Antioch University Seattle Undergraduate Studies faculty member BJ Bullert received a $10,000 grant for her upcoming documentary. Bullert teaches courses in Antioch’s BA in Liberal Studies program. Sponsored by the Allied Arts Foundation, the short film explores the link between art, dance and the Space Needle’s feminine shape. It also celebrates women and honors feminine space and movement.
The film’s working title is Women Rising: The Space Needle and ‘The Feminine One.’ Architect Victor Steinbrueck was inspired to add curves to the original drawing of the Space Needle based on a wooden sculpture, “The Feminine One.” While it’s impossible to know for sure who was the model for “the Feminine One,” Cornish College was home to two influential modern dancers in the 1940s who traveled in the same social circles as artist David Lemon and architect Victor Steinbrueck. The film considers the possibility that Svvilla Fort (1917-1995), the first African American to graduate from Cornish, and Bonnie Bird (1914-1995), who taught at Cornish, inspired the sculpture that influenced the feminine shape of Seattle’s iconic symbol.
“I want the film to change the way the public looks at the Space Needle,” Bullert said. “And, like my films ‘Chief Seattle’ and ‘Fishermen’s Terminal,’ it will enhance public understanding of the arts, heritage and a plurality of Seattle identities during this period of rapid growth and change.”
This speculative film is a “what if” mystery told through on-camera interviews, archival footage, and improvised dance by women and girls from different generations and ethnic backgrounds. Partner artist Edna Daigre and her students keep the memory of Syvilla Fort alive with their improv melding of Afro Caribbean modern dance. Girls and women aged 9 to 90 move to music, finally planting their feet firmly on the ground to reach up to the sky in “The Feminine One” pose. A mix of shapes, sizes, ethnic backgrounds, and ages of women take charge in the spaces they’re in, whether they are in kitchens, behind a counter, or in their neighborhoods.
The film honors the spirit of Women Rising, coming full circle with a montage of Bird and Fort, women and girls today standing tall and proud. Some in pink hats gather at the base of the Space Needle to pay homage to the bronze nine-foot replica of “The Feminine One.” Together, they strike their poses to take on the future, recalling Syvilla Fort, Bonnie Bird, and other dancers who cherished liberation through dance.
“At a time when women have been demeaned by politicians and attacked by hostile forces, this film project serves as a creative affirmation to stand tall in the face of life’s challenges, honoring resilience and power, and claiming that power, like the tens of thousands who attended the Women’s March, the largest in Seattle history.” Bullert said. Her film will inspire her BA in Liberal Studies students and many more.