On February 11, 2023 at 3:45pm, Samantha Shay’s short film Mother Melancholia will screen as part of the 51st edition of the Dance on Camera Festival at Film at Lincoln Center’s Francesca Beale Theater, 144 West 65th St., NYC. The festival will feature 30 new films over four days from February 10-13, 2023, with programming focusing on global diversity and reflecting on the human experience and power for community. Tickets go on sale Thursday, January 19 at 12pm ET and are $12 for Film at Lincoln Center Members, $14 for Students, Senior (62+), and Persons with Disabilities, and $17 for the General Public. Save with the discounted All-Access Pass for $79 and the discounted Student All-Access Pass for $39. For additional information regarding the festival, please visit Film at Lincoln Center at filmlinc.org and Dance Films Association at dancefilms.org, and follow us on social media @filmlinc and @dancefilms.

Mother Melancholia is a multi-layered portrait of four women and a eulogy for the planet set to, and inspired by, Icelandic instrumentalist Sóley‘s album of the same title. A self-proclaimed soundtrack for the end of the world as we know it, the dance film approaches patriarchal politics and ecofeminism through an unguarded, unsettlingly beautiful meditation on the difficulty, and immediacy, of being fully present in the world. Filmed in the surreal and eroding Icelandic landscape, Mother Melancholia is a quiet, yet urgent, conduit between the internal world of the human experience and the planet we inhabit.

Mother Melancholia was created by Samantha Shay in collaboration with the other performers: longtime Pina Bausch collaborator and dancer Barbara Kaufmann, Slave Play’s Tony Award-nominated Chalia La Tour, and Breanna O’Mara, former Tantzheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch dancer currently working with Dmitris Papaiouannou.

“This film erupts from the music of my friend, the composer Sóley,” said Samantha Shay. “When she first came to me with the subjects of the marginalization of women and femmes and the destruction of the planet, it felt massive, and like it was not my place to make an opinionated statement about tragedies the world has yet to resolve. But I used the most intimate approach I could, looking through the lens of my own experience, and later through the experiences of the performers I collaborated with. The piece became a constellation of how the personal resounds beyond human experience. What is the relationship between a melting glacier, and a personal trauma? Mother Melancholia is what resulted from traveling together, meditating on the Sóley’s themes, and from there, creating something that wove itself together through each of us.”

Production Credits

Produced by Hallfridur Thora Tryggvadottir, Director of Photography Victoria Sendra, Edited by Samantha Shay, Editing Consultant Barbara Kaufmann, Colorist Silvia Grav, Costume Designer Angela Trivino, Production Designer Eva Signý Berger, Production Manager Julie Runge, Director of Finance Stephanie Regina, Production Coordinator Júlíana Kristín Liborius, 1st Assistant Camera Ásta Jónína Arnardóttir, Gaffer Erla Margrét Gunnarsdóttir, Sound Engineer Albert Finnbogason, Sound Recording on Set Kristín Hrönn Jónsdóttir, Hair & Make-up Flóra Karítas Buenano, Intimacy Director Colleen Hughes, Cultural Consultant Preston “Coyote” Vargas, Seamstress Alexía Rós Gylfadóttir, Catering Arabella Morgan Jördís Richter, Set Photography Saga Sigurdardottir Juliette Rowland, Graphic Design FISK, Film Equipment Victoria Sendra KUKL, Sound Engineer and Instrumentalist Albert Finnbogason, Drums Jón Óskar Jónsson, Viola and String Arrangements Kristín Þóra Haraldsdóttir, Violin Gudbjorg Hlin Gudmundsdottir, Violin Sigrún Kristbjörg Jónsdóttir, Cello Þórdís Gerður Jónsdóttir, Double Bass Alexandra Kjeld 

About Dance Films Association

Founded in 1951, Dance Films Association (DFA) is dedicated to fostering connections between the worlds of dance and film; promoting excellence in dance films; supporting filmmakers working specifically with dance and helping them develop and augment their skills; and connecting audiences with quality films focused on movement and dance, both new works and works from the historical canon. DFA is a catalyst for innovation in and preservation of dance on camera.

Dance Films Association receives generous year-round support from our members, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council, the Office of the Mayor Eric Adams, and Commissioner Laurie Cumbo, as well as the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, Wave Farm, and the National Endowment for the Arts. For more information visit www.dancefilms.org and follow @dancefilms on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  

About the Artists

Samantha Shay (director/performer) is a multidisciplinary artist, performer, director of theatre and film, and movement artist. As a creative instigator, catalyzer and master collaborator, her acclaimed body of work challenges traditional boundaries, creates new connections, and dances across the fault lines between disciplines. She is currently a Guest Artist & Researcher at Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, where she began as a Fulbright Scholar in 2021. She is also the Artistic Director of Source Material, an interdisciplinary production company and artist collective, which she founded in 2014.

Samantha’s theatrical work has been produced at The Grotowski Institute, the Theatre Olympics, RedCat, HERE Arts (New York), Tjarnarbio (Iceland), LungA (Iceland), and the Edinburgh International Fringe. As a filmmaker, she has made ambitious music videos for KÁRYYN, JFDR, Sóley, and Katie Gately, among others. Katie Gately’s Waltz, directed by Shay and starring dancer Bobbi Jene Smith was an international success, recognized by both the music and dance scene, playing numerous film festivals: LA Music Video Awards, Experimental Dance & Music Film Festival, London Music Video Awards, San Francisco Dance Film Festival, Portland Dance Film Festival, Thessaloniki Cinedance International, ScreenDance Film Festival, Opine Dance Film Festival, Jacksonville Dance Film Festival, Utah Dance Film Festival, and BAFTA and Academy Award qualifying HollyShorts and CineQuest. 

In 2016 her original piece, ‘of Light’, gained international attention when it was developed under the mentorship of Marina Abramović , endorsed by Abramović and praised by Björk in The Guardian. Two songs from the original score were released by Mute Records via composer KÁRYYN, with ‘Moving Masses’ named as Best New Track on Pitchfork.

From 2017-2019 Samantha’s original piece made in collaboration with The Grotowski Institute and Nini Julia Bang, ‘A Thousand Tongues’ toured Europe and the US, receiving two nominations for Gríman – The Icelandic Theatre Awards – including Most Innovative Performance. In 2019 she made her first dance film, Homesick, in collaboration with Israeli Dancer/Choreographer Danielle Agami (Batsheva Dance Company, Ate9 Dance Company) which is now published exclusively on NOWNESS. In 2020 she directed the digitally-devised Zoom play ‘In These Uncertain Times’, in response to how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the arts. The New York Times described the performance as “like a lyrical essay, poetic, emotive and fluid,” and it has been used as a resource by numerous academic and critical researchers as a pivotal theatrical work during the pandemic.

In 2021 Samantha was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to work with the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, and she has since been based in Wuppertal, where she is making numerous artistic works with current and former members of the company, and researching the repertory and history of Pina Bausch’s legacy. 

In 2023, she will release Romance, a new dance film by in response to her research into the works of Pina Bausch in an illuminating meeting point with the short story “It was Romance” by Miranda July. Developed in a close collaboration between Shay and an intergenerational ensemble of dancers from Tanztheater Wuppertal, the creative point of departure for “Romance” centers on the company’s first transgender dancer, Naomi Brito, and how her transition was catalyzed by the roles of women as she experienced them in the Bausch repertory. Shot on 16mm film in Pina Bausch’s iconic and aging Lichtburg rehearsal studio, “Romance” dances on the fault lines between fiction and reality, dance and documentary, in a fertile intergenerational dialogue between past, present and future, and through a fresh and powerful encounter, assures that the power of an aging legacy is never ending. Romance premieres at Cinedans in March 2023.

Sóley Stefánsdóttir (composer) was born in Hafnarfjörður in Iceland and has attracted a huge following with her fairytale song-craft since launching her solo career in 2010 with the release of her EP Theater Island. Sóley’s fantastical sepia-toned alt-pop tunes continued with the release of her debut full-length album We Sink in 2011. Receiving acclaim through her delicate compositions, soaked in dream-like qualities and dark surrealism, her song Pretty Face would go on to generate an enormous amount of buzz and legions of converts. Sóley would subsequently tour the USA’s East Coast as support on a sold-out run with fellow Icelanders Of Monsters and Men.

Having studied piano and composition at the Icelandic Art Academy, Sóley released the EP Krómantík in 2014, comprised of piano works originally composed for various theater and film productions, and returned to even darker, nocturnal themes with sophomore album Ask The Deep, which came out in early 2015. Following its release, she once again toured the world and supported John Grant for his UK shows in early 2016.​ On releasing her third album Endless Summer in Summer 2017, she left the darkness of Ask The Deep behind and focused on more organic acoustic arrangements. Endless Summer was written and recorded over the span of 12 months with long-time friend and collaborator Albert Finnbogason. 2017 through 2018 saw Sóley collaborate with Sin Fang and múm’s Örvar Smárason under the moniker Team Dreams as of Fall 2018. Sóley recently finished recording her fourth solo album, scheduled for release later in 2021. The album’s release will be supported and accompanied by an extensive run of European shows.

Breanna O’Mara (performer) is an international performer who was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan and graduated from The Juilliard School in New York in 2011, where she was recipient of the Joseph W. Polisi Award. She became a member of Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch in 2014, performing a wide range of works from the repertory, and is now the newest member of the Advisory Board to the Pina Bausch Foundation. Breanna has been in creation with several artists such as: Dimitris Papaioannou, Cecilia Bengolea & François Chaignaud, Chris Haring, Ryan McNamara, Johannes Wieland, Cristiana Morganti, Stijn Celis, Alexander Ekman, Jack Ferver, Larry Keigwin and Colleen Thomas as well as performed work by Ohad Naharin, Marie Chouinard, Mark Morris and more. She herself has created performance pieces which have been presented in New York, Germany and Detroit. In 2009, Breanna founded the annual outreach program, Detroit Arts Immersion, which brought workshops as well as free performances to various communities in Detroit who had limited opportunities in the arts.

Chalia La Tour (performer) is a 2020 Tony nominee for her work in the critically acclaimed Broadway production of Slave Play and a recipient of the Antonyo award for Best Featured Actor in a Broadway Play. Originally from Stockton, California, La Tour is a multi-disciplinary artist in theatre, television, film and visual art. She is committed to work that promotes social justice and the intersections of humanity. Film: The Future is BrightLove Repeat and Three Pregnant MenThe Future is Bright had the honor of screening at the inaugural Smithsonian African American Film Festival. TV: The Good FightThe Code and Elementary on CBS. Off-Broadway: Slave Play (New York Theatre Workshop), The Review or How to Eat Your Opposition (Women’s Theatre Project), The Danger: An Homage to Strange Fruit (JACK). Regional: Cadillac Crew (Yale Repertory Theatre), Cymbeline (Yale Repertory Theatre). La Tour is an alumna of the Yale School of Drama MFA Acting program and The British American Dramatic Academy.

Barbara Kaufmann (mentor and performer) came to dance via gymnastics. In 1977, Jessica Iwanson offered her a scholarship to study at the new Iwanson Dance Center in Munich, where she completed her training in contemporary dance. From 1980 to 1982 she worked with Brigitta Trommler at the Tanzprojekt Munich for two years – an important and inspiring time. During these early years of her career, Barbara Kaufmann regularly travelled to New York, Paris and Stockholm to further her dance training. In 1984, she joined the Folkwang Tanzstudio, where she trained with Jean Cébron and Hans Züllig. From here it was a small step to Pina Bausch and the Tanztheater Wuppertal. Six years after seeing the TV recording of The Rite of Spring for the first time, Barbara Kaufmann was now dancing in the piece on the stage of Opera House Wuppertal. She became a permanent member of the ensemble in 1987, and the film The Complaint of the Empress was her first creation with Pina Bausch. In the early 2000s Pina Bausch made her an assistant director, and she began to take on new responsibilities as rehearsal director while still dancing in the company. She worked on re-stagings of The Rite of SpringIphigenia in Tauris and a reconstruction of the Tannhäuser-Bacchanal (1972) for the Folkwang Tanzstudio. Over the years, her rehearsal director role grew to include several other pieces from the repertoire as well as the creation process of Rough Cut in Seoul. Switching roles in this way and working so closely with Pina Bausch gave her a new perspective on the pieces. After Pina Bausch’s death and the formation of the Pina Bausch Foundation in 2009, Barbara Kaufmann’s role expanded again to include projects by the Foundation in the fields of archiving and documentation, video annotation, oral history, and the transmission of repertoire pieces to other companies. In 2017, she was instrumental in re-staging The Rite of Spring for English National Ballet and in 2019, staged Iphigenia in Tauris for the Semperoper Ballett. In 2018, she was rehearsal director for Since she by the Greek director Dimitris Papaioannou, the first full-length production by a guest choreographer for the Tanztheater Wuppertal. In 2011, she appeared in Wim Wenders’ film PINA. In 2012, her hometown Munich honored her with the Isadora dance award and in 2019. Now her passion for Pina Bausch’s art is fully focused on the practice of preservation and transmission, which requires great care and constant innovation.