A still from "Northside Throwdown," the short online dance film by Kenna-Camara Cottman.

After three weeks of intense creative focus the choreographers in the Minneapolis edition of Dances Made to Order (DMTO) premiered their five- to six-minute films on Wednesday. Los Angeles-based producers Kingsley Irons and Bryan Koch created the online film festival.

Performing artist Laurie Van Wieren selected Kenna-Camara Cottman (Voice of Culture Drum and Dance), Pramila Vasudevan (Aniccha Arts) and the duo of Laura Holway/Ben McGinley to represent our local dance community in front of – and behind – the camera.

Online voting determined themes. The Minneapolis crew received three concepts: “real/false,” “left behind,” and “wabi-sabi,” a Japanese notion related to impermanency and understated beauty. These ideas show up in obvious and obscure ways in the completed films.

“Tuesday,” by Holway and McGinley, explores the intersection of private and public lives. Performers Charles Campbell and Megan Mayer are two quiet souls who put on the oversized personas of a celebrity chef and a superhero, respectively. Their movements are less dynamic than scrupulously particular and intimate, embellished with the tiny dramatic moments that come from play-acting and daydreaming. Campbell and Mayer are naturals in these endearing roles, and music from the Brass Messengers suits the playful mood of a film akin in sensibility to the likes of performance artist/filmmaker Miranda July. 

Cottman’s “Northside Throwdown” explores the ups-and-downs of the mother-daughter dynamic through high-energy dance and Senegalese wrestling, but it’s also a vivid travelogue of north Minneapolis. Kevin Obsatz, who ran the camera and edited the film, successfully frames Cottman’s dancing within each new environment, particularly as she lights up locations like the Capri Theater or the North Commons Water Park, accompanied by drummer Alioune “Mousse” Sarr. The film also features Cottman’s daughter Yonci Peaceful Jameson, who portrays herself in the time-honored role of teen-ignoring-her-mother. 

“Regression” by Vasudevan differs from the other films in that it focuses less on story and more on capturing the fleeting essence of movement. Rachel Knoll’s cinematography creates a state of disorientation, as if looking outward from a body in constant motion, spinning, leaping and turning. At times the camera pauses briefly for interactions between dancers Sarah Beck-Esmay, Kurt Blomberg, Dustin Maxwell, Deja Stevens, Jasmine Kar Tang, Chitra Vairavan, Kayva Yang and Vasudevan, but mostly it stays in action. John Keston’s musical score supports a sense of urgency – the scene could shift into something different, and less controlled, at any moment. 

Minneapolis is not the only DMTO site. In 2012 Los Angeles, New York City, Salt Lake City, Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, New Orleans and Austin, Texas all have entries either available online for viewing now or scheduled through the end of the year. 

See the Minneapolis submissions for $10 by purchasing a ticket through DMTO or watch the entire season of films from across the country for $50. Last year’s films are also available online. The choreographers receive a portion of the ticket revenue.


A still from "Tuesday," by Laura Holway and Ben McGinley.


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