The lights go out, and suddenly a woman enters the stage of the Ruth Taylor Recital Hall at Trinity University. She wears the white skirt typical of Veracruz, Mexico. Searching the audience with her eyes, she confronts a spectator with a strange stare filled with judgment. Breaking off her gaze, she begins moving about, dancing the zapateado while battling her skirt. Then stopping abruptly, the woman looks at the audience and says, “No, I don’t speak Spanish.” She resumes fidgeting with her skirt, then stops again and says, “My name is not Maria.” After a series of statistical remarks about the Hispanic population in the U.S., the dancer pulls out a rope and divides the stage from side-to-side, while the lights go out and a video showing sterotypical Mexican scenes, a mother and child, a bullfight, starts playing in the background. The performer hangs her shoes on the rope, and attaches her skirt to the line with clothespins. Finally, the woman emerges slowly from the floating skirt, now free of all associations.
"My name is not Maria," directed by Sans Souci’s artistic co-director Ana Baer, with choreography and performance by Sarah Sanchez, is a perfect example of what the Sans Souci Dance Film Festival is about. Created eight years ago in Boulder, Colorado by Michelle Ellsworth and Brandi Mathis, the film festival explores the experimental interdisciplinary possibilities in dance, film, video, and performance art. Sans Souci is a traveling festival that tours the U.S., France, Mexico, Brazil, Spain, and Germany. The emphasis on performance art in the experiment makes Sans Souci stand out from other festivals of dance cinema.
Sans Souci had its debut here in San Antonio last year. Brought by the theater company AtticRep at Trinity University, the film festival includes entries by local filmmakers. “Urban Hoop” by Erik Bosse and “The Clearing” by Joey Fauerso were two of the local films that participated this year. Rick Frederick, Interim Manager Director at AtticRep, commented: “We had some people that were here for last year’s San Souci and now they are incorporating dance into their filmmaking. It is very interesting to see how it is weaving into our art community.”
With more than 90 entries from all over the world this year, Sans Souci questions the meaning of theater, dance, video, film, and performance art. The dance cinema experiment brings dance out of the theater into film, then brings the mixture back to the theater to be shown — in Sans Souci’s case — with a live performer on stage. Meaning “without concern” in French, Sans Souci lives up to its name by showing an openness towards transgressing traditional boundaries. It is still unknown if the fest will be back next year, but the team of AtticRep is eager to continue hosting this stimulating annual art event. —Haydeé Muñoz De la Rocha