In the conversation about contemporary art, screendance intrigues more and more artists and researchers, accumulating intellectual and experimental tools and giving more and more arguments for its autonomy among other artistic fields. Necessarily, being part cinema and part dance, it can in reality be viewed and explored through the prism of either art. But in fact the true essence of screendance is the discovery of symbiosis: not the distinction between film and dance aspects, but quite the contrary – a focus on works in which they coexist synergistically.

The human body in motion is the most consistent element in screendance and it has the power to set a unique context for the practice. And the existence of this body is possible, visible, and receptive thanks to the camera. It itself ‘lives’ in a different way when shooting dance or choreography.

It is this specific dialogue that is fundamental to Svetlin Velchev’s project Depths.

Svetlin Velchev talks about the depths of his searching, his inspirations, the important details in his artistic decisions, in the second virtual conversation of the rubric Translation on Air on the Moving Body Platform. There you can hear more about his film projects Heights and Depths, produced by the Moving Body Festival team and screened during the 2019 edition.

To get to the current text and context, we need to mention a few interesting points in Svetlin’s creative path. He was born and raised in Sofia, and nowadays he resides in the multicultural Amsterdam, where he creates his artistic projects in various directions – screendance, photography, video, theatre, installation and site-specific art. In 2012 he founded Manifest Dance Company a company that encourages artists and audiences to be alive and active. Svetlin is also one of the first Bulgarian artists to enter the field of screendance with his 2004 film Hexagons – an interesting dance video (starring Teodor Vodenicharov, Katerina Petrova and Violeta Vitanova). Fifteen years later, Svetlin Velchev took upon new artistic dimensions.

In the following lines, we will go along with him in a deeper and deeper immersion.

Piano – soft but compelling. A figure looking for itself and others in a mirror image. Our gaze revolves around a human being. Shadows and lights dance together and a body in motion is seen. It’s blue. It’s beautiful. We’re getting closer, lower, deeper – inside the Depths screendance project. The impact of Svetlin Velchev’s work begins on the surface of the screen, but he manages to draw us beyond it – through reflection and co-experience, in the ocean’s blue abyss. And, without the need to formulate messages or suggestions, let’s offer a perspective on Depths. Certainly, not coincidentally, the work is most often presented in unity with another project by Svetlin – Heights. The artist dares us to look for the strong interconnectedness of the concepts ‘’deep – high’’ and gives us the opportunity through deeper immersion to reach elevation. 

Intuitively, the reaction of the viewer to Depths is probably first elicited by the colors, the sound and the body in motion, observed by a lightly floating camera. Among the artistic tools that are used, light is crucial. In our online meeting, Svetlin shared his interest in lighting fixtures, the study of their diversity and the achievement of a simplistic visual world. This particular interest finds a definite expression in Depths – the spotlights flood the shots in deep blue – tangible and all-embracing. The video dance is limited horizontally and vertically by the rectangular format, but not in depth. It seems that the lighting and the playful moving shadows create layers of visuality that the eye can penetrate. The movement is inward. Synced with the visible, the sound also works in that direction. Edward Shearmur’s music draws and captivates the imagination of the mesmerized viewer, who is simultaneously listening and experiencing. Svetlin himself told us about the significance of this particular sound piece. It was sought after and specially ‘placed’ in the project. The effect is achieved – the music takes us elsewhere – it immerses us in a sublime melody, in a magical feeling of quietness with its own sounds – which are only found in the depths.

Going through the meaning of some elements of the screendance project, it is most natural to contemplate at the choreographed body – the center of the work Depths. It sets the context of the work because it actively navigates the artistic components of sound and light. The body, with its smooth movement, is a living, material, semantic core that inhabits a concrete time and space. According to Douglas Rosenberg, a screendance theorist and researcher, one of the main elements of this medium is the body in motion with the important task of contextualizing the work. Most often it is the main creator and/or bearer of meaning. It is also an accumulator of reactions and sensations of different nature – emotional, psychological, visceral and abstract. In his work Proposing a Theory of Screendance Rosenberg also discusses how the body in the dance film is both known to the perceiver of the work and self-aware in the process of movement of the dancer. The transmission of information is outward and inward at the same time. What is happening on the screen is performative, something like an autobiographical writing of the body, which has ephemeral qualities and cannot be repeated in an identical way. But at the same time, the mechanical tools – camera, montage and light – capture the movement, turning it into a cultural artefact that can be studied again and again to infinity. These ideas of Rosenberg can be related to the work of Svetlin Velchev. We see their real projections in Depths. The artist’s body, placed in the center, sets the meaning, sends the messages and outlines the effects. At the same time, every revisit of the work is valuable because of the surprise that is revealed with every new viewing, because of the reacquainting with the body and its movement – writing of meanings both unique to one’s own self and universal to the human bodily presence.

The camera is always a present cinematic component in screendance (except perhaps when an animated film is considered a screendance). Without it, the dialogue between screen and movement is impossible. The camera is the heart of the artistic field, uniting film and dance. The camera in Svetlin Velchev’s Depths is a drone, flying and floating, giving life to the visible and transporting it into the dimension of the practice screendance. The choice of a drone is a completely conscious artistic decision and Svetlin told us about its complex specifics. But, despite the technological challenges, the artist fully embodies the already mentioned basic screendance concept in his work – the camera is fundamental to the metaphorical world of dance film. Its body and synergistic way of movement centralize the human corpus and create a sense of depth. The drone is never static. The drone seems to have its own independent eye, ‘stalking’ the gestures of the mover. The drone is capable of creating depth and height. Thanks to its very mechanics and essential function of flying, it materializes the layers in which we discover the ideological and the conceptual, and which we perceive with our being when we experience Depths.

Svetlin shared with us that the drone moves up and down, moves away at different angles and approaches his body – a risk that further enriches the visceral effect of the film. In some special moments, the eye catches the shadow of this flying machine and its real body becomes part of the body of the film. It is projected onto the floor’s surface and onto the mobile figure of the artist, reminding us that they’re still there. Perhaps a stretch, but doesn’t this shadow remind you of one of the first scenes in Andrei Tarkovsky’s Mirror? A female hypnotherapist helps a young boy who stutters with a metaphysical session. Here the movement of the camera and what is happening between the characters is also synergistic. Both spiritually and materially present, the camera follows actions, tension, relaxation, release. It captures for eternity, it records the touches between fingers, hands, forehead, head and contributes to the viewer’s sense of co-experience and empathy for this touch and sensation. And in the upper corner of the same shot, almost imperceptibly, the shadow of the microphone appears, capturing the important words. The body of the film is the film itself, but the microphone is the embodied confirmation of the very creation, shooting and sculpting of the world. Such is the drone in Depths, which acquires tactility through its shadow in the deep blue. The eye (and all other senses) moves from the surface to the inside and once again shows us the impact of the choreographed body, its simultaneous strength, fragility, flexibility, limits, and capabilities. And at the same time – the potential of this impact to seduce or to change.

Depths, concept and implementation by Svetlin Velchev

In Envisioning Dance on Film and Video (2002), Judy Mitoma explores the idea that dance for the camera is a natural extension of the skills of the body and mind of the moving artist. Viewpoints towards dance and film or video often share characteristics such as “sensitivity to visual form, motion, space, time, and light, as well as a passion to communicate.” (xxxi). In Depths these aspects are recognizable and work as they constantly intertwine – there is a definite intention for this work, materialized through knowledge of video and dance formats. The sense of one’s own body, of orientation in space, of the force of gravity, valid for every body, but especially for the moving person’s body. Svetlin is also a communicator, like many artists involved in dance, film or screendance – the similarity is in the enthusiasm to share a certain idea or philosophy, and the difference – in the choice of artistic language and tools of expression.

These features allow Svetlin Velchev’s work to be defined as screendance. A work that deserves our attention in depth. We are provoked to explore it with our minds – intellectually and analytically. But not only. Our bodies and senses are challenged to feel the depths, the textures of the lights, viscerally. And with our inner self we are invited to experience the piece emotionally. So our attention works on several levels and we can look for what is hidden under the waves. And what is it? Uncertainties, difficulties, mysticism, fear, excitement, treasures, and impulses? Every close look at this screendance project brings us a new discovery.

It is a real pleasure to watch and listen to Depths in the dark, in a cinema room, isolated from the outside world. To discover the layers of potentials. To feel the depth that can elevate us higher.


The deciphering of the practice of screendance and its representatives continues in Translation on Air, because communication and deep immersion are an effort, but also a pleasurable activity.


Translated by Miryana Mezeklieva

Ana-Maria Sotirova has a degree in Film from the University of Reading and a Master’s degree in Film Studies from the University of Amsterdam. She is a collaborator at the Moving Body Festival in Varna with lead organisers Svetlozara Hristova and Iskra Ivanova.

Miryana Mezeklieva (1987) graduated in Cultural Studies at Sofia University Kliment Ohridski. Since 2008 until today she has been working as a translator of feature films and series for dubbing mainly for the channels of Nova Broadcasting Group.

This material was created within the project Translation on Air – a section dedicated to dance for the screen or screendance. Every month we invite the professional and amateur audiences, tempted by this intriguing symbiosis between cinema and dance, to join our readings, conversations and discussions with active practitioners and choreographers in this field from the country and abroad.

The project “Translation on air” is implemented with the financial support of the National Fund “Culture” under the program “Audiences” 2020 and the program “One-year grant” 2021.

Videography and bibliography:

Short film “Depths” 

Online conversation with Svetlin Velchev

Hristova, Svetlozara and Sotirova, Ana-Maria,About the field of screendance: the meeting of dance with cinema, Dance Magazine, no. 2, 2020one

Barker, Jennifer M., 2009. The Tactile Eye: Touch and the Cinematic Experience. University of California Press.

Mitoma, Judy, Elizabeth Zimmer and Dale Ann Stieber, eds. 2002. Envisioning Dance on Film and Video. Florence: Taylor & Francis Group.

Rosenberg, Douglas. 2006. ‘Proposing a Theory of Screendance’ in SCREENDANCE: THE STATE OF THE ART PROCEEDINGS. American Dance Festival Duke University, Durham.