Flatlands Dance Film Festival ushers in dance department’s 50th year


Photo Courtesy of Flatlands Film Festival

The Flatlands Dance Film Festival will kick off the 50th anniversary season of the University of Illinois dance department Aug. 31 to Sept. 1 at the Spurlock Museum.

By Olivia Welshans, Staff Writer

The University dance department will begin its 50th anniversary season at the Flatlands Dance Film Festival, where the Midwest premiere of the feature film, “If the Dancer Dances,” will be shown.

The festival will showcase the work of artists and provide students an educational opportunity in the arts, Rebecca Ferrell, the festival director and curator, said in an email.

“I think it’s just like visiting an art gallery or a seeing piece of musical theatre or any of art’s genres: there’s always something to be learned, and that is what makes the arts so amazing,” Ferrell said.

Entering its fifth year, the film festival’s Short Films Competition Program will screen 15 short films, selected from over 460 submissions from 59 countries.

Ferrell said narrowing the submissions to a 90-minute program can be a huge task, but she is grateful to Mike Rhodes, assistant director of the festival, and the judges for the time they donated.

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“As we strive to present stellar performances on our stages, we recognize the vast potential for the choreographic to infuse the cinematic,” Ferrell said.

The film to be premiered, “If the Dancer Dances,” shows three members of the former Merce Cunningham Dance Company teaching Cunningham’s 1968 work, “Rainforest,” to the Stephen Petronio Company.

As it is the department’s anniversary, Ferrell said she wanted to select a film that was connected to the department’s history. She said she was lucky to find “If the Dancer Dances,” as the department has performed reconstructions of Merce Cunningham’s masterworks in the past.

Cunningham, awarded an honorary degree in 1972, was the first artist-in-residence for the University’s dance program, and his company often traveled to campus for residencies and performances.

“To find a film that connected both Cunningham and reconstructions was incredible. It’s the perfect way to kick off our 50th anniversary season,” Ferrell said.

The festival runs from Aug. 31 to Sept. 1 at the Spurlock Museum. Tickets, purchasable at the door, will cost $10 for general admission and $5 for students and senior citizens.

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