Annual festival staging the best of DMU dancers goes digital


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Unshaken by the global coronavirus pandemic, Dance students from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) have worked tirelessly to deliver their annual festival online.

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Traditionally held on campus at The Venue@DMU, this year’s University Dance Festival (UDF) is taking place on YouTube from 7.30pm on Friday 5 June, featuring original choreography and energetic performances from more than 70 students and staff.

Students had to quickly adapt to losing access to studio facilities and group rehearsals when lockdown measures were imposed. Many of them returned to their family homes and countries, so they filmed new content in isolation, revisited rehearsal footage and flexed their video editing skills.

The fantastic footage of previously recorded work, newly developed material and a range of highlights from their time on their course, will showcase the students' individual sense of style and range of creative approaches.

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Melina filming new work created in isolation, back home in Greece

Final-year students Allix Blackburn and Melina Maliogka are part of the University Dance Company, which was due to unveil two performances at the festival – one developed with their tutor Mel Knott and one developed with dance artist Bakani Pick-Up.

“It was a dream of mine to perform with the University Dance Company since the day I auditioned for a place at DMU and we were all so excited to show our performances. To have that physical opportunity taken away from us was truly gutting, but I’m happy we have an alternative plan,” said 20-year-old Allix from Lincoln.

21-year-old Melina from Greece, said: “Nothing will supplement the feeling of a live performance, but we will also be the first final-years who can say we took part in a digital version of UDF.

“It is nice to know that our work will still be seen and appreciated, and we’re so grateful to our tutor Mel who pushed us towards making this a reality.

“All of our tutors have been very helpful during this strange time. I’ve had continuous support with all of my written submissions and they’ve been really amazing at bringing attention to all the work we have done over the past academic year by hosting a digital UDF.”

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Action shot of Emma rehearsing at home in her garden

Allix and Melina have worked closely with other company members to turn their pieces digital. This has involved looking through hours of rehearsal footage, filming choreography individually in their own spaces and long discussions about setting crucial timings and pace for the videos.

Second-year student Emma Savage has worked on a chain effect performance for the festival, collecting 10-second video clips from 33 of her coursemates. Participants were given start and end positions, but were invited to improvise during the time in between.

The 20-year-old from Nottingham said: “It was a huge job setting out everyone’s start and end positions, but it was so worth it because it genuinely looks like one continuous piece of choreography.”

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Allix hard at work, editing a collaborative film of final-years' memories

Emma volunteered to edit the video thanks to the editing skills she gained on the Screen Choreography module she took this year.

“DMU helpfully gave me access to Final Cut Pro at home, software that’s usually available to us on campus. Without that, I wouldn’t have been able to edit to such a high standard on my MacBook,” she said.

“I’m also grateful to our tutors who made UDF possible this year and didn’t take the easy option to cancel it. Even though we’re missing out on the live choreography element of UDF, I’ve gained a professional edge thanks to the editing I’ve done. I feel like when I go into the industry, I’ll have the necessary technical skills to back up my dance skills.”

Free access to editing software at home was appreciated by Allix too, who was also involved in creating a collaborative video by editing memory clips submitted by her final-year coursemates.

She said: “As a performer you need to know how to edit and present your own work. This situation has pushed us all to develop new skills and become more independent, while being supported every step of the way.”

Tune into the University Dance Festival on YouTube and follow #UDF2020 on Twitter and Instagram.

Posted on Wednesday 3rd June 2020

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