Writing on Screendance and Moving Image — by Christinn Whyte
“The additional approach to screendance highlighted by the jury statement could be described as ‘screen choreography by other means’, or what academic, filmmaker and writer Douglas Rosenberg has described as ‘not dance for the camera, but dance by the camera’. This strategy was evident in Mariam Eqbal’s first prize winning Choreography for the Scanner, and Eqbal capitalised on the potentials of technical innovation, using monochrome stills – manipulated by visual noise patterning, glitches, and jumps – as the works’ raw material. An initial image of an ever-smiling young female in a cinch-waisted, off-the-shoulder gown, transformed into a grotesquely distorted elongation of arms, hands and fingers, before proliferating into a mirror-matching row of two-headed cut-out paper doll-style figures. A triptych of another young female, posing for camera with balletically stylised hand positioning, head inclined at an angle and pointe shoe-clad feet, fluctuated skirt length as though in response to the distant, Hawaiian-tinged guitar accompaniment. The Jury statements noted that the work raised ‘important questions related to memory and perceptions of dance, how dance is created, and who or what is dancing’ and concluded that Eqbal had succeeded in creating ‘a work engaged with the multiple histories of film, dance and visual practices upon which screendance is built’.
Finding the balance between access, education and entertainment is a difficult task. LIFF’s event has an undeniably ambitious agenda, combining screendance programming and audience building with the award of an individual prize. Both academically-oriented discourse and less formally-worded debate can be seen as positive engagement with a rapidly forward-moving artform, and forthcoming coverage by the International Journal of Screendance represents an important milestone, highlighting the competition’s significance within the wider screendance sector. In the event’s immediate aftermath, discussion on Social Media forums again provided a platform for a range of audience views, and as part of this ongoing dialogue, Marisa Hayes summed up the achievement of the events’ first two years of existence, outlining the judges criteria and stating that the prize should be awarded in response to ‘quality research that synthesizes strong images, movement and sound, but that it might also be awarded for its innovation and willingness to inspire dialogues in the screendance community. In that sense, I can see the prize is doing its job.”