“CDC Guidelines,” by first-year student Audrey Plouffe, is one of dozens of films being presented at Rogue Dancer Journal’s June 2020 showcase, “OUtBreaK!”
ALMA — For many across the globe, guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that were publicized to help fight the spread of COVID-19 were seen as an obstacle to normalcy.
For first-year student Audrey Plouffe of Flint, MI, they represented an opportunity.
“CDC Guidelines,” a film Plouffe created as an assignment in Rosely Conz’s choreography class at Alma College, is currently being showcased at “OUtBreaK!” — a curated, online-only festival organized by the dance publication Rogue Dancer Journal.
“COVID-19 was really challenging for my dance classes in particular,” said Plouffe, an integrative physiology and health science major. “When our classes moved online, we immediately went from having this amazing studio space at the college to dealing with what we have available at home. We started recording ourselves dancing and sharing it with our peers to get feedback.
“This video came from that process. It was a challenge, but it was a fun one, and I was delighted to see it accepted to the film festival.”
Plouffe admits that “CDC Guidelines” is a surreal, abstract concept that may be difficult to understand at first. The video — just over four minutes long, set to the tune of “I Won’t Go Out Today” by folk singer Molly Ofgeography — features Plouffe performing in her home bathroom, before a stationary camera placed in front of the mirror.
Plouffe makes clever use of her surroundings, in one moment clutching the doorknob and bending her body backward toward the camera, and in another, slinking out of the frame and moving, only visible in the reflection on the silver sink handle.
With a concerned expression on her face, her eyes dart back and forth — never making contact with the viewer — creating an effect that is designed to illustrate Plouffe’s difficult feelings about the pandemic.
“The intent was to create a claustrophobic feeling, which I think we all went through a little bit during quarantine,” Plouffe said. “I’m moving around in a bathroom in a way that one doesn’t typically move — I’m upside-down, I’m sideways, my legs and feet are on the walls and the sink. The idea is that I’m re-orienting myself in this new world. And it’s a new world for all of us.”
Conz, assistant professor dance, said the video assignment is not usually part of the choreography class’s curriculum, but became an asset when Alma College moved to remote learning in March to help prevent the spread of coronavirus on campus.
When Conz saw Plouffe’s video, known more formally as a “screendance,” she knew it would be received well on the film festival circuit and suggested Plouffe enter it in Rogue Dancer.
“Audrey is a brilliant student,” Conz said. “I think the thing I was most proud of when she did the work for the festival is that she used what is a limitation for many — nobody was happy about moving to online-only learning — and she made an advantage out of it.
“Audrey’s not the only one who went above and beyond during the transition,” Conz continued. “Every student used the transition to explore new possibilities, and I’m grateful to all of them. They are living the mission of the college, which is to prepare them for the challenges ahead — whether it’s a global pandemic or performing in a miniscule bathroom”
Plouffe doesn’t expect to win any awards from Rogue Dancer. For someone with relatively little experience in the field to do so would be extremely rare, she said. Still, she said simply being involved presents a big opportunity for networking — as well as a vote of confidence in her future as a dancer.
“It makes me feel like I’m a real choreographer and I have promise in this field,” she said. “I’m creating art that people can see all over the world, and talking to people who are more experienced than me and doing the same thing, and that’s not something I ever thought I could end up doing.”
“OUtBreaK!” is taking place now through July 2 at roguedancer.org.