“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

Bauhaus dances

Set within the Bauhaus design school, the Bauhaus dances were created by Oskar Schlemmer, along with Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, for series of lecture dances between 1927–29.

They took as inspiration the architectonic cubical stage space designed by Walter Gropius for the Dessau Bauhaus, which opened in 1926.

The dances draw on simple gestures—walking, sitting, jumping—the dancers are to be perceived as figures symbolizing the potential of new technology while remaining primarily an exploration of the human element.

Key Person: Oskar Schlemmer

Oskar Schlemmer (4 September 1888 – 13 April 1943) was a German painter, sculptor, designer and choreographer associated with the Bauhaus school.

In 1923, he was hired as Master of Form at the Bauhaus theatre workshop, after working at the workshop of sculpture. His most famous work is Triadisches Ballett (Triadic Ballet), which saw costumed actors transformed into geometrical representations of the human body in what he described as a “party of form and colour”.


Original Video

Recent re-creation of Bauhaus Dances

Oskar Schlemmer’s stick dance

Kimie Nakano

Kimie Nakano was born and grew up in Japan. She studied Ikebana – Japanese flower arrangement that is at once art and Zen philosophy. As a university student in Tokyo, Kimie researched comparative culture in literature. She was also inspired by the notions of time and space, experimenting with ‘scent and sound’ in a black box performance space. This experience inspired her to research theatre design in Paris and London.






Silk Road

3. https://www.kimienakano.net/copy-of-silk-road




5 https://www.kimienakano.net/vertical-road

Vertical Road

Otto Piene & Light Ballet

Otto Piene & Light Ballet

Otto Piene was an artist whose light-based sculpture work occupied the intersection of light, technology, art, movement, and environment.

First produced using hand-operated lamps directed through perforated stencils, Piene’s “Lichtballett” (light ballet) performances of moving light became mechanized in the 1960s.

The artist’s early light sculptures consisted of revolving lamps, grids, globes, and discs operated by electric switchboards, causing what he described as “the steady flow of unfurling and dimming, reappearing, and vanishing light.”

Who is Otto?


Otto Piene (pronounced PEE-nah, 18 April 1928 – 17 July 2014) was a German-American artist specializing in kinetic and technology-based art, often working collaboratively. He lived and worked in Düsseldorf, Germany; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Groton, Massachusetts.

Other work

Piene also experimented with multimedia combinations. In 1963, together with Günther Uecker and Heinz Mack, he became a spokesman of Neuen Idealismus (“the new idealism”). In 1967 Otto Piene premiered Proliferation of the Sun at Aldo Tambellini’s Black Gate Theater, and in 1968 he collaborated with Aldo Tambellini on the Black Air at the Black Gate Theater.

The Proliferation of the Sun 1966-1967 (35 minute performance hand painted glass slides, sound, and five carousel projectors)

Laurent Martin

Gravity defying mobile bamboo sculptures; bamboo calligraphies in balance. The mathematics and the energy of bamboo inhabiting the spaces.

Laurent Martin

The gravity-defying bamboo sculptures by Laurent Martin “Lo” swing in the air, drawing curves of harmony like the gracious strokes of Chinese calligraphy. His creations immerse the viewer in the physical and sensorial virtues of the organic material. Following the knots and fibres of the plant, the sculptures’ structure is shaped using tension and fishing rods. The bamboo is then dried for months, exposed to the strong Mediterranean elements. This intervention is the basis for the final pieces which are constructed with the organic material, fishing lines and metal and ceramic weights. Like Calder’s mobiles, the sculptures follow strict mathematical laws of movement and balance. His manipulation of the bamboo plants from solid canes to thin and articulating contours, creates mobile sculptures where the artwork consists of not only the bamboo itself, but also the intangible hollow space within and the shadows and silhouettes they project. A fragile harmony is achieved through opposites: flexibility and strength, fullness and void, light and shadow, movement and quietness.

Born in France, Lo trained as a visual artist and for many years worked as a creative director in advertising and fashion.  Lo’s first encounter with bamboo was completely circumstantial, but as he recalls “it was love at first slight”. Bamboo became his obsession, a passion so strong that drove him to set out on a journey of discovery which he refers to as his Bamboo Routes.

In 2004 he set out for Southeast Asia, attending the World Bamboo Congress in Delhi. From there he travelled to remote areas in Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, learning old techniques from the communities for whom bamboo is an essential resource. Beyond craftsmanship, Lo learned the strong spiritual and emotional charge within bamboo. In 2011, with the support of the World Bamboo Organisation, he began his second journey to Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.  He studied the spatial properties of bamboo and met well-known members of an international community using contemporary techniques to build bamboo structures, including Architect Martín Coto and Engineer Mercedes Rodriguez. His final trip was to Indonesia in 2012, where he discovered the work of John Hardy in Bali.  Hardy would invite Lo to give lessons in “bamboo art” at his Green School and Green Village and to develop a project during bamboo’s growing season.

Through his travels, Lo developed deep insight and knowledge into bamboo’s properties as well as traditional and contemporary techniques to grow and work with the material. Beyond its physical characteristics such as flexibility, resistance, density and lightness; it was the spiritual properties of bamboo that would captivate him and become the soul of his poetic creations.

Lo’s exquisite bamboo creations are well appreciated internationally as well as in the Asia Pacific region. Lo was recently invited by the National Taiwan Craft Research and Development Institute to participate in the Bamboo Traces Contemporary International Bamboo Art and Craft Exhibition. This exhibition is a worldwide collaboration project, gathering artists and designers from many different countries and cultures, exploring bamboo, a traditional material in Asia, from a modern context. His works have been acquired by prominent collectors including Hong Kong renowned architect and collector Mr. William Lim and Fine Jewellery Designer and board member of M+ Museum Hong Kong Ms. Kai-Yin Lo.

Laurent Martin “Lo” is member of the Royal British Society of Sculptors and currently lives and works in Spain. He is represented by Puerta Roja in Asia since 2015.


Pietro Marullo

Italian artist based in Brussels, where he founded the company INSIEMI IRREALI with the support of Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles. His interdisciplinary work is positioned between visual and performing art, installation and new technologies, with a strong focus on social, historical and anthropologi-cal themes.

He has presented his works on four continents, during dance and performing arts festivals, theaters, music net-works, contemporary art and puppet-object platforms, including: Festival OrienteOccidente, Seoul Inter-national Dance Festival, José Limon Dance Festival, Danse Elargie / Théâtre de la Ville, Beijing Dance Fe-stival, National Italian Dance Platform. He is also an AEROWAVES 2018 artist.

Since 2015, Pietro has been developing an anthropological and aesthetic reflection on the connection between reality and symbolic language. This approach led him to the creation of a “species imagery”, a philosophical manifesto that should lead our society to confront its own history and global problems from the point of view of different living species.


Nicola Galli

Nicola Galli works on body research, stated in artistic pieces and devices that ranges from choreo-graphy to performance, from body installations to graphics.

He starts as agonist gymnast and then approaches to the body research at Teatro Nucleo (Ferrara), studying the languages of physical theatre and contemporary dance.

In 2010 he starts a personal research focused on shape and definition of the “stratification” and “landscape” concepts in connection with the body, that develops in installations and choreographic pieces.

Starting from the geometry and the astronomy he is fascinated by anatomy, proportion and details; these elements compose the core of his trasversal scenic imaginary.

From 2010 to 2014 he worked as dancer and performer in the company Collettivo Cinetico directed by Francesca Pennini. Since 2014 he is choreographer supported by TIR Danza. In 2014 is selected artist at Italian Istitute of Culture in Paris with the performance Delle ultime visioni cutanee. From 2015 to 2016 creates the pièces Jupiter and beyond, Venus, Mars, a choreographic trilogy focused on solar system.

In 2017 creates the pièce De rerum natura with Balletto di Toscana Junior (Italy) and the support of Prove d’Autore XL – project of the Italian Network Anticorpi XL. In 2018 creates the interactive performance Ge- noma scenico for the Science Museum MUSE in Trento, with the support of Centro Culturale S. Chiara and Festival Oriente Occidente, and wins the prize Equilibrio – Fondazione Musica per Roma with the pièce Deserto digitale. In 2018 wins Danza & Danza Prize as best emerging choreographer with the pièce De rerum natura. In 2019 wins the italian national prize Sfera d’Oro per la danza.

His works are selected for Italian and international festivals: Vetrina della Giovane Danza d’Autore in 2012 and 2015 (Network Anticorpi XL – IT), Nid Platform 2015 and 2019, International Festival D-Caf (El Cairo), Tanzmesse (Dusseldörf). Moreover, he presents site-specific performance in collaboraction with important italian institutions: MUSE (Trento), Scuola Normale Superiore (Pisa), La Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea (Roma), Fondazione Perugia Musica Classica (Perugia).