USF Dance Shorts Film Festival showcases an emerging genre

The first-annual fest explores the modern relationship between film and dance.


"Plugged In"
  • "Plugged In"
Serving as an usher for an event last May at University of South Florida’s Music Concert Hall, Sharon McCaman had an idea: a festival to be hosted at USF, specifically showcasing dance for film and created exclusively by students.

Cut to nearly a year later, and McCaman’s idea has materialized into a fully developed short-film festival featuring entries from across the country. 

The first annual USF Dance Shorts Student Film Festival will culminate with a gala at the place of its conception, USF’s Music Concert Hall, on Sat., April 5, at 7:30 p.m.

Twenty-nine students from across the country submitted short dance films ranging from two to six minutes in length, which were viewed by a panel of qualified adjudicators from various artistic backgrounds and locales. The shorts explore the narrative, abstract and experimental.

According to McCaman — who is working towards a BFA in Dance at USF — dance for film is its own emerging genre. It allows artists from dance, music and filmmaking to collaborate in an innovative way —never with the intention of having the piece performed on stage.

“The coolest part about it is that the possibilities are endless,” McCaman said. “When you go to create something on stage, you’re limited by the confines on the stage. The audience is here, the dancers are here; this is the overall picture you hope the audience gets.”

McCaman became intrigued by idea of melding dance and technology when she was exposed to it while working on a performance journal in her Modern Dance course at USF, particularly “Rosas Danst Rosas” by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. Inspired, she shot her own video of her dancing solo in the deserts of Las Vegas.

She said that videography allows the choreographers and filmmakers to control what the audience focuses on. 

“I can make you look at what I want you to look at,” McCaman said. “If I want you to look at the detail in how I move my hand, that’s what I’m gonna show you. Or, I’m gonna pan out and show you the full body.”

"A Midnight Flirt"
  • "A Midnight Flirt"
In August, McCaman approached professors in the USF Dance department, and pitched her idea for the film festival. Although they expressed their support, McCaman said she knew she would have to make it happen on her own — beginning from the ground up.

She started by developing a website — with the help of her uncle —through which dance students from across the country could submit their entries. Twenty nine submissions were made nationwide.

McCaman used the wonders of technology to expedite the judging process as well — considering that the impressive team of adjudicators were based all across the country (including choreographer/director Jordan Marinov, photographer/videographer Michael Flanagan, dancer/artistic director Courtney Smith and USF Mass Communications Professor Travis Bell).

According to McCaman, the comprehensive website eliminated the arduous process of watching film entries back to back. It allowed adjudicators to watch and judge the videos as seamlessly as possibly

“There’s a big difference in asking people to come sit in a room and watch however many films back-to-back,” McCaman said. “By doing it online, you can watch it from your house, or I can watch it from mine.”

The adjudicators were able to view the shorts online, and give them a numerical score based on several criteria — content, cinematography sound and editing. A variety of genres — including hip hop, modern and ballet—will be showcased.

  • "Prectice"
At the gala, 12 shorts will be shown — depending on length and the scores given by adjudicators.

Amid the creation of the festival, McCaman and her mother conceived the term “techno-choreography.” The phrase refers to the current generation’s fixation with technology, and how that relates to dance.

“If you look at where today’s generation is (18-25 year-olds), they are surrounded by technology,” McCaman said. “They want things immediately, and they want to tell everyone about it. They want to share it, and that’s exciting.”

McCaman believes that the film fest reflects a major shift happening in the world of dance.

“People used to get dressed up and go to the theater — and that still happens,” McCaman said. “But, there’s less people going out to the theater — whether because of time or effort or money. I feel like there’s a decline. We’re on the upswing. As people get frustrated with the limitations of creating work for the stage, they’ll move into creating stuff for film.”

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