Flatlands Dance Film Festival moves online this year

By Carolina Garibay

This weekend, dancers, filmmakers and lovers of the arts will come together for a unique event that fuses the creative worlds of film and dance both engagingly and innovatively.

The Flatlands Dance Film Festival is an online short film festival presented by the Department of Dance at the University of Illinois dedicated to showcasing different types of dance and artists worldwide. According to Laura Chiaramonte, director and curator of the festival, it gives dance students a new way of working and provides the Champaign-Urbana community with a new way of consuming film and dance. 

“I think what I find so exciting about this type of work, being a dancer and a choreographer myself, is how dance and film have come together in this cohesive, copacetic way to make a new kind of film and also a new kind dance,” Chiaramonte said. 

Mark Rhodes, assistant director of the festival, helped start it seven years ago when he was on the Art Theater’s board and looked to find new ways to collaborate with the Champaign community. 

Since its inception, though, the festival has grown and reached members beyond those in the Champaign community. Rhodes said the festival has received submissions from more than 65 countries, and at least half of the films the staff chooses to show are from foreign countries. 

“It’s a great medium for merging film and dance, and my interest is sharing that with the community as a whole and expanding it as much as we can in terms of where we started seven years ago,” Rhodes said. 

The festival has reached an even wider audience than ever before due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the past, the festival had been presented in person in Champaign. However, this new live broadcast version of the event provides the festival with an even larger audience than just the Champaign community, Rhodes said. 

“We are going down a new path,” Rhodes said. “The Department of Dance is the first one who is doing a live stream event to share arts with our community and the community at large.” 

The transition to an online event has also forced artists to adapt their performances to a live online audience. Chiaramonte herself has had to figure out how exactly to broadcast this event. 

“It’s exciting to see, especially for this year with the festival going online as a live event, how we can connect with people outside our community but also bring in the artists,” Chiaramonte said. 

The festival starts on Friday night with three featured films to introduce the event, followed by a Q&A session, which will all be broadcasted live on Vimeo. Saturday marks the start of the competition portion of the festival, which will feature 16 films selected by judges out of about 650 submissions. After the films are shown, judges will choose a film to win the adjudicator award. Audience members are also invited to select their favorite film, which will be awarded an audience choice award. 

For those not familiar with the festival, Rhodes says to expect all sorts of dances, including animation, live movement, studio pieces, environment pieces, spoken word pieces and more. 

“It will challenge some people’s perception of what dance and film are,” Rhodes said. “It’s a wide gamut of what you’ll see, and hopefully, folks will walk away with a new appreciation of what dance and film can do.” 

Though this year’s festival has had to undergo some changes, if anything can overcome the unprecedented circumstances 2020 has brought, it’s the arts. 

“Artists are resilient and creative, and they think outside of the box, and we figure it out,” Chiaramonte said. “The arts will go on.” 

You can join this event Friday and Saturday on the Illinois Dance Vimeo page at vimeo.com/illinoisdance.