Nine students are listening to a lecture by Claudia Kappenberg, leader of the Screendance Network and Co-Editor of the International Journal of Screendance. Today they are discussing sound on screen and how it often plays a secondary role in spectatorship, but can serve as an augmentation of the images. They explore sound in All this can happen by Siobhan Davies and David Hinton and discuss the different modes of listening as described by Michel Chion as well as Jurgen Simpson’s essay Sound as Choreographic Object.
Offered for the first time this year, the new MA Screendance course is the first of its kind, offering students the chance to immerse themselves in a field that is arguably niche but growing all the time.
Emily Romain and Omari Carter are both students in this inaugural edition of the course. Both Londoners, they found out about the programme online but bring very varied and different experience and background into the classroom. While Emily has an academic background – she studied classics at Oxford – and followed her passion of choreography on the side, Omari has been working in the field for 6 years and has a lot of practical and technological knowledge of film making.
“We represent two completely different sides and the course has to take into account the varying degrees of experience but it’s done really well. It’s very individualised, there is a lot of academic support and we are quite supportive of each other as a class. Prospective students applying definitely shouldn’t feel put off by the academic element of it; the main focus is on the practical work we create. Equally, they shouldn’t be worried that maybe the academic element wouldn’t be enough - it’s both. It’s really interesting and really engaging and you can push yourself within that to whatever degree is right for you“, says Emily.
The MA consists of a full academic year of taught lessons followed by a term of working on the final project and dissertation. For the first year, modules such as Integrated Practice teach the practical elements of film making, technical workshops for editing, cinematography and how to use the camera. “My technical knowledge was limited, I learned a lot in that regard – I’m not scared of a camera anymore!” laughs Emily.
Another module is a more theoretical academic module, looking at the history of cinema and screendance and dance’s place within cinema. “What’s nice about the course is we learn about film theory, dance theory and screen dance theory, and because screendance is a hybrid and the span of research is so wide, it allows us to look at things we might not necessarily look at if we were just studying dance” says Omari.
Then there is the Presenting Screendance module where the students will actually put on their own screendance festival, learn about curating and the practical application of marketing and who their audience is. “The festival is going to be intense, because there is 9 of us – that’s a lot of voices that need to be considered. It will be such a great learning process organising something in such a big team, especially when everyone has their own wants and desires.” Omari is looking forward to it.
So what actually is Screendance? “I didn’t really know what the word screendance meant”, Emily admits.” I thought I was going to learn how to do choreography for film but screendance is not just dance on film, the camera is part of the choreographic process, intertwining two genres to become one.”
For Omari, it’s “a combination of the movement in front of the camera, the movement of the camera itself and the movement developed from the editing and it’s those three things that are pivotal to what screendance is and what we explore on the course.”
The term screendance had only been coined in the last 10 years but since the 19th century screendance has existed. “The term is niche but the practise is happening all the time, you just don’t necessarily know it yet.”
For their final term, students can choose between a full academic dissertation or a shorter dissertation and a film. Emily definitely wants to take up the option of using her new expertise in filming: “We are learning loads on the course and I know that by the time I get to choose what to do for my project I will have learned a lot more.”
For Omari, the natural mover and maker, the idea of a full academic dissertation is very appealing. “I want to write about narratives in hip hop. I might just use the 14,000 words so I can really get in deep and go as far as I can with the writing. I hope I can be a voice in the field and help other artists tell thoughtful stories with their work and their technique.”
And for the future? “In the back of my mind I would maybe like to do a PhD one day, but I like the idea of being a practitioner and a theorist because I think the theory is really interesting” says Emily. For Omari, the MA is a chance to “take my 8 years of work and experience and bring it all together and give myself the time and permission to do so. Screendance is such a mishmash, it’s never one or the other which keeps me interested. To know that I can be in front of the camera one day and behind the camera another day, just keeps my passion going.”
To apply and for further information about MA Screendance click here.