The Brattleboro Reformer, March 4, 2014

vic-ann-alexis-200x134BELLOWS FALLS -- A docu-dance film project titled "Action Conversations: Bellows Falls" is set to reach its culmination with its official premiere screening at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Bellows Falls Opera House.

The event, a collaboration between Vermont Performance Lab and Youth Services, is open to the public at no charge. It will be the first time the final cut has been shown in a movie theater.

The film's showing will be paired with a dialogue between local youth and audience members about growing up in Windham County and ways in which the community can ensure today's young people have the support they need to grow up to be healthy, empowered and contributing members of society. Victoria Marks, a Los Angeles-based choreographer who directed the "Action Conversations" workshop and film, will speak about the project.

"Listen to your community and find out where there needs to be a conversation," she told VPL Director Sara Coffey when the community-based project discussion began four years ago.

Marks visited Windham County three times over 18 months to research and plan for "Action Conversations: Bellows Falls." She returned with Los Angeles-based documentary filmmaker Ann Kaneko in June 2012 to embark on the project that brought young and adult women from the community into an "action conversation."

"Our hope for the project to help bridge a perceived gap between adults and youth in Bellows Falls, and I believe that this residency with Vic Marks helped initiate a conversation and some trust that I hope will continue beyond the project and the film," Coffey said in a statement.

Coffey is now busy positioning the film to be shown not only locally but nationally so it will have a life and impact beyond the duration of the project itself. VPL will submit it to various independent film festivals, according to a statement.

For the five young women who participated in "Action Conversations: Bellows Falls," the project served as part of their job training with Youth Services' summer youth employment program. The five adult women donated 60 hours of their summer to participate with the youth on the project.

"We were excited to work with Vermont Performance Lab to demonstrate how the arts can help society explore complex issues encountered by the youth we serve in a way that entertains and engages the audience. The arts also provide an opportunity for youth to explore the issues themselves, grow and tell the story in a way numbers or outcomes cannot capture," explained Youth Services Director Julie Davenson, who will give an update on Youth Services during Thursday's event.

Funding for the event came in part from Chroma Technology, the National Endowment for the Arts, and several local donors.

See the behind-the-scenes video of this project at

For more information, call Youth Services at 802-257-0361 or visit