murphy and Brady Sanders, was a natural next step.
The submission process was quite long. “We had about 120 films that we watched from around the world. And we reduced that number to 50 international films,” Simmons said.
Films come from as far away as Israel, Finland and the UK. One is inspired by body parts seen in Zoom meetings, she said.
No theme was required of the participants. “Some are entertaining and funny. Some are just breathtaking. Some are really meaningful and might make you cry. So it kind of runs the gamut,” Simmons said.
However, she said, entries by Simmons Dance members continued to draw inspiration from public artwork and other landmarks. Simmons’ dance work takes place at “Cloud Arbor,” the installation of tall metal poles that intermittently spray mist, near the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. Murphy’s is a tribute to the church doors of Pittsburgh. Sanders’ film is inspired by a large modernist sculpture along the South Side Riverfront Trail.
Attack Theater is also contributing a film.
Simmons herself said that taken together, the films reflect how the pandemic has changed the world of dance film.
“Whether it’s a made-for-cinema dance film or a creatively filmed dance piece, I think it pushed dance a lot more in those two genres,” she said. declared.
Simmons’ company, for example, was one of four companies in a 2021 project called Virtual Dance Exchange, for which artists created three works shot in a 360-degree format. Using a phone, a computer or a virtual reality headset, the public was able to “walk” through the performance space during the course of the show.
Simmons added that the online/in-person hybrid nature of the Constructed Sight festival could be a model for future events, pandemic or otherwise. “I think there’s a way to do both and mix the two,” she said.
On Friday, March 11, the kickoff, with red carpet, will take place at the Attack Theater space, 212 45th St., in Lawrenceville. More information here.