Dance companies are increasingly recognising that film can be an excellent way of promoting their work to new audiences. The National Ballet of Canada has just released this new film via YouTube, which features dancer Heather Ogden showing off her skills against a dramatic backdrop….
The three-minute film is set to the unexpected soundtrack of Leonard Cohen performing the song Avalanche, and instead of Ogden being dressed in traditional ballet garb, she wears striking red. The film is directed by Ben Shirinian and choreographed by Guillaume Côté, who starred as the principal dancer in a previous short film for the National Ballet of Canada, also directed by Shirinian and shown below, that was a huge online success last year.
Both films are intended to reflect the intense emotions that dancers feel when going on stage. Whereas the original Lost In Motion short attempted to express the isolation that dancers can feel before going out to dance, and was a pared-back film focusing on Côté’s performance, Lost In Motion II is a more lavish affair, showing Ogden dancing dramatically on a cliff edge.
“It’s about showcasing a universal take on where any artist retreats to in their mind when they expose themselves and their work,” says Shirinian on the concept behind the film. “I wanted to create a setting that truly embodied and visually represented feelings of vulnerability, loneliness, danger, and beauty all at once. Guillaume and I came up with the physical environment of a lonely, eroding cliff top in the sky surrounded by looming, full, dark, clouds and prominent wind, rain, thunder and lighting, to represent the inner turmoil and feelings experienced by an artist.”
The National Ballet of Canada is not the only dance company that has been experimenting with dance on film recently. To commemorate the recent 9/11 anniversary, New York City Ballet released New Beginnings, shown below, a film shot at sunrise on the 57th floor of 4WTC in lower Manhattan.
This interest in using film to promote dance could perhaps be traced back to the blockbuster movie Black Swan, which used ballet as an integral way of expressing the drama, and craziness, of the film’s storyline. In that movie, director Darren Aronofsky and choreographer Benjamin Millepied used close-up camera angles to take viewers right next to the dancers and show off the extreme athleticism that is at the heart of their work. It all seemed quite a long way from the yearly visit to the ballet to see The Nutcracker at Christmastime.
Appropriately enough then, Millepied has in fact also given The Nutcracker a bit of a modern makeover in a recent ad for Bailey’s that was directed by Ringan Ledwidge and created by BBH London. Shown below, it again uses the camera to take us right into the action, and even gives the Nutcracker story an unexpected twist at the end to make it more appropriate for the brand.
As this recent Guardian article pointed out, dance seems to be having something of a moment in advertising. Millepied has also just signed to Rattling Stick production company (with his multi-media company Amoveo working with Rattling Stuff, the production company’s content division), so through him it seems likely that we might see more dance popping up in work for brands.
These shorts for the ballet companies seem to have a slightly different agenda, however: to show that far from being an elitist medium only available to those who can afford the often-expensive tickets, ballet and modern dance have something to offer everyone. Judging by the YouTube viewing figures for these films, this message is getting through.
Credits for Lost In Motion II:
Director: Ben Shirinian
Choreographer: Guillaume Côté
Dancer: Heather Ogden
Production company: Krystal Levy Pictures, AnyMotion
Produced in association with Bravo!FACT and The National Ballet of Canada