Boys Clap, Girls Dance

  • Director

    Dena Springer

  • Country, Year, Length

    United States, 2022, 9 minutes 25 seconds

  • Category

    Animated Short

  • Format


  • Festival Year


Film Screening & Ticket Information

When & Where to See this Film!



In Person Date, Time & Location:

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 4TH • 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm
The Local • 13-02 44th Ave. • LIC, NY 11101


The Shape of Things: Five films that take a new look at what is all around us.


Boys Clap, Girls Dance is a 10 minute long animated short about, Girl, a pre-teen who exists in an artificially constructed world. She’s aware that something is changing but isn’t sure how much of it is coming from within her or from the circumstances created for her. Will this external power always exist to influence her actions and desires? Is she living for herself or for others? We follow Girl as she moves throughout her day, navigating the obstacles, people, and places, that are always in constant flux and that she may learn, are ultimately dictating what she knows about her life and doesn’t.


  • Dena Springer, Director, You Are Here, Director
  • Dena Springer, Writer, You Are Here
  • Bec Hac, Writer
  • Joshua David Blum, Writer
  • Joshua David Blum, Producer, The Murphy’s, About Colonia
  • Dena Springer, Producer, You Are Here
  • Bec Hac, Producer

Director Statement

My mother was born in China to parents who survived the Japanese Occupation and fled to Hong Kong after the revolution. While my family found political stability and safety, they soon immigrated to the US for more financial opportunities. My mom eventually married my Jewish-American father and moved to central IL, where my siblings and I were surrounded by churches and cornfields.

I was easily othered by my peers since I was one of the few people of color in school. I wasn’t read as one of the “Asian” kids, but I was definitely limited to their definition of me as “non-white”. As a quiet kid, I went with it. I checked a box that a lot of biracial kids feel subject to choosing, a designation based on projections from whomever I was with.

We regularly went out for dim sum or went to a Chinese bakery to pick up pastries. Employees and acquaintances of my mother would often comment to her in Cantonese on how I didn’t look Asian at all. They would talk to her as though I was a doll on display. Either way, I didn’t meet a certain criteria to be considered by either one of them as authentically belonging.
In these spaces, I am an outsider looking in. Belonging and not belonging. As shapeshifters, we mold ourselves into an uncomfortable singularity that is imposed on us. We continue to carry the burden of crossing over cultural lines, but never exactly arriving completely intact or at least wholly as we are.

Being biracial helps me understand and deeply appreciate the fluidity and complexities of identity –no matter how important or arbitrary they are. How I appear to others may constantly be in flux, but how I feel internally is anchored in my growing appreciation and love for the person I am always striving to become.

Boys Clap, Girls Dance is a short film that explores the cognitive dissonance of growing up, where you start developing your own sense of self, but have to balance it with the new awareness of how others view you. The film follows Girl’s life in the face of the overt and covert messages she receives. It examines the rules we internalize are conditions of our culture and the systems we live by. These rules exist within us individually and of course, collectively and as such they are binding but also illusory. It blurs the boundaries between the flowing nature of living within the harsh structures imposed onto us. Mimicking the fluid nature of being biracial.

To tell the story of Boys Clap, Girls Dance, I’ve drawn inspiration from 1970’s Eastern European Animations, like Jiri Trnka and Priit Parn, as well as borrowing Suzan Pitt’s mood and approach to storytelling. I disguise my films as vintage animations to analyze the idea of nostalgia. I don’t linger on the romantic sense of it, or long for a certain time period. Instead, I revisit older ideas or values with a new set of eyes. By removing the “contemporary” lens of pristine digital quality, and giving it a VHS aesthetic, this allows me to warmly welcome the audience to a familiar mood, but also present an objective and critical view of our own contemporary values. This disguise also grants reconsideration of the arbitrary societal rules, depending on the temporal and cultural positions at which we stand.

Director Biography

Dena Springer is a bi-racial Asian-American animator & illustrator living in Chicago. Her work at once magnifies and reduces behaviors within groups, examining movements (both literal and figurative), and the divergent response to collective ideological structures between Eastern and Western perspectives. She uses vintage educational videos, antiquated instruction manuals, and old illustrations from children’s books to respond and challenge cultural definitions of role, gender, and identity. By borrowing from the rich animation tradition of the early 20th Century, she invites the viewer onto the drawing board with her in an effort to scramble the distance between who we are collectively, individually, and what culture dictates to us about both.
Her animated films have been screened at festivals such as GLAS Animation Festival, Ottawa International Animation Festival, & San Diego Underground Film Festival.