“Coffee literally changes the way we see, think, and interact with other people. BUT FIRST is our way of exploring this through two of our favorite mediums, film and dance.”
– Erin Brown Thomas (director), Mike Esperanza (choreographer)

BUT FIRST was made as part of San Francisco Dance Film Festival’s annual Co-Laboratory program in collaboration with the National Center for Choreography at the University of Akron’s Dancing Laboratories. A filmmaker and choreographer are paired together for one week to make a short dance film.

Directed by Erin Brown Thomas

Choreographed by Mike Esperanza

Featuring Tiffanie Carson, Erin Love, Sarah Housepan

Creative Producer / Co-Producer: Lindsay Gauthier

Co-Producer: Christy Bolingbroke

Director of Photography: Tyler Clark

Production and Costume Designer: Inda Blatch- Geib

Editor: Erin Brown Thomas
Sound Design: Mike Esperanza

Line Producer: Dave Hayward of Red Point Digital

2018 Co-Laboratory with NCCAkron

In its sixth year, the Co-Laboratory went National!

Dance Film SF partnered with the National Center for Choreography at The University of Akron in Ohio to bring filmmakers and choreographers together from San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York.

In Akron, the artists participated in a nine day Dancing Lab: Screendance residency, with three days of Workshopping and Pre-production, three days of Production, and three days of Post-Production. Both teams came away with a finished dance film that screened at the 2018 Festival. NCCAkron was excited to be co-producing with us as part of their process oriented approach to advance dance and choreographic craft.

Brilliant Short Dance Film Example: Valtari – Sigur Rós / Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui

First Prize Best Film / Fiver 2013 Awards

A short film part of Valtari Mystery Film Experiment, a project from Icelandic band Sigur Rós.

Songs featured in the film are: Ekki mukk, Valtari, Rembihnutur & Varud from the album Valtari.

  • Director: Christian Larson
  • Choreography: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui
  • Dance: James O’Hara, Nicola Leahey
  • Photography: Mattias Montero
  • Costume design: Lydia Kovacs
  • Producer: Noreen Khan, Blackdog Film

The story behind this short film:

Last spring, Icelandic band Sigur Rós asked 14 filmmakers to create short pieces inspired by their latest album, “Valtari.”

This installment from Swedish director Christian Larson features choreography from Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, who recently crafted the famous waltz scene in 2012’s film adaptation of Anna Karenina.

Cherkaoui described his approach in an interview with The New York Times, “I love watching one dancer alone onstage, but, for me, solos are always connected to a form of loneliness … When people are together, there is a union, and it can be tense, it can be romantic and dramatic and cold, but it’s about how we relate and how we look into the mirror, which is another person.”

Capturing similar themes in this short film, Cherkaoui’s choreography twists the bodies of dancers Nicola Leahey and James O’Hara to create astonishing shapes and a rather intense exchange. Watch for almost-freakish feats of flexibility (not computer-generated!) and Cherkaoui’s experimentation with weight shifts – as he said about Keira Knightley and Aaron Taylor-Johnson when choreographing Anna Karenina, “they needed to connect very physically – not just in a polite way.”

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui wins the Best Choreography award for the amazing Valtari video at the UK music video awards! Valtari is a collaboration with director Christian Larson for Sigur Rós ‘Valtari’ Mystery Film Experiment, with beautiful Eastman dancers Nicola Leahey & James O’Hara. Thanks to you all! More info about the awards: http://www.ukmva.com

Carlos Amorales and his “Vertical Earthquake”

In the series of wall drawings entitled Vertical Earthquake, Carlos Amorales refers to the 1985 earthquake in Mexico City which he witnessed at the age of fifteen.

The earthquake destroyed a large part of the city and left thousands of victims. In the days after, the corrupted Mexican government manifested itself and the Mexican citizens took over the rescuing activities.

The earthquake was crucial for Amorales in regard to both his political and his aesthetic development. The wall drawings are made by rotating jagged rulers and remind one of the fault lines in collapsed buildings. The drawings can be seen as an ode to this meaningful event in Carlos Amorales’ artistic development.

More of Carlos Amorales:

We’ll See How All Reverberates, 2012. Courtesy of the artist and kurimanzutto, Mexico City / New York. Photo: Peter Tijhuis

Black Cloud, 2007 (installation view). Collection of Diane and Bruce Halle. Photo: Peter Tijhuis

Aprende a joderte (Learn to Fuck Yourself), 2019. Courtesy of the artist and kurimanzutto, Mexico City / New York; and Dark Mirror, 2008. Collection Vanhonsebrouck. Photo: Peter Tijhuis