Burberry Steps Up

 In Lens on Screendance

When I was young, my mother often said to me, “the reason angels can fly is because they take themselves lightly.” I think she meant that as a hint. So because it’s the Holiday season, because it’s been a dreadful and beyond challenging year on so many levels, I decided it was time to share something with a little levity.

Even though I love heady, conceptual works of screen dance that blur the boundaries between forms and genres in both dance and film, sometimes I just have to give props to great advertising. Enter Burberry’s new Christmas dance and fashion ad. We’ve seen more than one commercial rendition of “Singing in the Rain,” most of them good actually, as in five years ago or so when Volkswagen morphed Gene Kelley’s face – at least part of the time – onto another dancer’s more street dancing body. But film technology changes so much from year to year as does our collective awareness of the many possibilities at the intersections of dance and film, so why not do another?

The ad opens at the counter of a deli in London, where a young woman – dancer and model Zhané Samuels ­­­­– is ordering take out. The man behind the counter asks if she’s sure she wants to leave as it’s about to pour, but she politely declines staying in and joins a friend waiting just outside for her. In seconds, the scene transforms from spoken word to song and dance, and the entire scenario unfolds on a London city street amidst a downfall of giant CG hailstones. They are soon joined by two more dancers, all of them of course elegantly clad in Burberry rain gear, and as the four progress down the street, dodging hailstones, both camera and all the passing pedestrians are clearly artfully choreographed. Having done a few such commercials myself, I know how much planning and rehearsal for camera, cast and crew goes into the whole process. At about thirty seconds in, the camera passes from behind the dancers to front, following and embellishing their movement, alternating from medium to wide shots. The choreography is wonderful… a mixture of organized chaos with non-unison and unison movement, combining contemporary and street. I love the swagger in the movement, integrating gesture with bigger more challenging but tightly woven lifts and jumps off of garbage bins looping past exploding pumpkins, hail, and pedestrians. And I absolutely love the ending as the four depart the street for the shore, and one dancer rips off his shirt and jacket, jumping into the water to the repeated refrain “I’m ready for love.” The light is the perfect pitch of a London cloudy silvery gray sky, highlighting all the colors of the fashion and surrounding street signs.

Speaking of color, what is also notable is that unlike Burberry’s Holiday ads of yesteryear, this one is not all white. It seems that fashion and brands using youth culture in their advertising are waking up to the world we live in today. Even as we are all sequestered inside, we can only hope that the pandemonium and horrors of this year brought a silver lining of 20/20 vision on at least some fronts.

Directed by Megaforce with cinematography by Katelin Arizmendi, choreographed by (LA)HORDE, vocals beautifully performed by Dreya Mac, and brilliantly danced by Chantel Foo, Kevin Bago, Robinson Cassarino and Zhané Samuels, this Burberry ad is well worth the watch, and hopefully, if even briefly, it will put a smile on your face.

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