Published: Sept. 5, 2018 By

'We’re the only thing like this between New York and L.A. ... Not everyone knows what dance-film is, so it’s great that we have an opportunity to create an audience for these artists.'

Those who believe that dance-film is largely confined to Broadway musical remakes, John Travolta, and Marx Brothers and Mel Brooks movies should make their way to the Sans Souci Festival of Dance Cinema on Sept. 14 and 15 at the University of Colorado Boulder campus. 

Now in its 15th season, the niche festival solicits films from cutting-edge artists around the world who explore the intersection of cinematography and choreography, with film shorts ranging from cute and funny to posh and trendy to bitingly experimental.


An image from Tethered, above, directed and performed by Danielle Garrison, currently studying for her MFA in dance. At the top of the page is an image from In Splendid Unison, which will premiere at the festival and details the creative, personal and professional partnership of Nancy Spanier, who taught in the CU Boulder dance program for 35 years, and her husband and muse, fellow dancer Paul Oertel.

“We’re the only thing like this between New York and L.A.,” said Michelle Bernier, Festival Executive Director. “Not everyone knows what dance-film is, so it’s great that we have an opportunity to create an audience for these artists.”

San Souci, which had its beginnings in the Boulder mobile home park for which it is named, is a truly international event, with national screening partners and an international touring program, producing shows both in the United States and across the globe. 

In Boulder County this year, local curators worked with 146 submissions to produce seven different programs at nine screenings, all reflecting the diversity of the art form.

While San Souci is now renowned worldwide, local organizers haven’t forgotten the primary objective: to create an experience that will attract dancers, filmmakers and the uninitiated to this burgeoning art form. 

Originally started by a group of CU Boulder students, including current CU Boulder Dance Professor Michelle Ellsworth, on the side of a mobile home, the CU Boulder campus has since become a hotbed of the art form. Bernier, for instance, came to CU to complete an MFA in Dance in 2016, including a secondary emphasis in digital media.

CU alumni and former faculty are a huge force in the art form, and that is reflected in this year’s films, including the only documentary-length film in the festival by Nancy Spanier. Spanier taught in the CU dance program for 35 years and gained international attention for her choreographic endeavors. Her hour-long film, In Splendid Unison, will premiere at the festival, detailing the creative, personal and professional partnership of Spanier and her husband and muse, fellow dancer Paul Oertel.

"It is truly meaningful and very moving to me that the world premiere of my documentary film will take place in Boulder, where so much of my work was produced, and where my artistry was nurtured over many decades,” said Spanier in a note. 

“Though living faraway now in France, I continue to cherish the memory of my 35 years of teaching and creating at CU with great appreciation for the huge support I received there and for the richness and vibrancy of the CU environment."

Other CU alums with their feet in this year’s festival include:

  • Sonya Smith, MFA dance 2015, a professional dancer in San Francisco with Lizz Roman and Dancers, performing in In a Fog,directed by Peter Litwinowicz.
  • Aundrea Anderson, BFA dance and BFA film 2015, director of Washing Distortions. She formed her multimedia dance company, BITEdown Dance in the spring of 2015 after graduating from CU Boulder magna cum laudein both dance and film. She now lives in New York City.
  • Samantha Lysaght, BFA dance 2015, director of and performer in Don't Dwell on It, which screens Friday, Sept. 14. at the Atlas Center for Media, Arts and Performance (ATLAS). The film, accompanied by the sounds of Frank Sinatra, combines Lysaght's struggle and humor to convey tenderness.
  • Rosely Conz, MFA dance 2016, who now holds a tenure-track faculty position and teaches dance at Alma College in Michigan, co-directed and will perform in Terra Blue, a film and live multimedia performance (Friday night at ATLAS).
  • Danielle Garrison, currently studying for her MFA in dance, is the director of and a performer in Tethered, which was made on her Fulbright trip to France and tackles topics of depression, anxiety and suicide. 
  • Ana Baer, MFA dance 2003, is the artistic director of Sans Souci and co-director of TerraBlue film and live multimedia performance.

Bernier herself is in the festival, as the director of Imitation and Splattery film and live multimedia performance (Friday night at the ATLAS Blackbox Experimental Studio).

The screenings at ATLAS on the CU Boulder campus, 1125 18th Street are free and open to the public. While the screenings start at 7:30 p.m. both nights, many of these films can only be seen on installations creatively placed around the theater, so it’s best to show up at 7 p.m. according to festival organizers.

There are also upcoming shows at the Dairy Arts Center’ Boedecker Cinema in Boulder and in Lafayette. Boedecker shows charge admission. Visit the Sans Souci website for further information: