Dance Camera West festival celebrates the genre with films

Still from the movie "Weightless" directed by Erika Janunger and screening as part of the Dance Camera West film festival taking place around town.
(Erika Janunger / Weightless / Dance Camera West)

A man balances atop an electrical tower, a corpse delicately morphs back to life on a coroner’s table, and a Zimbabwean cuts a graceful silhouette against the desert horizon: The films in this year’s Dance Camera West festival testify that dance and choreography refuse to be confined to a theater. As Lynette Kessler, founding director of Dance Camera West, puts it, “Dance isn’t just onstage, dance is everywhere.”

Celebrating the “screendance” genre, the Dance Camera West festival kicks off this weekend with its eighth year of screenings. More than 30 films -- most made independently -- will be screened at half a dozen L.A. venues during the three-week fest.

Kessler became mesmerized by dance on film after MTV emerged in the early 1980s. This year’s lineup begins Friday night at REDCAT with nine experimental shorts. Director Ayelen Liberona will premiere “Becoming,” a film with a painterly aesthetic and a protagonist who is part woman and part praying mantis, scuttling over rocks and leaping through a cornfield. In Erika Janunger’s “Weightless,” two dancers overcome gravity, writhing up walls with unrelenting surrealism.

A post-screening party at REDCAT will follow Friday’s program. The fest resumes the next night at REDCAT with selected experimental films, including the tension-heavy “Of the Heart,” which features two middle-aged dancers in a barren field, engaged in tentatively romantic gestures; and “En Cadena,” a proletariat ballet set in a factory.

On June 13, the Skirball Cultural Center will host a screening of “The Drawing Room,” which explores the macabre topic of Transylvanian death rituals. Also on June 13, the Hammer Museum hosts the documentary “American Masters Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About,” which reflects on the life and Cold War controversies of the famed “West Side Story” choreographer.

After several panel discussions and a tango lesson in Van Nuys, the festival wraps up June 21, when the Autry National Center of the American West spotlights two documentaries on the tribal performances of indigenous North Americans.

Looking toward technology and the evolution of screendance, Kessler says with excitement, “I don’t know where this medium is heading. We’re really just starting.”

Dance Camera West Eighth Annual Film Festival Where: Various L.A. venuesWhen: Friday through June 21Price: Free to $15Contact: (213) 480-8633 or