Art film meets dance at Oklahoma Dance Film Festival

This year's program features more than 20 films from around the world, presented on Sunday at the Central Library.


A still from "The Return," directed by Komrakova Liudmila, one of the selected films at Oklahoma Dance Film Festival.

Courtesy OKDFF

Attention, all Tulsa dancers, dance aficionados and film lovers. Sunday, Feb. 24 may feature the 2019 Academy Awards, but did you know you can opt for fascinating films locally on the same day? Pirouette to the free Oklahoma Dance Film Festival in Aaronson Auditorium at the downtown Tulsa Central Library.  

More than 23 films will be shown this year at the event, according to Jessica Vokoun, festival founder and organizer. And if you think you will be seeing films from only Oklahoma or the surrounding area, think again. “They have been created by artists from all over the globe,” she says. “Canada, Mexico, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, Russia, Australia and Finland.” 

The 2019 festival will present three unique programs, says Vokoun. They include Dancing Stories, short narrative films that use movement to tell a story; Space and Time, experimental short films that move the viewer through different locations and times, capturing the dynamic range of dance; and Of Mind and Body, a variety of films that deal with identity and relationships. Viewers can attend any of the film screenings or all three. Programs begin at 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Launched here in 2007, the Oklahoma Dance Festival has presented screenings nearly every year since then, says Vokoun. “For this year’s festival, we opened our call for submissions in September 2018.” An online platform, Film Freeway, has made the submissions “so much easier to receive, track and share,” she says. All films are viewed and ranked by a committee of dance and/or film artists, or critics, “who have some sort of knowledge or experience in both mediums,” she explains.

“Once we have narrowed down our top tier of films (based on concept, originality, dance and film quality, overall production value), we then look for themes that emerge or motifs that are common,” says Vokoun. “That‘s how we determine the programming.

“We have presented the festival in various venues throughout Tulsa: Circle Cinema, The University of Tulsa, ahha, and this year, Central Library.” In addition, “the festival developed a touring program about four years ago, which screens selected films (Best of the Fest), and a frequent partner is Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas.”

Vokoun says she tries to “remind the audience that these are not necessarily films about dance: they are art films. Sometimes referred to as ‘Screendance,’ a hybrid that considers the artistic element that envelops both film and dance (framing, pace, color, contrast, space, time, gestures, movement of bodies and the camera).” Although there is no live dance presented at the actual event, the films are “visual and performative, sometimes narrative, sometimes spectacle,” she says. The audience is surveyed for their reactions and asked to list their top three films, which then become the part of “Best of the Fest” touring program. 

“We’ve tried different ways of sharing this work,” says Vokoun, “from theatrical viewing in a traditional cinema, to installation programming. The audience always varies. Sure, some dancers really are inspired and intrigued by this different form of presenting dance. But the dynamics and poetic nature of the form appeal to people with wide interest and aesthetic preferences.”


Oklahoma Dance Film Festival 

Sunday, February 24, 2019
1:30, 2:30, 3:30 p.m.
Aaronson Auditorium, Tulsa County Central Library, 400 Civic Center

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