Innovate Dance Film Showcase: Showing off Hollywood North’s dance talent

Innovate Dance Film Showcase.
Innovate Dance Film Showcase.

Vancouver Playhouse, Vancouver, Canada.
September 8, 2023.

Dance Informa attended a dance industry event in Vancouver, Canada that showed exactly how the city earned its nickname ‘Hollywood North.’ The third iteration of the Innovate Dance Film Showcase, hosted at the Vancouver Playhouse on September 8, had the city’s dance and choreography talent on full display.

Created and hosted by Joe Tuliao (choreographer, most recently for the movie Joy Ride) and Meaghan Gipps (Vancouver acclaimed dance videographer/photographer), Innovate puts dance front and center on screen. It encourages choreographers to delve into creative research without being held to the context of externally produced TV shows, movies or music videos. Industry events like these keep the contributing artists’ creative tools sharp, and show just how much they’re capable of when handed the artistic reins. Not to mention it makes for a great night out.

Take the opening film Upside Down, for example. An elderly woman (or so it seems, thanks to some impressive FX makeup) enters a grocery store and spots a seemingly elderly gentleman whom she… takes a shining to. Cue flirty, heart-fluttering and downright dirty dancing through the grocery store aisles, before cutting to a 1950s version of themselves surrounded by other twirling couples in an MGM reminiscent film sequence complete with an overhead shot of spinning lifts and smiling faces. Choreographed, directed, produced and danced by Vancouver artists Emma Stephenson and Lachlan Smith, alongside a full cast and crew, in association with the local film union UBCP/ACTRA.

The night had too many impressive pieces like this to list, but here are a few standouts:

Below, created and performedby dancer Cora Kozaris and co-choreographed by Emmy-nominated choreographer Jeffrey Mortensen, is hypnosis through smooth movement. Connecting endlessly and effortlessly through choreography that knows how to flow, this is a solo that stays on the spot and uses nothing but a box as a prop, on which Kozaris does a form of floorwork. Below is an exhibit of skill and effective simplicity.

Mortal Instruments, created and performed by Khai Rose and Con the Artist, was a crowd favorite. These artists converted tap, body percussion and vocalizations to instrumental notes through MIDI software, and then created their own soundscape using their bodies. The innovative approach for this piece makes it an ideal example from the showcase.

Careful, directed by Josh Aries and choreographed by Paul Aries, had the audience both grooving in their seats and laughing out loud. This piece featured a lonely dancer who just wants to jam with his friends, but whose eyes shoot lasers when he dances too hard. Humor in dance can be difficult to nail, but this team’s off-kilter comedy and perfect pacing, combined with grooves that got the audience moving, made Careful a crowd pleaser.

Sauce, created and choreographed by Abbygale Chung, starring L.A. dancer Lihi Catriel alongside a slew of hard hitting ensemble dancers, was indistinguishable from a professionally produced music video. High energy, clean and quick choreography, with top notch cinematography, costumes and set design. This piece was a fun romp around an old-timey diner as the signature sauce bottle gets passed between the dancers and Catriel lip syncs into it like a microphone.

Thank You, created and choreographed by Summer Lynn Gillespie with co-choreography by Grace Richter, is a sci-fi story that follows two female coworkers at a women’s sex toy corporation run entirely by men. Not only did this piece include a comedic storyline and VFX that really earns it the sci-fi status, but the dancing delved into some fun, creepy, and wonderfully weird representations of women’s sexuality and struggle to be heard.

Rein, written, directed and choreographed by Oriana Rodriguez, closed the show. Starring Malia McMullen and Felicia Chiappetta as two sides of the same coin, a cult member loses control of their carefully constructed image, accidentally letting out their alter-ego in front of the group. With a cast of 26 dancers all dressed alike, synchronized movement with formations that seemed to swallow McMullen and cinematography that circled her, this dystopian drama was like a mini feature film. Rein was created in association with UBCP/ACTRA.

Industry showcases like Innovate give young dancers a chance to experience the expectations and realities of set, give early career choreographers a platform to create work and be seen by their peers, and make space for experienced choreographers to hone their directorial skills. Innovate connects the Vancouver dance scene and allows its artists to draw inspiration from and support each other. And given the cheering at the Playhouse that night, this community is very supportive.

Innovate Co-Founder Meaghan Gipps says of the event, “Innovate brings me a lot of joy in many ways, but one thing that stands out to me is the love and support felt throughout all the filmmakers, choreographers, dancers, production crew and audience members. There are no awards; it is simply a showcase of talent and love for dance. I love seeing so many dancers also direct, write and produce! For many of them, it’s their first time doing so. Dancers are capable of so much more than just dancing, and I am proud Innovate is a showcase that.”

By Holly LaRoche of Dance Informa.

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