Sparkle, a short documentary by celebrated Wright State filmmakers Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, will be shown on national television early next year. The film will air on PBS at 9 p.m. on Feb. 7 as part of as part of the network’s new series, Lifecasters.
Sparkle tells the story of celebrated Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (DCDC) dancer Sheri “Sparkle” Williams as she recovers from the first major injury in her 38-year career. Reichert and Bognar began the project to answer the question “Will she ever dance again.”
“We all face these kind of crossroads, especially as we get older,” said Reichert. “Can we continue the life we’ve always known? Can we continue the career we love?”
Jennifer Lawson, senior vice president of television and digital video content for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, announced Sparkle’s television debut at the film’s Dayton premiere. Held at the Dayton Art Institute, the evening included performances by Williams and DCDC, as well as a question-and-answer session with the filmmakers.
Creating this documentary was no easy task. With a crew composed mostly of Wright State film students and alumni, Reichert and Bognar followed Williams through her months-long recovery process. The film offers audiences a rare behind-the-scenes look at DCDC’s rehearsals and performances.
“As filmmakers, we crave visual experiences,” said Bognar, a 1986 graduate of Wright State’s motion pictures program. “So often in documentaries, people are just talking. This was the opposite—kinetic and rhythmic.”
The longevity of Williams’ career is unusual in the world of dance. The 50-year-old dancer joined DCDC in 1973. A native Daytonian, Williams has received numerous awards throughout her career including the JOSIE Award, Fisk University’s Excellence in Artistry Award, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Montgomery County Arts and Cultural District and the coveted New York Dance and Performance Award (the Bessie).
Bognar said that the film depicts Williams and her DCDC company as a family of caring, fun people who are not only great performers, but also exceptionally hard workers.
“It was incredibly challenging to film because they’re always moving,” he said. “But sometimes it comes out just poetic and perfect. It’s magic when those moments happen.”
Earlier this year, Sparkle won the Audience Award for Best Short Documentary at SilverDocs, the largest documentary film festival in the United States.