Drexel University Dance Ensemble and FreshDance present Dance Film Concert

Drexel Dance Ensemble and FreshDance present Dance Film Concert, a film screening of nine unique and inventive dance works. The choreographers include Philadelphia dance artists, Drexel Faculty and two alumni, with films created by internationally-known video artists. The collection of films are available for online viewing on the Department of Performing Arts website at https://drexel.edu/performingarts/dance/dance-ensemble/. The films will be shown on Drexel University’s campus during the outdoor spring performance, “Sites of Dance” on June 3-6, 2021 at 8:30pm ET (performance begins at 6:30pm ET). Tickets can be purchased at www.drexelperformingarts.com.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Drexel Dance Ensemble and FreshDance companies transitioned to create work through film as performances in the Mandell Theater were no longer possible. The priority remained to make compelling dance to keep dancers dancing and artists creating. With a collective of 87 dancers, artists, and production and administrative staff spread across the country, choreographers and dancers created works through a two-dimensional lens over Zoom, a challenging task for any dance artist who is used to a physical practice and making dances with bodies in spaces.

In early 2021, company dancers and visual artists returned to the Mandell Theater and other sites in Philadelphia with safety measures in place to film the nine works. Each piece had just fifteen hours for production elements to be pulled together, in-person rehearsals, and filming. Olive Prince, Director of the Drexel Dance Ensemble and FreshDance, shares, “Times are difficult, and it is particularly challenging for dancemaking. The dancers and professional artists have taken shifting terrain in stride. The simple, yet heroic act of showing up to the process and art form that we love became our work. I do not think we are powerless. I hope the sense of perseverance and adaptation, helps our students remember that small acts of artmaking, self-expression, and creativity can fuel good in the world.” 

Dance Film Concert includes works choreographed by Albert Quesada, Ali Willingham, Drexel dance faculty Miriam Giguere, Valerie Ifill, Caroline O’Brien, and Sandra Parks, and company alumni Alexandra Lodise and Kathryn Schweingruber, who remounted previously staged works from 2019 for the screen. Also featured is choreographer Gabrielle Revlock, 2020 Ellen Forman Memorial Award winner. The Ellen Forman Memorial Award is sponsored by the Philadelphia Foundation.

Each choreographer collaborated with one of three film artists—Jorge Cousineau, Tori Lawrence, and Brittany Fishel—to explore the possibilities among the limitations and bring together their artistic visions.

While distanced, with many never having met in person, the companies maintained a sense of community throughout, an important core value of Drexel Dance. FreshDance member Grace Fisher says, “In many ways, this has been a very isolating time so it’s especially important to me that we’ve been able to form a close-knit community.”

For more information about Dance Film Concert, please visit the Drexel Dance Ensemble website at https://drexel.edu/performingarts/dance/dance-ensemble/. Be sure to follow Drexel Dance on social media for updates on the film’s release.

Photo credits: Johanna Austin