Physical Cinema

“Physical Cinema” is a specific genre of film making in which a choreographer, a film maker / visual artist, and composer/ sound designer collaborate towards a creative work where movement, motion, time, and space are a prime source of  the narrative or abstract “story board”.  It is an area of mutual and balanced exchange of concepts and ideas.  It is not a documentary, or filming of a live staged performance.  The dramaturgy of location  as well as innovative and experimental kinetic use of the camera all play an extremely important part in the process,.


  1. The focus is upon developing pedagogical materials in which dance, film, and visual art students through collaborative efforts, guided by tutors in film, choreography, sound design, and visual design all create a hybrid cluster of focused creative energies towards the a movie which captures the physical / emotional gesture of a body in space. Physical Cinema is the collaborative meeting point of dance, film, and music (and in the all important related area of sound design),
  2.  Background:  “[…This] is an opportune time in film history. This is definitely a Renaissance in Dance Film currently that we are seeing. There is a great interest in non-verbal communication in film and the art of story-telling on camera, tools that are being used with camera movement and technology changing at rapid speed, including 3-d technology which ultimately enhances dance on camera ten-fold”  – Christy Park- Executive Director of the Dance Films Association February 2014
  3. Distant Conferencing January 29, 2015: Invited participants:
    – Turku Arts Academy, Turku, Finland: David Yoken, Mikko Maunula
    – Danish National School of Performing Arts, Copenhagen, Denmark: Kim Helweg, Sheila daVal
    – Klaipeda University, Klaipeda, Lithuania: Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė and Agnija Seiko
    – Department of Choreography / Baltic Film and Media School. Tallinn University, Estonia:    Eliisa Sokk, Riho Vastrik, Elen Lotman
    – Iceland Arts Academy: Alma Ragnarsdóttir, Sveinbjörg Þórhallsdóttir
    -University of Gothenburg, Academy of Music and Drama: Film, Gothenburg, Sweden: Maria Larsson
  4. Basic distant conference agenda:
    1. Experiences we all have had with Physical Cinema workshops.
    2. Which students participated.
    3. How these workshops were arranged in the students’ schedules.
    4. Challenges that were experienced.
    5. Sharing of previously documented workshop materials.
    6. Ways we can use our existing teachers / resources.
    7. Focusing on developing a pedagogy which explores the hybrid nature of these artistic forms (dance, film, music/sound design, visual arts, etc) and ways we can codify these materials.
    8. Basic discussion regarding ways to develop a Bachelor level teaching model that concentrates on inter-disciplinary skill based knowledge in the area of choreography, film making, music scoring/sound design for Physical Cinema.  Ways MA level students might be engaged as a “teaching assistant” for such a program.
    9. Brief discussion regarding the strategy within our university programs which facilitates team teaching between these artistic disciplines. How do we create a time table inside our programs that allows teachers from these disciplines to “brainstorm” on the ways that their curricula is able to absorb and support their students working with the other disciplines.
    10. Proposed dates for Physical Cinema Development Project workshop at Turku Arts Academy, Fall 2015. Content of workshops and exchange of expertise.  Documentation of this workshop and other discussions and exchanges that will be part of a Physical Cinema online archive to disseminate to all N+ ECA Network partners.
    11. March 2nd NORDPLUS application for a Physical Cinema I.C. August 2016. Update:  this was not funded.


Some examples of previous Physical Cinema Workshops (see also above):

“Physical Cinema” Intensive Course Workshop #1

Department of Choreography, Tallinn University, Tallinn, Estonia. August 20 – 28, 2011

This nine day workshop was led by our ECA network colleague from the Iceland Academy of the Arts, Choreographer/Film Maker, Helena Jónsdóttir. Participating dance and film students came from our ECA Network partners institutions in Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Our hosts the Department of Choreography, Tallinn University arranged all the important logistical details to make this a positive gathering of all who participated.  Many thanks to Tiina Ollesk and Karmen Ong for all their efforts to make this happen! Helena worked intensively with the students, introducing them to the world of “Physical Cinema” and together with the students explored a number of relates issues concerning the collaborative aspect of dance and film. Here are short films produced in a matter of hours during the last moments of the workshop:

Tiina Putus “Valmis” (“Ready”)

Mikko Peltonen “Untitled”

Sofia Kristoffersson “My First Dance Movie”

Nathalie Hillman “Final Cut”

And others:

Group 1 Untitled
Group 2 “Into the Whole”
Group 3 “Art is So Gay”
Group 4 “Hands and Head”
Group 5 “Workshop Material”

“Physical Cinema” Intensive Course Workshop #2

Latvian Academy of Culture, Riga, Latvia.  August 24 – September 2, 2012

Our Icelandic colleague, Helena Jónsdóttir once again led an extremely successful intensive course workshop at the Latvian Academy Culture, Riga, Latvia during the late summer of 2012.  Our host Mr Krzysztof Szyrszen, the Latvian Academy of Culture’s International Projects Manager, arranged all matters to create a wonderful atmosphere.  We were honored to be the first group able to work in the newly opened Latvian Academy of Culture’s Department of Theatre and Audiovisual Arts’ “Zirgu Pasts” buidling.  The ten day gathering ended with a wonderful evening open house of the space as well as screenings of the students’ films.  Here are a number of pictures from the working process during the intensive course workshop.

Videos will be posted shortly.

Here are some images from the workshop:

Janne and Taija from Finland collaborating!

Janne and Taija

Taisija from Latvia concentrating!


Group working environment.

Group working

Storyboard discussion.


Óskar from Iceland presenting!

Group presentation

Physical Cinema Workshop in conjunction with Turku European Cultural Capital 2011 and the Central Baltic INTERREG IV A 2007–2013 programme’s MIMO – Moving In, Moving On!
Application of Art Based Methods to Social and Youth Work led by Finnish choreographer Hanna Pajala-Assefa, February 2013

Physical Cinema as vocational/practice for documenting dance in an educational environment…using techniques learned in the workshop led in February 2013 by Hanna Pajala-Assefa. MIMO Creative Dance Workshop, Kupittaa High School, Turku, Finland September 26, 2013.

Physical Cinema Workshop led by Film DIrector Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė and Choreographer Agnija Seiko.  A pedagogical survey of approaches to camera movements/placements/and relationship to the moving body. October 2014. Student participants from Finland, Norway, and Estonia.

Helena Jónsdóttir’s ZIMMER

Helena Jónsdóttir’s TIMAR/EPISODES

Use of Physical Cinema for the Icelandic Dance Company’s trailer:


Aggiss Liz and Billy Cowie, editors. Anarchic Dance. Routledge. 2006.

Brannigan, Erin. Dancefilm: Choreography and the Moving Image. Oxford University Press. 2011.

Dance on Camera Journal: A Dance Films Association Publication, Volume 11, Issues 2-5.

Dance on screen, 24 Frames Per Second

Dodds Sherril. Dance on Screen Genres and Media from Hollywood to Experimental Art. Palgrave Macmillan. 2001.

Hunter, Victoria. Moving Sites: Investigating Site-Specific Dance Performance. London. Routledge. 2015.

McPherson Katrina. Making Video Dance- A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Dance for the Screen. Routledge; New Ed edition. 2006.

Mitoma, Judith, Elizabeth Zimmer, Dale Ann Stieber. Envisioning Dance on Film and Video.  Psychology Press. 2002.

McPherson, Katrina . Simon Fildes. Opensource {videodance}: Symposium, 15th-18th June 2006, Findhorn, Scotland. Goat Media Ltd. 2007.

Porter, Jenelle (Author, Editor), Edwin Denby (Author), Shirley Clarke (Author). Dance with Camera. Pennsylvania. Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania. 2010

Spain, Louise. Dance on Camera: A Guide to Dance Films and Videos. Scarecrow Press.1998

Significant Videos

Trisha Brown Drawing/Performance

Beach Birds for Camera (1993) – Merce Cunningham Dance Company

Fase – Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker & Michele Anne de Mey

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker Rosas | ROSAS DANST ROSAS

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker Steve Reich – Violin Fase – Violin Phase

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker Steve Reich Drumming


Wim Vandekeybus – Blush

Wim Vandekeybus & Ultima Vez In Spite of Wishing and Wanting

Essential Dance Film


To Build a Home


Dance Films Association 

Dance Camera West – Dance Media Film Festival

Kaeja Dance and Film Workshops

Loikka Dance Film Festival

San Francisco Dance Film Festival


The ECA Network is supported by the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Baltic Countries through
the Nordplus Higher Education Programme.