USF Dance Shorts College Film Festival celebrates outstanding art students

Saturday's gala awarded top student submissions from across the country

The mobility and ubiquity of the online universe has totally transformed the way we get to experience art. Technology has relinquished dance, music and theater from the confines of the stage. The result — a collaboration between art forms that was not previously possible and the ability to document it.

Last April, Sharon McCaman created a short-film festival that celebrated the emerging presence of dance in film. McCaman and her mother constructed the term “techno-choreography” to describe the role that this generation’s fixation with technology plays in the dance world. The USF Dance Shorts Film Festival was innovative and successful enough to warrant a second go-around.

McCaman, who will graduate from USF with a BFA in Dance next month, created a website that allowed students from across the country to submit short dance films (narrative, experimental or abstract), ranging from 2 – 6 minutes long to be viewed and scored by four qualified adjudicators from across the country. The films were required to have been made in the last three years, submitted by either undergraduate or graduate students, and sponsored by either a faculty member or the institution the student attended during the filming of the short.

On Sat., April 18, a gala for the second USF Dance Shorts Film Festival at the USF School of Music Concert Hall featured the 12 highest-scoring short films submitted to this year’s festival. 

With the success of last year’s festival, McCaman was able to enlist a slew of creative folks to organize its follow-up.

“This year, we had a student organization, Dance.Film.Revolution, that was comprised of eight officers — including myself — to help put the entire event together, with each person playing a vital role to the success of the entire process and the event,” McCaman said. “Last year, I did almost everything on my own.”

All 12 shorts were shown at the gala before the top three entries (and audience’s choice) were revealed. The event was hosted by the delightfully funny Brynne Piesco and Giselle Muise, two students from the USF College of the Arts.

Still Light, choreographed, performed, directed and edited by Andrea Ward from the University of Florida (with cinematography by Matthew Deamud), tied Fenestra for third place. Shot entirely under water, the short film featured an astonishing amount of grace and control from Ward, who used her under-water weightlessness to create fluid, beautiful movement (with an exquisite soundtrack from the The Knife). Ward’s work went on to win Audience Choice later in the evening.

Directed, choreographed and performed by USF’s own Sarah Walston and featuring cinematography by McCaman, Fenestra also placed third. Walston’s solo performance was achy and honest, and her choreography fittingly incorporated the rusty and wooden scaffolding that surround her in the scene.

Choreographed, performed, directed, edited and costumed by Hannah Luckow of the University of South Florida, Ossify (which won second place) was a stunning demonstration of dance on film, taking place in an environment starkly different than the stage. Luckow (filmed by cinematographers Colleen Hanlon and Jessica Zizzo) performed a fluid, contemporary dance in a graveyard, her willowy body as powerful as the tree trunks surrounding her, and her tangled hair mimicking the movement of the moss.

The winner of this year’s festival, What Will Remain, was a social/environmental commentary that utilized brilliant cinematography and mesmerizing choreography to communicate a relevant message about responsible sustainability and consumerism. Choreographer Patty L. Solorzano from the University of Michigan submitted the piece, which feature performers Paula Modaferri and Alayna Baron and cinematography by Solorzano and David Olonoff. The short film was odd, enlightening and on an elevated plane in terms of production and vision.

From its humble conception a year ago as an endeavor executed almost solely by McCaman, the USF Dance Shorts Film Festival has grown into a beautiful showcase of diverse talent from every corner of the art world.

McCaman will attend Arizona State University to receive a MFA in Dance, Interdisciplinary Digital Media and Performance.

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