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SF Dance Film fest kicks off seventh edition

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Ashley Murphy is among the dancers featured in director Frances McElroy’s “Black Ballerina.” (Courtesy Frances McElroy, Shirley Road Productions)

The seventh annual San Francisco Dance Film Festival, a four-day lineup of shorts and features showcasing new and historic performers from around the world, runs Thursday through Sunday at the Brava Theater Center.

Among the movies of an international flavor is “Kick Ball Change,” screening at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Not a typical documentary, and bursting with brief, colorful and often provocative dance sequences, the film by Guy Sadot zones in on five-time professional ballroom dancer Maxim Kozhevnikov, a fun, thrilling, sweet and iconoclastic artist who’s anything but the bland types seen on “Dancing With the Stars.”

The movie, a mosaic as promoters promise, illustrates Kozhevnikov’s spirit and creativity via comments from the buoyant dancer-choreographer himself, as well as his family (his mom tells how he was born premature and doctors gave him days to live), colleagues, collaborators and teachers both in Russia and his current home in the U.S.

It follows him as he dreams up and develops wild new dances (gleefully relying on sound because he’s visually impaired), and, perhaps most exciting, includes plenty of clips from his winning tournament work, with partners past (Yulia Zagoruychenko) and present (Anastasia Grigoreva).

“Black Ballerina,” directed by Frances McElroy and screening at 4 p.m. Sunday, provides a contrast to Kozhevnikov’s wacky world.

Beautiful, provocative, engaging and at times disheartening, the film examines the triumphs and disappointments of African American women dedicated to classical dance.

Some of eloquent seniors in the film lament the ongoing lack off opportunity for black dancers, but did find at least some success in a field famous (or infamous) for being restrictive.

They include Joan Myers Brown, founding director of the contemporary group Philadanco; Delores Browne, a former member of the American Negro Ballet and longtime dance teacher; Virginia Johnson, artistic director of Dance Theatre of Harlem (and former principal dancer with the group); and Raven Wilkinson, the first African-American with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, who toured successfully with the troupe, then retired after being told that there cannot be a “Black White Swan.”’

Although American Ballet Theatre’s Misty Copeland is not featured, current dancers Ashley Murphy (with Washington Ballet) and Amanda Smith, who performs with the Charlotte [North Carolina] Ballet, are profiled.

Bianca Fabré, a young woman from Georgia who looks beautiful dancing in clips but cannot get a ballet job despite lots of training and seemingly every effort, perhaps has the most upsetting story: tears in her eyes, she asks herself if she indeed has tried hard enough, as she (figuratively) sets aside her toe shoes and puts on a flight attendant’s uniform.


IF YOU GO

San Francisco Dance Film Festival
Where: Brava Theater, 2781 24th St., S.F.
When: Oct. 20-23
Tickets: $13 to $15 most screenings
Contact: www.sfdancefilmfest.org

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