Just like a music video is a creative medium built around a song, dance cinema is an art form unto itself constructed around choreography.
Unless you follow contemporary dance, you likely haven't seen any of these, but Missoula is home to its own festival: Kinetoscope, courtesy of Bare Bait dance company and the Roxy Theater.
The hybrid art form fixes an inherent problem with dance performance. It's made to be seen live, and attempts to preserve it through a recording (often through stationary cameras) don't translate the energy.
The dance cinema, meanwhile, places directors and cinematographers on more equal footing. Camera angles and effects matter just as much as choreography.
The festival, now in its fifth year, features screening blocks of nine filmed pieces plus two live hybrid dances.
The show starts with the two hybrids, performed by the Bare Bait company and choreographed by two guests, Logan Prichard and Carissa Lund. Prichard is a University of Montana dance student and Lund is a recent graduate. For Prichard's piece, there's a video introduction that segues into a live performance onstage. Lund, meanwhile, will use video as a backdrop.
Bare Bait founder and co-director Joy French shot a dance film herself with the Bare Bait company. Set on a dirt road in Frenchtown, the piece sets one dancer alone, then doubled onscreen with visual effects. She's heading in different directions, seemingly conflicted. She's joined by more dancers, who perform to a "wine, women and song" country tune. They're clad in what look like "house dresses, like they just ran out of their farmhouse to go chase down their men," French said. Like much of her choreography, it comments on empowerment using nostalgia and humor.
French traveled to the Sans Souci Festival of Dance Cinema in Colorado and was given her pick of national and international films for Kinetoscope.
Katherine Mcnaughton (direction) and Ashley Werhun (cinematography) set duets in a city park, with underlying themes of technological alienation and human relationships, French said. Olivia Dwyer used a fake streetlight blinking on and off to construct her piece. Site-specific pieces are popular: "Separate Sentences" takes place in and comments on prisons in the United States. (In their case, an abandoned prison). For "Amuse," Ivo van Aart (direction) and Jonne Covers (choreography) bring an elegant dance into a large, busy restaurant.
"Take Your Time" was choreographed so that it could be shot and played backward, while staying visually intriguing, French said.
The closing film, a Finnish piece called "Cold Storage," circles back to the humorous tone of French's piece. Not to give too much away, but the piece involves two bearded men in a yurt during wintertime drinking cheap beer and dancing in a manner that's simultaneously too weird and too complex to have been improvised. The music is played by an accordion and an extinct species makes a cameo, and if you enjoy the Coen Brothers you'll probably like it.