A longtime professor of dance at the College of William and Mary, Denise Damon Wade became interested more recently in the marriage of dance and film, a curiosity sparked when invited to participate in a former student's dance-for-camera workshop.
Wade soon began her "new foray into a different media," and research leave during last academic year allowed her time to choreograph and produce two dance films. They're short films, both under eight minutes, but longer than any she's previously made.
"I am a seasoned choreographer, but not a seasoned filmmaker," she said. "It's wonderful to be able to experiment."
Wade and two other dance faculty members will present original works, including the two films, at DANCEVENT Oct. 20-23 at Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall. One of two annual performances by Orchesis, the college's modern dance company, DANCEVENT allows professors another venue for experimentation and creation, in turn allowing students to interact with professors in the midst of that creation.
"They're seeing us not know the answer to what we want to do next," said Joan Gavaler, William and Mary's director of dance.
Each spring, the members of Orchesis, all student dancers, perform a program of student-choreographed works. DANCEVENT differs in its faculty focus.
Wade, Gavaler and Lauren Morris have choreographed six works in total: a duet, three group pieces, two films. All are contemporary, some more abstract than others.
Gavaler's piece "Roshambo," for example, features movement inspired by a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.
"It's not a story, but there is a sense that these three elements are characters that show up in the piece," Gavaler said.
Similarly, "Stack and Restack," choreographed and performed by Gavaler and Morris, doesn't follow a narrative. Rather, it's an exploration of partner acrobatics and an attempt to "integrate the partnering into the flow of movement," as Gavaler described.
The other two on-stage pieces more directly address themes from human experience.
Morris' "A Statement About Being" looks at the facets of a person's personality. Dancers represent the different facets, from self-doubt and fear to inspiration and happiness, in doing so "representing our humanistic interconnectedness and just going through different emotional journeys and certain life experiences that everyone kind of goes through," Morris said.
Wade's "Slender the Thread," based on a poem by Dick Williams, explores "how slender that thread is between life and death," she said.
With training in both dance and theater, Wade tends to tell stories through her choreography. Film-making allows her to tell stories in a different way, she said.
That's why her dance films, including the two shown at DANCEVENT, are rooted in environment.
"I find myself attracted to places, and the stories that they tell," she said. "And then creating my own story through movement within that."
"Rooted" was filmed in the Hocking Hills of Ohio, but "Balance" takes place much closer to home: filmed at various spots on William and Mary's campus, including at Lake Matoaka and in the stacks at Swem Library. Danced by four students, "Balance" focuses on finding balance among study, sleep, work and relationships.
While her husband does the filming, Wade does just about everything else, from story-boarding to editing. It has been, and still is, a learning experience. Beyond the ability to switch environments, Wade remains fascinated by the camera's own choreography, and how it complements dance choreography — "I really can highlight an emotion by what I choose to focus on in a film," she said.
"With film, you can do things that you can't do onstage," she said.
Bridges can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342.
Want to go?
When: 7:30 p.m., Oct. 20-22; 2 p.m., Oct. 23.
Where: Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall, 601 Jamestown Road.
Tickets: $15/adults, $12/military, $10/groups of 10 or more, $7/students.
Tickets available at PBK Hall (open 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday-Friday; 10 a.m. until 30 minutes after curtain the day of each show), by calling 221-2674 or at wm.edu/boxoffice.