S.F. dance film fest a wild, beautiful ride 

click to enlarge Local interest: “Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance” follows the story of the Joffrey Ballet, which premiered important works in the Bay Area. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Local interest: “Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance” follows the story of the Joffrey Ballet, which premiered important works in the Bay Area.

Greta Schoenberg, director of the San Francisco Dance Film Festival, has impeccable timing. On the heels of director Win Wenders’ wildly popular tribute to German postmodern choreographer Piña Bausch, fans left hungry for more dance films are sure to get their fill at the festival, running today through Sunday.

 Now in its third year, the festival — showing films at the Delancey Screening Room, Ninth Street Independent Film Center and San Francisco Film Society Cinema — has attracted more than 150 entries from 20 countries.

“Each year the bar has been raised,” Schoenberg says. “Digital technology has become more accessible, and it’s especially exciting to see how quickly the genre is growing.”

The genre sparks passionate debate, depending upon which side of the camera you sit. Purists want the big picture, to see the entire proscenium exactly as would the theater audience.

But most filmmakers become part of the creative process, and this festival promises something for everyone. “We have both straightforward films and those that are more abstract, like dance poems,” Schoenberg says.

Among the feature-length films is an adaptation of Belgian choreographer Ann Van den Broek’s “Co(te)lette.” Not for the kids, the film, screening at 9 p.m. Saturday, is the subject of recent controversy for its unflinching look at female sexuality.

“It’s a real visceral ride” Schoenberg says.

“Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance,” at 6 p.m. Sunday, follows the company from its barely-eking-out-an-existence beginnings to its status as a groundbreaking icon. “They have a strong Bay Area connection — they did some very important premieres in Berkeley in the 1960s,” she says. (The movie also screens at 7 p.m. Monday at the Balboa Theatre.)

Other features are “Claude Bessy, Lignes d’une Vie” (“Traces of a Life”) at 8 p.m. Friday, in which the dance mistress of the Paris Opera Ballet recalls her 32-year career, including work with Gene Kelly; and “Never Stand Still,” an exhilarating, award-winning documentary about Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, featuring every kind of dance form imaginable in rapid, kinesthetically gripping visuals. The film opens the festival after a 6 p.m. reception today at the Delancey Screening Room.

 For dance fans, it’s worth the price of admission alone for the Q-and-A with directors and key figures such as Bessy, Joffrey Director Ashley Wheater and San Francisco Ballet principal dancer Sofiane Sylve.

A “Screendance Shorts” series Friday and Saturday offers 11 brief films by local and international artists from Hungary, Israel, Mexico and Sweden. They include Simon Birman’s Fellini-esque “Love Song”; John T. Williams’ “Black Train Is Coming,” which pairs a 1920 recording of a sermon by the Rev. J.M. Gates, warning of the wages of sin, with visuals of modern-day flex-and-turf dance; and “Two Seconds After Laughter,” a poetic narrative describing immigrants’ journeys and their longing for home.

San Francisco Dance Film Festival

Where: Ninth Street Independent Film Center, 145 Ninth St., S.F.

: 6 p.m. today and Sunday (at locations below); 7 p.m. Friday; 5:30 p.m. Saturday

: $10 to $100

: www.sfdancefilmfest.org

Note: Today’s opening program is at the Delancey Screening Room; 600 Embarcadero, S.F., Sunday’s closing event is at the San Francisco Film Society Cinema, 1746 Post St., S.F.

About The Author

Andrea Pflaumer

Andrea Pflaumer

Andrea Pflaumer is a Berkeley-based author and journalist and former dancer who writes dance and arts previews for the San Francisco Examiner. She has just published her first book: Shopping for the Real You.
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