Summertime is nostalgic for all. The sun’s out, school’s out, and bodies are moving with so much more ambition and intention. Whether from the summer heat or the mere passion of summer life, there’s always something to do and somewhere to go!

Annually, American Dance Festival takes advantage of the anticipated excitement of summer festivities by premiering well-curated onstage and film performances that highlight both emerging and established modern dance companies across America. This is nothing new for the organization, now in its 89th season and growing exponentially as the years progress!

ADF’s film performances, titled comprehensively as Movies by Movers, contributed to their running objective to celebrate the conversation between the body and the camera, bringing awareness to the art of live movement and the perpetual nature of film. The first series of films was entitled Go Outside! Films in and About Nature. Works included: The Calling by Jeff Schick, Rite of Passage by Olivia Griselda, Liminality by Jennifer Akalina Petuch and Annali Rose, IXCHEL by Ana Baer and Rocio Luna, WILD by Lindsay Gauthier, and Navigation by Marlene Millar.

Seeing how each artist leveraged live film to magnify the nuances of their performances was awe-inspiring. Even more resonant than the storytelling were the set choices for each story. The films set in and around nature felt less like recordings of the status quo and more like conversations. The natural geographical elements of each film were reminders that nature is as nature does. The artists embraced the idea that to truly create is to surrender to the force of organic exploration that drives all creative inspiration. Needless to say, I was inspired.

Below are summaries of what I found to be the three most impactful pieces of the Films in and About Nature series:  The Calling, Rite of Passage, and Liminality.  For more information about the day’s entire lineup, including other categories in ADF’s Movies by Movers series, you can access the program HERE.

The aesthetic of Schick’s The Calling was enthralling. The forest setting accompanied by the rhythmic beats and a cappella music was quite luring. But, what really topped the cake was the synchronicity of the cast and the kaleidoscopic effect that created an almost trippy outcome. The entire piece felt like a memory, as if the dancer’s movements were somehow engulfed by the mystifying nature of the tree. The main character seemed to be guided by a force of some sort into a pool of dancers adorned in green clothing and green paint from the fingertips up to their elbows. The cast manipulated their bodies in such a way that the force seemed too strong to resist. It’s worth adding that the main character supported the audience’s experience by maintaining the “stakes,” tightening the dramatic tension like pulling a rubber band. The dancer held the illusion of someone being overtaken by the force of nature by maintaining a lucid stare throughout the piece, making sure not to divert attention. The drama of this piece was quite enticing, and the seamless cinematography made it all the more worth viewing.

True to the nature of a film festival, each film premiered one after the other. Promptly following Schick’s The Calling, Olivia Griselda’s Rite of Passage premiered, exhibiting nothing less than the title promised. This piece had me constantly wondering what would happen next, as does the uncertainty of nature. While the solo dancer navigated through what seemed a fleeting conversation with the nature of time and self, I found myself pulled in by a yearning desire to somehow assist him in making a decision - whether to stand against the flow of time or to go with and accept it. The piece brought up personally relevant questions about an artist’s acceptance of themselves and their journey. As the short film reached a conclusion, so did I: we are invited to actively create as the artists we are, despite perceptions of lack of skill or even lack of time. The film reinforced that we should enjoy the moment, and everything created from enjoyment will manifest in due time.

Another astounding set choice came in Liminality, which was filmed underwater! This piece left me with questions like no other. The first question simply led me to conduct a bit of research on where the inspiration came from to create an underwater dance piece. Turns out, dancer Annali Rose used her imagined subtext for the enigmatic Odette character from the classic ballet Swan Lake as the basis for her choreography. Liminality, according to Rose, is an ode of consideration to what Odette may have done following her final dive (death?) into the lake. A story of disenchantment, self-discovery, and transformation, it was a magical experience to observe. I’m sure it was even more exciting to perform!

I have a feeling that ADF has some more exciting events planned in the coming weeks, as their season ends not for a few more weeks. Be sure to check out ADF’s on film series on Saturdays through July 16. Further details can be found HERE. The film series edition does not repeat showings, but no matter which date you choose, you’re sure to experience hours of inspiration that you won’t want to miss!