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Arts & Culture

Inaugural 40 North Film Fest Showcases Dance

(From left) Rebecca Correia, Blythe Barton and Chelsea Zeffiro.
40 North Dance Film Fest
(From left) Rebecca Correia, Blythe Barton and Chelsea Zeffiro.

The Liberty Station event received submissions from filmmakers around the world

Up until a few months ago, the concept of a dance film was pretty foreign.

But then came a short film of Ukranian ballet dancer Sergei Polunin dancing to Hozier's "Take Me to Church," and a new genre seemed to emerge overnight.

That video, directed by artist David LaChapelle went viral, getting over 12 million views and earning Polunin an appearance on The Ellen Show.


Now, dance film is making its way to San Diego thanks to a new festival happening at Liberty Station.

40 North Dance Film Fest, presented by Borderland Dance and Blythe Barton Dance, showcases short dance films - everything from documentaries to videos. A variety of dance genres will be represented including ballet, Latin, contemporary and more.

Exposing more people to dance is the philosophy behind the inaugural 40 North, which takes place over two nights at the White Box Theater.

The organizers hope that watching dance on screen will inspire more people to attend live dance performances, and support their local dance and film communities.

“With the Internet and social media and our new, three-minute attention spans, this is where the art form is going,” said 40 North co-founder Chelsea Zeffiro.


Dance film: The birth of a new art form?

“That (Polunin) video definitely brought attention to the fact that dance film exists,” Zeffiro said. “It demonstrated how having dance on film can bring dance to a broad audience, broader than if it was just performed in a theater.”

There are already dance film festivals happening in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. So when the 40 North organizers – Zeffiro, Rebecca Correia and Blythe Barton – put out a call for submissions, they received films from all over the United States as well as Canada, Brazil and the Netherlands.

40 North Dance Film Fest is a film festival that focuses on dance.
40 North Dance Film Fest
40 North Dance Film Fest is a film festival that focuses on dance.

Spotlight on San Diego's dance community

Along with the international submissions, 40 North will also highlight local dancers and filmmakers, especially since Zeffiro, Correia and Barton are all dancers who have worked in various San Diego theaters and companies.

"We've really felt the support of the dance community," said Correia. "A lot of people are encouraging and helping us along and it's been really fulfilling."

Correia and Zeffiro said they hope future 40 North events can be held at multiple locations and include workshop opportunities for up-and-coming dance filmmakers.

"Film is completely different than a live performance," Zeffiro said. "And this is also a forum for people interested in picking up skills and learning the technique of dance filmmaking."

Personal projects

The festival founders are especially connected to 40 North because they're also working on dance film projects of their own.

In addition to her live performances, Barton choreographs dance specifically to be performed on film. Zeffiro and Correia founded Borderland Dance, a dance film production company, and they’re getting ready to release “Take Your Place,” a documentary that profiles small to midsize dance companies across the United States.

A new teaser for the film will be screened Saturday night at the end of the festival.

At the Aug. 7 and 8 event, audiences will be able to vote for their favorite film, which will be announced at Saturday night's screening.