Tonia Barber, executive director of Dance Camera West, has discovered a unique way to share her love for the performing arts. Starting last year, Dance Camera West added several free outdoor components to its annual Dance Media Film Festival.
As part of this year's 13th annual festival, “Restructure” couples those outdoor events with the screening of more than 20 films at L.A. venues like The Music Center, Grand Park, REDCAT, The Museum of Contemporary Art and Union Station. The festival takes place this weekend and June 13.
Films will include a variety of dance styles in categories like screen dance, short films, feature length, documentary, animation and interactive dance media.
The June 13 conclusion of the festival will pair a movie screening with the third annual family fun Dance-A-Long at Union Station.
“What we noticed last year when we started the outdoor events was that people were making a weekend out of it,” said Barber, who started her career as a dancer with New York's Joffrey Ballet.
“We were getting to know some of the faces of people who were showing up days in a row. Los Angeles is so big and spread out that even to people who live in Los Angeles, downtown is a destination; that's why we wanted to focus the energy on downtown.”
The festival will open with a live dance performance by the Los Angeles Dance Company BODYTRAFFIC at The Music Center Plaza. The dance will center around a large-scale sculpture, co-commissioned by The Music Center and created specifically for the festival by Los Angeles artist Gustavo Godoy.
“These outdoor events are an extension of our films,” Barber said. “Film festivals are competing with Netflix, online and other in-home entertainment options. We want to entice people to come out of their house and come see films. We believe the outdoor performance will help do just that.”
Many years ago, Barber attended a dance festival in Montreal with several public components, and she never forgot the community support.
“It seemed like the whole town turned out for it,” she said. “I remember coming away feeling inspired by what I experienced and knowing that I would love for L.A. to have something like that.”
By adding the outdoor events, Dance Camera West — a nonprofit funded by the National Education Association (NEA) — doubled its attendance.
“Everything's within walking distance — which was the whole point,” Barber said. “Films are all family-friendly and after most films the filmmakers will be there for a question and answer.”
Julia Diamond, programming director for Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles, is thrilled to have the outdoor venue involved with the festival.
“Last year we worked with Dance Camera West and all the creative partners they bring together,” Diamond said. “It was amazing.”
Grand Park is an essential gathering place that combines art and culture, explained Diamond. Its goals include introducing the public to all its offerings by hosting events like the one for the Dance Media Film Festival.
“People have always been intimidated by downtown Los Angeles,” Diamond said. “L.A. is a rich community of artists and bringing this kind of experience to Grand Park will help show people how accessible it is.”
The Music Center Plaza, which connects the Ahmanson Theatre, Mark Taper Forum and Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, will also play host to festival events.
“Last year's outdoor dance presentation with our water feature was something pretty incredible to see,” said Renae Williams Niles, vice president of programming for The Music Center. “This year we are building on that partnership.”
Along with hosting an event, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion will screen several of the festival's films.
“We have a lot of film festivals here, but the strength and uniqueness of Dance Camera West makes this festival one of my favorites,” Williams Niles said. “This festival is a great way to introduce audiences to or encourage the continued exploration of dance.”