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Film by Salisbury native earns spot in NY festival

SALISBURY — A creative handler can make action figures run, jump, fight, even wrestle.
But how many GI Joes have you seen dance a ballet?
Salisbury native Gina Carli found a way to combine both of her passions — dance and filmmaking — in a short film called “Swan Lake.” Carli used stop-action animation to make Black Widow and Hawkeye, action figures from The Avengers, dance a love story ballet.
The results were so compelling, Carli’s film earned a spot in the 41st Annual Dance on Camera Festival, to be held Feb. 1-5 in New York City by the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
“I’m thrilled and so excited,” Carli said.
The one minute, 40 second film created a mini-sensation on the Internet, receiving more than 4,000 hits within four hours on the social website Reddit.
Carli, the daughter of Becky Carli and granddaughter of Betty and Jim Carli, all of Salisbury, decided to enter the film in the Dance on Camera Festival. She was shocked when she learned her first-ever submission won.
Carli was in her professor’s office at the University of California at Irvine, where she is a graduate student in dance and digital media, when she received a tweet announcing the news.
“She read it and screamed so loud, he thought something was wrong,” grandmother Betty Carli said.
The experimental project started when Carli was desperate to film someone, or something, dancing. She had just arrived in Irvine in September with a new camera, tripod and editing software, but she didn’t know any dancers.
Her boyfriend, Salisbury native Patrick Reaves, likes comic books and showed her a panel where the superhero Black Widow is working undercover as a spy dancing for a Russian ballet company.
“I thought that was so interesting, and that led me to his action figures,” Carli said.
With a box, black sheet and table lamp to complete her studio, Carli worked on the film on and off for three days.
“I did it when I had free time. It was fun,” she said. “I think if I did it again, I would iron the blanket.”
A 2011 graduate of Manhattanville College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in dance and theater, Carli has been dancing since she was two years old.
Betty Carli bought her granddaughter her first pair of ballet shoes, and she studied locally with Toni Hudson and Louise Robitaille. After graduating from Salisbury High School in 2007, she moved to New York.
Carli landed a job with Disney in California and then entered graduate school.
While in New York, she had fallen in love with “screendance,” the term used to describe dance works made for and presented on a screen, including cinema, television and a computer monitor.
In screendance, the filmmaker works closely with a choreographer to create a dance where camera angles and have as much to do with the final product as the dancers themselves, Carli said.
The dance could not be performed without the camera.
The avant garde genre appeals to Carli, who hopes someday to teach screendance at a university and ultimately, to own a dance company.
While screening a film at the Dance on Camera Festival is an accomplishment, Carli said she’s looking forward to making more complex films and won’t limit herself to stop-action.
“I’m not marketing this film as my masterpiece, although I do enjoy the film,” she said. “It’s clever.”

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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