Step by step, choreography offers a road map out of a deep digital forest. Dance transcends a single performer, pulling the audience in and lifting them in a wake of movement.

Challenging the traditional structures of choreographic storytelling and artistic expression, Rethink Dance’s 2020 Film Festival is set for Oct. 8 at the Fargo Theatre with a premiere of a locally produced film called “Wake.”

The experimental film brings together dance, cinematography and music to capture an extension of the subconscious using flowing movements of dancers with the beauty of nature as a backdrop.

Started three years ago, the Rethink Dance Festival features films that reflect the beauty and synchronicity between the choreography of dance and the choreography of cinematography. Narrative films of any length are eligible, and past submissions have included stories from around the world of dance.

“I’m really proud of our team for going for it and doing this film in the middle of a pandemic on a shoestring budget,” says Haylee Thompson, founder and CEO of Rethink Dance.

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Continuing on with another film this year, the festival originally premiered the experimental film “Rise” in 2018 alongside films from several countries.

“We were getting submissions from all over the place, all of these different countries,” Thompson says. “I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, because I know people want a platform to share their art, but maybe it was my own attitude of thinking this incredible thing couldn’t come true.”

It did come true. And now, even among unthinkable hurdles, the team behind “Wake” is bringing nature into the conversation for a fresh perspective in a strange world.

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“Nature was a key element to the film, says the director of the film, Oscar De Leon, of Chamber Six Media. "The whole conceit of the project is about reengaging with nature.”

Although they battled with the elements, from extreme heat to swarming bugs, shooting a dance film out in nature lent itself to their story of awakening.

The locally produced film “Wake” creates a conversation around responses to the COVID-19 pandemic with organic movements that focus on reconnecting with nature and self-discovery. Morgan Schleif / Special to The Forum
The locally produced film “Wake” creates a conversation around responses to the COVID-19 pandemic with organic movements that focus on reconnecting with nature and self-discovery. Morgan Schleif / Special to The Forum

“I think this pandemic and everything that's gone along with it has allowed us to really reengage and shut everything else off for the most part, to sort of forcibly come to terms with nature and and try to capture it,” De Leon says.

Shot in picturesque farmlands and wading into serene summer waters, the film creates a back-and-forth conversation between dance and the natural world.

As the choreographer for “Wake,” David Triptow was tasked with starting that conversation first as free-form ideas, and then eventually cutting down ideas into one compelling piece.

“The choreography at first was kind of almost free-form and we slowly created a rhythm to it. I had to listen to it and things just kind of fit in pockets and I kept on re-tweaking, tightening up little by little until it just kind of fit like a glove,” Triptow explains about the process.

A collaboration between Haylee Thompson of Rethink Dance and choreographer David Triptow (seen here in 2014), “Wake” was captured by the Chamber Six Media crew, an independent film collective. Forum file photo
A collaboration between Haylee Thompson of Rethink Dance and choreographer David Triptow (seen here in 2014), “Wake” was captured by the Chamber Six Media crew, an independent film collective. Forum file photo

A native of Fargo, Triptow’s experience with choreography started with Trollwood Performing Arts School as the executive assistant before he moved to New York City to continue his work in dance. It was his recent return to the area during the pandemic that inspired the direction of the film.

“Throughout this dance piece, there’s a journey of trying to let go of the past and coming to a point of surrender,” Triptow says.

Now in the final stages of editing the film, the creatives behind the film are seeking support through a crowdsourcing campaign on GoFundMe.

Three years into the Rethink Dance Film Festival, CEO Haylee Thompson and a team of creatives came together to shoot “Wake,” set to premiere this fall. A GoFundMe fundraiser is currently seeking support to finish the final editing of the project. Morgan Schleif / Special to The Forum
Three years into the Rethink Dance Film Festival, CEO Haylee Thompson and a team of creatives came together to shoot “Wake,” set to premiere this fall. A GoFundMe fundraiser is currently seeking support to finish the final editing of the project. Morgan Schleif / Special to The Forum

“Now that the film is in post-production, it has turned into something completely different but enhanced of what the original idea was. And being able to surrender — it's a very hard thing to let go of control — but at the end of the day it makes everything a million times better.

To find out more about the festival this fall, visit www.rethinkdance.com or follow Rethink Dance Film Festival on social media for updates.

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit http://theartspartnership.net.