The Sans Souci Festival of Dance Cinema — a cinematic celebration of innovative and intriguing choreography — kicks off with season premiere offerings at Museum of Boulder this weekend.
“We received over 400 submissions from artists on six continents, making this the most selective program we’ve ever screened,” said Michelle Bernier, the festival’s executive director. “We’re so lucky to be sharing 10 films in our main screening, plus four international films and three local films in installation, plus a virtual reality experience and two live performances.”
Sans Souci Festival of Dance Cinema has grown over the years, but the renowned event has humble roots. The first event took place at Boulder’s Sans Souci Mobile Home Park, in the early 2000s, where attendees gathered to take in local dance films projected on a white wall in a trailer.
Now, it has evolved into a world-renowned happening featuring stateside and international sections and attracting filmmakers and choreographers outside of Colorado.
For the season premiere dates, attendees will once again gather on the patio rooftop of Museum of Boulder to take in experimental and cutting-edge films under the stars.
“It is so fun to say it’s our 19th year because I think this season has a lot of anticipation naturally built into it,” Bernier said. “Of course it means we have many years under our belt and all this experience putting together an amazing show, but it also leaves a question lingering in the air as to how we’ll go even bigger and better for the big 20th anniversary next year. It’s exciting.”
Claudia Anata Hubiak — executive director of Boulder Ballet — contributed to the mix this year with “Before We Turned To Stone.” The film, part of the fest’s artist video installation, will be screened on the second floor of Museum of Boulder (in Mason’s Nook).
“‘Before We Turned To Stone’ portrays the manifestation of mind chatter and how enticing it can be to stay busy, avoid the stillness and buy into believing our thoughts,” Hubiak said.
In the four-minute short, viewers see dancers Carly Hambridge and Makaila Wallace, dressed in white, with undulating motions that tell a story of inner chaos — a circular loop of unrelenting inner dialogue that often takes one out of the present moment.
The film opens with Hambridge frantically writing on a sheet of framed glass, eventually the writing stretches to her limbs — perhaps a symbol of the ongoing to-do list that dominates the minds of many.
“Much of my inspiration in choreography and filmmaking comes from my Buddhist upbringing,” Hubiak said. “I strive to use movement as a physical embodiment of the active and fluid mind. My goal as a dancemaker is to incorporate mindful action into movement, being fully in the moment to enhance the creative process and produce dances and films that take a deep look into the genuine workings of the unguarded mind and heart.”
For Hubiak, like many of the creatives, the festival also presents an opportunity to revel in the work of her skilled peers.
“I am looking forward to seeing the range of fantastic dance films that Michelle (Bernier) and her team have curated this year,” Hubiak said. “The festival premiere at Museum of Boulder will be a great event.”
After the festival wraps, Hubiak will help Boulder Ballet gear up for its 40th season.
“I am hugely excited to be creating a world premiere for Boulder Ballet that will be presented in our winter concert, ‘New Moves’ alongside a fantastic lineup of all female choreographers including Twyla Tharp, Caili Quan, Makino Hayashi and Viki Psihoyos,” Hubiak said.
While this weekend attendees can marvel at the moves captured on camera, they will also have a chance to experience the artform on a deeper level. “5 Stages of Drowning” is a virtual reality offering from Ed Talavera, Konstantia Kontaxis, Dennis Scholl and Rosie Herrera.
“This film is really unique,” Bernier said. “It offers a 360-degree perspective, where some of the time you’re literally surrounded by dancers and need to look every which way to get the full experience. It explores climate change, but in a fully artistic and immersive way. It’s sort of Pina Bausch’s ‘Café Müller’ meets DV8 Physical Theatre. The movement is pedestrian, but poignant. So it’s avant-garde, but relatable.”
“5 Stages of Drowning” was designed and choreographed on location in Florida’s Little Haiti, East Little Havana/ Miami River and Virginia Key.
“Installations and virtual reality give people an intimate, up-close-and-personal way to experience the work, so they feel enveloped and touched by it,” Bernier said. “Wearing a VR headset, virtually surrounded by dancers, it’s hard not to feel like you’re one of them, perhaps tempted to sway, spin and dance along.”
For next year’s milestone anniversary, Bernier has already started to lay down plans.
“One big step we’ll be taking is to convert to a nonprofit,” Bernier said, “a long-time goal and something that better reflects the mission we’ve always had — to cultivate the form and field of dance film and spread the love for it in our local community.”
She wants to reinstate a platform that would allow for folks to create new works without worrying about the stress of funding.
“We’re also hoping to bring back our Community Dance Film Project, where local dancers, musicians and filmmakers are not only empowered but employed to make new films — with the festival helping to produce them,” Bernier said.
While the film festival remains a draw for dancers and those tied to the art form, it also has a universal appeal — resonating with audiences of all kinds.
“Dance is the common language we all share,” Bernier said. “I can’t tell you how many times I talk to an audience member after a screening and hear things like. ‘That one hit me,’ or, ‘I felt it,’ or, ‘It took my breath away.’ The act of witnessing dance isn’t just an audio-visual experience, it’s a kinesthetic one. We actually witness it by feeling it, which is such a vital source of energy and inspiration for our lives.”
Friday through Sunday, starting at 6:30 p.m., attendees can walk a red carpet, enjoy wine, food from T/aco and take in films on the Museum of Boulder’s rooftop as the sun starts to set.
Tickets start at $30.
From works filmed among cliffs and breaking waves to ones within bright, bare-boned studios, the locales are every bit a part of the magic as the well-crafted dance moves and costuming.
After the premiere weekend, folks can look forward to screenings of more dance films taking place in the coming months at Dairy Arts Center, The Collective in Lafayette and Arvada Center.
The third installment of Sans Souci Brazil — a week-long dance film festival, in Campinas, Sao Paulo — will take place Nov. 21-27.
“Dance on film is especially vital, because it gives us a more nuanced perspective,” Bernier said. “We can be close enough to see a dancer’s sweat or tears, making it feel intimate, then a moment later be so far away that they are a speck on the sand, reminding us how small we really are.”