Written By Gina Margillo
February 9, 2024 at 11:12 AM

Although dance on screen has been around for roughly a century, there has been an explosion of productions over the last twenty years. Increased access to technology, dancer’s pandemic-related need to create digitally, and the boundless possibilities of the genre, account for this glorious proliferation of work.

Some film festivals that present dance for camera work have narrowly defined the genre, ignoring the full continuum of dance expression. On one end of that continuum are films with choreography from recognizable genres such as ballet, modern, or tap dance.

On the opposite end of the continuum, are films that deconstruct dance into more abstract forms and allow for a much looser definition of dance. Somewhere in the middle you might find documentaries about the dance world (biographies, history), narratives that include movement, musicals, and hybrids of the aforementioned styles.

The beauty of ScreenDance Miami, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary, is that the chosen films represent the full range of movement-based storytelling.

ScreenDance 2024 was no exception. Curator Pioneer Winter chose films that stretch the definition of the dance on camera. Winter says, “I believe that dance transcends traditional boundaries, existing in forms as subtle as body language and as grand, spectacular gestures.”

“Ana [Morphia]” (4:36, Puerto Rico), by Ana Sanchez Colberg is a good example of that more abstract work on one extreme of the spectrum. We see only a continuous, tight shot of the dancer’s face, bathed in a bright, white light that often blurs her features. The movement of her pupils, and mouth and the shapes made by her fingers that cover her face, create the choreography. The film sets a new reference point for what is considered dance on camera.

Moving towards the center of the spectrum are films that utilize spoken or written text, gestures that read like sign language, and movement for storytelling. These include, “Incise Out” (26:00, France/Lebanon), by Dalia Naous, and “Carmen” (4:36, Miami), by Carla Forte and Alexey Taran.

In “Incise Out”, female dancers in white slips undulate, convulse, plop into chairs and rise quickly, their fingers tap and scrape the furniture to reference physical and emotional scarring. These scenes are mixed with tight shots of aggressive pounding of dough and the chopping of vegetables–the movement of the blade is a dance unto itself. We hear testimonies of their traumas and resilience in transforming their scars into “drawings” and “horizons.”

In “Carmen”, we watch the dancer, also dressed in a white slip, move through a liberation from their ego. The accompanying text guides we viewers to understand and celebrate this metamorphosis, and encourages us to do the same.

Many of this year’s selections incorporated the concept of place. In “Thick Skin” (2:51, Colombia), by Laura Steiner, dancers contort, leap, and collapse their way through the streets of Bogota. Their movements act out a narration that speaks to the exhilaration and exasperation of everyday life in that city.

In “Urban Genesis” (18:00, France/Vietnam), by Fu Le, a woman returns to her village in Vietnam only to find that the factories have closed, the elders have gone, and her childhood sweetheart has moved to the city. The film initially presents as a narrative, with movement organically, almost unexpectedly appearing into the storytelling. When the dance movement begins, it’s used to express the melancholy and longing of the protagonist for something that doesn’t exist anymore.

“The Noise My Leaves Make” (6:56, England), by Tia Monique Uzor, follows three Black British women as they joyfully claim the Leicestershire countryside– an area that was once denied to them, as their own. Their toes knead the soil, their bodies caress the grass, run through the foliage, and submerge in the water.

On the more traditional end of the spectrum is “Travelers” (18:00, Miami), by Ariel Rose and Skyler Campbell. Dancers perform ballet in a series of indoor and outdoor settings to reflect the emotions of a musician who has been trapped at home due to Covid.

In “Moth” (5:17, North Carolina), by Kate Weare, one dancer holds a lantern, whose light dictates the movements of a second dancer. The choreography is clearly defined as modern dance vernacular.

Overall, Winter’s curation shares innovative and well executed works that remain relevant and attuned to our cultural and social realities. This makes the ScreenDance Miami a broader and more inclusive event, setting it apart from other festivals. is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music, and more. Don’t miss a story at


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