5 Questions With Amy Michelle Wilkinson About The In/Motion Dance Film Festival
… the same careful and imaginative thought trajectory that you find in her choreography is just as much in evidence in The In/Motion Dance Film Festival.
One of the most promising developments the world of Concert Dance is the emergence of Dance Film as a new form of art, a new form of entertainment, and even as a new form of dance.
In 2020, the world of concert dance finds itself in many ways on the same threshold that the world of music crossed in 1960 or so. Although the ability to record and reproduce music had been around for decades before that, the technical challenges of making a recording sound like a concert dominated its development for years. But starting in the nineteen-fifties, people began to realize two things about recording music. One was that much of what is vibrant and engaging about being there with the performance got lost, no matter how sonically true the recording was. The other, which turned out to more than offset that first issue, was that producers and artists began to discover that recorded music had possibilities at least as vibrant and engaging, but very different, from what made a concert performance great.
Dance on film is at the very beginning of its discovery of those possibilities, but it’s a process that is being explored around the world by an uncounted number of artists. For lovers of dance, that’s an exciting prospect, but it brings with it some other problems. There is so much dance uploaded to online sites that keeping track of it all, or even a small part of it, is impossible, and the focus of all of that dance varies widely. Some of it is just front-of-house documentation of a concert, some of it is massively edited promotional content, some of it is really just raw rehearsal footage captured on somebody’s phone.
But some of it is brilliant, breathtaking, and not-to-be missed, and that’s where The In/Motion Dance Film Festival comes in. This year In/Motion, which Loyola University in Chicago hosts each year on its lakefront campus takes place on Saturday, February 22, 2020,. Again this year, In/Motion will present a collection of some of the best work in the art, carefully chosen based on the festival’s unique and forward-looking criteria. Perhaps best of all, the films are presented in the most engaging context possible — in a movie theater.
Amy Wilkinson is the Executive Director of The In/Motion Dance Film Festival. A gifted choreographer in her own right, she has an eye for community that is as refined as her eye for concert dance, and the same careful and imaginative thought trajectory that you find in her choreography is just as much in evidence in The In/Motion Dance Film Festival. We asked Amy to give us a look inside how the Festival comes together, and what we’ll see when we get there on February 22nd. Here’s what she told us:
… there is something fulfilling about seeing people come together shoulder to shoulder – body to body – to bear witness to the vulnerability and bravery that is required to make art.
Johnny Nevin: For a lot of people, going to a film festival of any kind could be a new experience, and when somebody starts wondering things like “where am I going”, “what happens when I get there” and “how long does it last”, it can get a little confusing. Would you mind giving us an Amy Wilkinson Guided Tour of what it’s going to be like when we go to the In/Motion Festival? Where is the festival, and what’s the facility like? Is it one event or are there different events to choose from? Do you stay for the whole thing, or is it more like a series of events and people show up at different times? In other words, what’s it like to go to In/Motion for the first time?
Amy Wilkinson: The In/Motion Dance Film Festival brings together Chicago’s vibrant dance and film communities to connect with national and international artists, fostering innovation in the presentation and creation of movement-based artworks. The Festival takes place on February 22nd at Loyola University Chicago’s beautiful Lakeshore Campus. You can get there easily by the red line (Loyola stop) or you can drive and park in one of the campus’ two parking garages. The first event of the day, our Local Artists Show & Tell, will be held at the Underground Theater in the Mundelein Center for the Performing Arts at 11:00 am and the two afternoon screenings will be held at the Damen Cinema in the Damen Student Center. A post-screening after party will be held at Ireland’s Pub downstairs from the Cinema. We encourage everyone to purchase an all-access pass which ensures entry to all the day’s events, so that participants have the richest experience watching and conversing about dance film. Those tickets can be purchased here: http://artsevents.luc.edu/dance.
Because In/Motion is a passion project, there is a lot of excitement as we approach the festival date.
Johnny: With any event as rich and multi-layered as In/Motion, there are always a lot of things that people only see if they’re part of the project. Often, though, it’s exactly those things that can be the most engaging to an audience — all the different activities that go into making something like In/Motion come together. What’s it like to be part of that, especially on the actual day of the Festival?
Amy: There is always a huge amount of administrative work that goes into building a festival like In/Motion and as the Executive Director I am so thankful for the incredible team that we have assembled. Sarah Cullen Fuller and Aaron Greer are working artists in dance and film respectively and their eye for curation has strengthened In/Motion’s programming year after year. Sarah Fluegel, also a performing dance artist, has taken on a big leadership role and works closely with our excellent interns Hannah Hinnerman and Haile Clifton on communication efforts. Because In/Motion is a passion project, there is a lot of excitement as we approach the festival date. Our guest artists, like this year’s Rachel Damen and Nora Sharp, always create a stir and bring a heightened energy to the spaces we occupy. And I would say that there is something fulfilling about seeing people come together shoulder to shoulder – body to body – to bear witness to the vulnerability and bravery that is required to make art. It’s something that can’t be replicated by watching dope YouTube videos on your laptop in the cozy but isolated confines of your own home.
In/Motion wants others to have those door-opening experiences as well and to make connections with people and ideas that otherwise might not be explored.
Johnny: In/Motion attracts artists and films from around the world, but does so in some ways that are quite unique. One of those is the emphasis on community and on real-life encounters with the artists who make the work shown at the Festival. What are some of the ideas that inspired this approach to presenting a film festival?
Amy: Our access to online content is changing the way that we consume culture. As a festival that explores the intersection of movement and technology, In/Motion doesn’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing; however, we are always looking for ways to encourage authentic and meaningful experiences. Those often occur IRL when people are proximate to each other. I have found that I care more about the dance films I watch when I’ve met the artists who have created them. I’m able to appreciate their processes and to marvel at their brains, grit, generosity, and courage. This pushes me to take risks in my own thinking/making endeavors and it opens the door to new collaborative possibilities. In/Motion wants others to have those door-opening experiences as well and to make connections with people and ideas that otherwise might not be explored.
… what’s more important for In/Motion is to have a space for conversation about the work. That allows us to learn from each other.
Johnny: In/Motion is hosted by Loyola University, so the entire context of the Festival has an educational component. But you go beyond that by addressing the value of the Festival for younger artists in some carefully constructed programs — can you tell us about some of those?
Amy: A priority for In/Motion has always been to support the work of students and first-time filmmakers. One of the ways we do this is by hosting an emerging artists’ screening. Young artists need to be able to share their work in order to get feedback, to reflect, and to move their own creative processes forward. Some emerging artists have tiny budgets with which to make films and in many festivals they’re competing against bigger more established makers. As any artist knows, getting your name out there in the public consciousness allows you to build social capital that can lead to more professional opportunities. That aside, what’s more important for In/Motion is to have a space for conversation about the work. That allows us to learn from each other. In addition to the screenings, we always offer the opportunity for emerging artists to gather with more established artists in the field. The dialogue between those groups is both instructive and inspiring.
We’re at a time of great political unrest and it’s our feeling that artists offer perspectives that speak to the richness of human experience.
Johnny: Perhaps the single most strikingly unique feature of In/Motion is the Festival’s focus not just on dance films, but even more emphatically on dance films that address issues of social justice and awareness. We’d love to learn more about this important aspect of what In/Motion is doing. How did this concept develop, and how has it added to the importance In/Motion experience?
Amy: All of us at In/Motion have come to realize that art, while perfectly valuable as escapism, also has the potential to amplify voices that are rarely heard, or in our case – to make bodies that are traditionally invisible in dance and on film – more visible. This means that we want to champion equity and inclusion when it comes to the people behind the camera, in front of the camera, on our grand jury panel, and in our audiences. We’re at a time of great political unrest and it’s our feeling that artists offer perspectives that speak to the richness of human experience. We therefore see ourselves as engaged citizens with a responsibility to use our platform to weigh in on the most pressing issues of our time – whether that’s environmental sustainability, disability and access, immigration, or war. Importantly, our approach is informed by Mary Verdi-Fletcher, the President and Founding Director of the Dancing Wheels Company. Her philosophy is to “lead with love.” I think that by connecting this idea to Doctora Aurora Chang’s Borderland Love Ethic Theory, we can “nurture love into spaces of contention” and subsequently transform the negatives around us into something else.
The In/Motion Dance Film Festival will take place on Saturday, February 22, 2020 on the campus of Loyola University, Chicago.
The IN/MOTION ALL ACCESS PASS is available online from Loyola University Arts Events.