Photographer Yasmin Yassin knew she wanted to capture a Somali dance troupe that performs at festivals and weddings.

But she waited months before turning on a camera.

Instead, she showed up — at performances, rehearsals and meetings. Then Yassin and her crew asked the troupe, based out of the Somali Museum of Minnesota, how they'd feel about them taking photographs and, later, video.

"That helped make this whole thing feel like it wasn't extractive," Yassin said. "That it was something that felt it was a mutual project we could do together.

"It felt like a collaboration."

The resulting 18-minute documentary, "Dhaanto," captures not only the traditional Somali dances that have become a fixture of Twin Cities events and TikTok feeds but the importance of keeping them alive and passing them on. And for that, it credits the troupe's coach, Mohamoud Osman Mohamed.

"He's the connector piece of all of this," Yassin said. "It's a culture that could have been lost in the diaspora if there wasn't somebody who cared."

The short film, named after a dance, debuted this fall as part of Yassin's photo exhibition at Public Functionary in northeast Minneapolis. It gets its next screening this week at Soomaal House of Art — where Yassin's artistic career began.

Created with a team of 20 people, "Dhaanto" is Yassin's directorial debut. She had long taken photographs for friends and family, but it wasn't until after moving to Minnesota from Canada five years ago that she began nabbing professional gigs.

Still, most days, she's a scientist. Yassin earned a master's degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University and works as a research scientist with an emphasis on science communication.

"Sometimes scientists go in, they extract data from the community and they present it to each other — and they never present it back to the community," she told the crowd at an artist talk at Public Functionary in September. "And when they do, it doesn't make any sense to them."

So Yassin became interested in that circling back: "How can I tell the community in a way that's accessible?"

By phone, she noted a public health strategy called "photovoice," in which researchers go into a community and hand people cameras. By allowing people to photograph things themselves, researchers get a much more accurate picture of what's important to them.

That ethos has informed Yassin's artmaking. With "Dhaanto," the dance troupe's coach became a consultant. The teenage dancers had a say in the story. The film reveals their dedication, their friendship, their delight.

"One thing I like about the Dhaanto dance is, you can't really dance it with just anyone," someone says. "And so, when you find the right people that know each other well, when performing the dance moves, you move together as one."

Others showing up in the Somali community might have focused on trauma, pain or controversy, Yassin said. But she decided to show another, better side.

"It's a love letter to my community," she said. Now, she's hoping to continue that thread, "in the sense of, what would you write in a love letter? You would write the good things, you would show the good qualities."

What: Film screening, artist talk and dance performance
When: 6:30 p.m. Fri.
Where: Soomaal House of Art, 2200 Minnehaha Av. S., Mpls.
Cost: Free, but space is limited.