A Santa Monica festival combines film screenings and live dance performance all weekend long

The Seaweed Sisters perform during Dance Camera West
Photo by Adrian Soheili

Featuring incredible choreography, cinematography and stories from the world of dance, the annual Dance Camera West film festival is a treat for the eyes and ears — and one of my favorite ways to soak up sumptuous arthouse films and one-of-a-kind indie flicks.

The festival is known for its roster of visually stunning features and shorts on the cutting edge of dance filmmaking, but it has also featured documentaries about the likes of L.A. Dance Project founder Benjamin Millepied (the choreographic mind behind “Black Swan”).

But you need not be a dance aficionado to appreciate the festival’s lineup. Any cinephile with respect for beautifully executed editing, storytelling and sound design can find much to savor in this collection of carefully curated gems.

This year’s program of films, screening at Laemmle Monica Film Center this weekend, includes an especially alluring array of documentaries. That includes the West Coast premiere of “La Chana,” about a world-famous flamenco dancer who mysteriously disappears from the stage at the peak of her career (8 p.m. Friday); a screening of “The Sacrosanct Accompanist,” about the life and art of Martha Graham’s favorite accompanist Reed Hansen (noon Saturday); and a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process of Swedish choreographer Mats Ek (a master of making the ugly beautiful) in “The Choreographer Mats Ek” (noon Sunday.)

A sneak peek of the visual poem “Ingmar Bergman Through the Choreographer’s Eye” at 3 p.m. Saturday also promises to be a treat for dance and film lovers, as four of Sweden’s most esteemed choreographers and some of its finest dancers from the Royal Swedish Ballet interpret the oeuvre of the famed Swedish director. (If you’ve never seen the virtuosity of the Royal Swedish Ballet, it’s a must!)

An added bonus this year — these screenings are walking distance from the Santa Monica Pier, where Dance Camera West’s Santa Monica-based partner Jacob Jonas The Company is presenting a series of free dance performances to coincide with the film festival. The three-night event features performances by the world-famous Pilobolus dance theater, New York City Ballet’s Emily Kikta, differently-abled dance crew ILL-ABILITIES, the Jacob Jonas company and several more artists from the worlds of contemporary, commercial and street dance.

I can already picture myself seeing larger than life dancers sail across the big screen, then walking down to the pier to watch more magical movements unfold over the sea. That and a sunset over the Pacific sounds like the perfect backdrop for the weekend.

— Christina Campodonico

Dance Camera West screenings ($12) and To the Sea: Dance Concerts on the Pier (free with RSVP) run from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon. Visit dancecamerawest.org for a complete schedule.