Frame Dance has kept dance films alive and well, before and during the pandemic – and now, as we come out of it

SPACE LEFT BLANK by Travis Clausen-Knight / courtesy of Frame x Frame Film Fest

While dance-on-film is a decades old genre, dance films saw an increase and became mainstream offerings during the pandemic.

“Every organization and individual dance artist had to embrace the concept of sharing dance digitally to keep it alive to share with those who enjoy and support the art form,” according to Dance/USA in a recent article that examined the impact of COVID-19 on the dance field.

Some artists saw the pandemic as an opportunity to launch full-fledged digital projects. In August 2020, choreographer and former Houstonian Trey McIntyre founded FLTPK (pronounced “flatpack”), a platform for streaming and crowd-funding dance films created around the world.

Locally, companies like Houston Ballet produced a series of digital dances for social media, in order to overcome the initial lockdowns and later the social distancing required for COVID safety – which made in-person dance, an art form that requires close contact, impossible.

But long before the pandemic made virtual dance performances a necessity, Frame Dance Productions had already been creating, supporting, and presenting dance films in Houston.

Founded in 2010 by Lydia Hance, the contemporary dance company also choreographs site-specific performances, collaborates with community partners, and offers classes.

Its annual Frame x Frame Film Fest was established in 2018 to showcase the best international dance works created for film. With an on-screen format seemingly perfect for quarantine, last year’s festival proceeded in the midst of COVID – held outdoors at the makeshift Houston Ballet Drive-In.

The 2021 Frame x Frame Film Fest will take place November 4 – 13 at the newly opened Frame Dance Studio, 2426 Bartlett St, Suite D in Houston.

With different programs curated for various nights, this year’s festival will include 40 screen dances from Australia, France, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States – including several by Houston choreographers.

The short films range from 28 seconds to 15 minutes, with dances imagined in the water, in the womb, in libraries and galleries, in drainpipes, and in suspended animation.

With the “widespread popularity of video and performance arts, and the recent dance and dance film acquisitions made by venerable arts institutions,” organizers said in a press release that they believe that dance for film will continue to see growth and significance.

And however artists and companies continue to embrace or evolve the use of digital dance works post-pandemic, dance films have had an unprecedented moment to give many people, who might not otherwise have attended a live performance, access to the art form.

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