1.4: How well did you know The Rite of Spring before you started rehearsals?
Ella Robson Guilfoyle: Out there in the world existed Pina Bausch’s urgent, raw, visceral earth bound dance to the death… I never thought that I would get to see it live, having seen it many times on video (yes, video!), but it came to Sadler’s Wells and a wonderful man called Michael Morris gave me a ticket. I sat in the centre of the fourth or fifth row and was swallowed whole. The dancers danced that music with every part of their muscle bone and skin, and of course hair, this is Bausch after all!
It was impossible not to feel the power of that sound, to understand the world they inhabited and to feel it inside yourself. So when director Mike Sharpe said on our first phone call that he had no idea how you would move to that section of music or find a rhythm in it, I said I think I had this! Ha!
What was the rehearsal process like?
We actually only had a couple of hours prior to the shoot day to try out some technical things with Mike and DOP Thomas English. It was mainly to work out what we could achieve and to create some rules. The result was that Mike made a motion trail of the last 45 seconds of the music and then broke it down into 19 smaller (still very complicated) sections/notations.
Then we all marched out into Shoreditch Park on a very wet cold December afternoon and I waved various flaming things around – football flares, sparklers, roman candles and finally smoke grenades in some orange garden gloves and a pair of goggles from the local hardware shop! Very fashion, very normal!
Technically it looks beautiful and complex. Please tell us about the shoot.
The shoot day was brilliant, intense, but just so much fun! For the first stage I was put in a giant full-length cape, think Louie Fuller designed and made by the very lovely Olivia Culotta and we worked through the 19 notations. This was really challenging because obviously the motion trail was made with his hand and so the movement was in front of his body. However we were filming from above, so I needed to translate these very complicated and FAST movements into a floor path that travelled out into the space.
It became pretty apparent very quickly that as I am not an animation, SURPRISE! Mike would need to manipulate the speed of my floor paths in post to fit them to the speed of the music. It was a massive challenge to get through all 19 by myself in one go, but it was also fantastically engaging. I was knackered, but certainly not bored!
Then in the last section of the day I was relieved of my cape and got to go buck wild with the fire, chalk and smoke in a rather unflattering black morph suit! We picked some of the larger notations, ones with big sweeping curves in them and repeated (to the best of my ability) the exact motion with these other elements. These images were then overlaid onto the previous ones.
I think the result is stunning. I am in awe of what Mike has achieved and it would never have worked without Thomas’ amazing skill and brilliant lighting. I did however throw a large lump of chalk directly at the client and all the kit after I was instructed by Mike to ‘give it my best throw.’ Classic.
What were the main challenges for you in the production?
I think just the sheer amount we had to get through. It would have been amazing for me to have had a couple of weeks with the notations to really learn the floor paths, but as is always the case with these projects… There just wasn’t that time available. The intensity was part of the fun, I genuinely loved it. It was a really inspiring day.
What else do you do when not working in music videos and commercials?
I work a lot with contemporary circus including being Associate Director of the lovely Barely Methodical Troupe, theatre and dance! I am currently developing ideas for a new full-length dance piece… It has been a LONG time since I have wanted to get back into dance and really interrogate my process and push myself to reconnect with the stories the body tells in the way Bausch did with such power and finesse.
I also really want to find the time to work with some of the film directors I have collaborated with, such as the fabulous Danny Sangra and Phoebe Arnstein, to make some movement magic on film. Now feels like the right time.
It really is the greatest pleasure on earth to move and be moved by movement.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Just the film, I hope you enjoy!
Superunion ECD: Stuart Radford
Senior Designers: Sam Ratcliffe, Erik Brattested
Senior Motion Designer: Rich Pizey
Found Studio Creative Director: Mike Sharpe
Producer: Sophia Georgiou
DOP Thomas English
Dancer: Ella Robson Guilfoyle