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Peace, Love, Dance: Film Review

Dance films have certainly come to the forefront during the pandemic era, but personally, I enjoy ones that still take place on the stage with the camera remaining more stationary. This allows me to appreciate the movement more and reminds me of the stage setting I have come to know and love. I do understand this is a personal preference, but it was a delight to tune into Indya Child’s latest video collaboration with Ball State University and see the traditional lights and sounds of a stage production.

Through the coordination of assistant teaching professor of Dance Melanie Swihart and PlySpace, an immersive artist-in-residence program of the Muncie Arts & Culture Council, Indya created Ball State University's Theatre and Dance Department's first dance film with Atlanta-based filmmaker, Joshua Cleveland. Guest choreographers are important to any collegiate program, as they expose undergraduates to new processes, styles of dancing, and ways of thinking that may not be offered in their specific program. It also helps connect them to the greater dance world of which many students desire to be a part. .

The Ball State University students were exposed to a physical, thought-out work that will stick with them for years to come. The movement that Indya gave them was grounded, powerful, and full of intention. The students were clearly excited to be performing Indya’s phrasework and their efforts felt raw and meaningful, as they dove across the stage, cloaked in beautiful blue hues of light. The movement brought out a natural maturity in the dancers. Because of masks, and the choice of camera angle relating to movement, the eyes and gaze have become even more important to performance, and some individuals did have more success with this than others, pulling me deeper into the work, and forgetting that I was not in the room with them.

Indya’s work employed many traditional choreographic elements, from changes in dynamic flow to canons to employing different facings to give a differing perspective of the same movement phrase. It was kept fresh and exciting by juxtaposing powerful duets and solos interspersed with larger group movement. The coming and going structure paralleled the sound score, which continuously returned to a voice saying, “If you want to make a system that supports everyone, everyone must make it.” The identity of this speaker was never revealed, and I did wish to know how this spoken idea connected to the work, and how the dancers were connected to both each other and this sound.

Indya’s return to Atlanta has brought new life and opportunities to the city. We are excited to continue to see what she does next. Congratulations to all involved in the film.


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