Magic dance

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
I see we have already two threads, one on music and magic and one on elvish magic.
But as we have not only magic song duels now but also Luthiens specific dance-magic, maybe a threat to collect on sorcerous dancing would make sense?

I was really interested in collecting magical looking dances, like this:

 

Rob Harding

Active Member
Visualising dance as magic always makes me think of this scene from 300.

It’s not tonally the correct style of dance for the scene as this is meant to be haunting and sexualised BUT the filmmaking choices make it clear there is magic at play. The signature Synder use of slow-mo and framing, even the colouring and lighting, really sell it as otherworldly. It’s a dance but more than.

From 04.00. WARNING: contains some female nudity. Watch at your own distraction.
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Generally, with long hair and dancing, the challenge is to keep the hair out of your face. On film, they can use wind machines to help keep hair out of people's faces, but...not hair this long. A better solution is to pin/braid at least portions of the hair to keep it back. Otherwise, yeah, a lot of whipping your hair back Little Mermaid style!

In this fight scene, there are 2 characters with 'long' loose hair. There are a bunch of shots where their faces are entirely obscured by their hair. Okay for a moment, but you have to see the face sometimes!


Whereas in this fight scene, everyone has very long hair, but it is neatly contained in a tight braid:

The challenge with the 1929 dance seemed to have been 'don't leave the camera!' The space for the dance is extremely confined. I would hope that our choreography for Lúthien could be very dynamic, having her active and covering a lot of ground. I want to see her move. I am not saying she can't show restraint, but 'Lúthien uncloaked' should not feel restrained. Nothing should be out of reach for her.
 

Rob Harding

Active Member
A huge amount of special effects these days focuses on clothing and hair replacement. Corridor Digital cover a lot of these facets on their Corridor Crew channel. The amount of texture editing on Spider-Man costumes to hide folds in cloth is crazy. I don’t think we need to worry too much about the hair if the dance is epic. Touches like that can be done with our infinite budget.

Or you make the choice that it doesn’t matter. In the Civil War clip, it’s a very raw intense action sequence. Having that ‘gritty’ real feeling lends itself to hair been plastered all over the place. We could lean into that or not. Depends on the feeling we want.

But totally agree she should feel very unrestrained.
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Right, Lúthien's magic hair will no doubt have a lot of special effects worked into it. I was merely pointing out that choosing to leave it completely loose would constrain the types of motions, in that she would have to whip her hair dramatically to clear it at points....if it is physically present at all.

And while having it occasionally obscuring the actress' eyes could be useful and deliberate, getting her all tangled up in a massive wig would be...undesirable. Part of Lúthien's mystique is beauty and grace; she's not endearingly clumsy. Even if the hair is partially loose, there is no reason it need be entirely loose or all down...but hair styles is really a question to file under costuming at this juncture.

And, right, unrestrained doesn't necessarily mean that she has to be flying all over the screen on wires. I guess what I am looking for is a lot of energy, a lot of dynamic movement from her. She can be very playful in Doriath, and very forceful when she takes on Sauron. Elusive when she dances around Morgoth's court - always just out of reach of anyone who would lay a hand on her. The cloak and the hair will add to her silhouette, giving the choreographer a lot more to play with.

(As a more mundane example - ribbons add a lot of motion to dance. )



This dance from Outlander is not necessarily meant to be magical (though, it's not not magical....) It's a gathering of druids at standing stones which are magical. [It's also a good reminder why narration voiceover is to be avoided - it takes the viewer out of the scene, which is exactly opposite the point of the character being caught up in it....but I digress.] In the second scene, the original dance is intercut with a magical ceremony. But there is clearly a reason footage from this dance scene is used in the opening credits for the show. So, on some level, viewers accept 'magical dance' if it is a group of women in white robes dancing at night holding lanterns.



The example from 300 is clearly magical/otherworldly...but just as clearly the dancer does not have control over her own actions. She is a puppet to the outside influence. We will definitely want to convey a very different style of magic with Lúthien!
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Choreography can be a really elegant form of storytelling. Dance isn't a language I know very well, but anyone who can create something like this knows how to break your heart silently:


And if you need to cleanse your palate from that, I offer you....whatever on EARTH this is meant to be (but also, incidentally, featuring Shia LeBeouf)
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
A lot of magical, enchanting or ritual dancing is heavily sexualized...
And that is exactly NOT the way we wqnt to go, Luthiens magic does not exactly work this way, as tempting as it is.
 

Rob Harding

Active Member
Agree. Well, to an extent. I think, certainly Beren, it can be alluring. He can be drawn in. I’m not saying she’s pole dancing but I think it needs to convey choice and control and intention. It can be seductive without being erotic. But as stated, my 300 sample was more about the cinematography than the choreography
 

Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
Like Esmeralda's dance in The Hunchback of Notre Dame?

1997 Live-Action

Or the Disney version where she definitely does a pole dance right at the end?

At the least it shouldn't be comical like the manticore dance in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore where Newt rescues Theseus from a German prison by having the manticores imitate him.
 

Rob Harding

Active Member
Yes not comical lol

but I think to have sensuality in a romantic story is totally fine. BUT there is a difference between being alluring to Beren to whom she feels interest and wants to allure, and Sauron whom she is trying to combat with dance. We’ve decided that’s not sexual in nature. But as long as Luthien has a distinct style of dance we can have those dances have different moods yet still feel like her.

I’m really partial to this dance from American Gods which shows many women move their bodies in a free and liberated way yet it’s not for the pleasure of men but for themselves:

It doesn’t have the same mythic quality that the 300 shots lend to their dance but the style is closer to what I picture for Luthien
 
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MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Part of the issue is that magic = sex is about as common as vampirism = sex

Here is how Willow and Tara get together in Buffy the Vampire Slayer:


They've been hanging out doing magic spells together prior to this. But this scene is the "I trust you" scene, and the magic is meant to be more intense than their prior forays. (Also, they knew they weren't going to be depicting sex scenes between women, so while these actresses can hold hands and kiss, the magic rituals are meant to be stand-ins for off screen sex scenes.)

...and while dance needn't = sex, the implication is always just under the surface. Viewers are primed to take it that way. So, the choreographer would have to tread very carefully indeed to design a magical dance that doesn't read as entirely sensual. For instance, in the Sia music video above, it should be rather clear that the younger, smaller person is feral...and also dangerous in her own right. A natural interpretation of the relationship between the two characters might be father and daughter. Apparently, the story is meant to be that she's a werewolf! That part isn't obvious, though, so plenty of people took the video of an adult man dancing with a young girl as a portrayal of pedophilia. That may say more about the audience than the dance, but it was said.

I suppose it helps that Lúthien's magic puts people to sleep. So, there should be a heavy, weighty quality to her dance in Angband that is...quelling. That would put a damper on any tendency to view her dance as enticing.

I am not familiar with ballet, but I do know that there is a confrontation with a sorcerer at the end of Swan Lake. So, I looked at a bunch of different versions of that to see how it was handled...and I am none the wiser. What is clear is who is in control - so Lúthien will be in control of those she is dancing around, whether that be in the initial enchantment of Beren or putting all the werewolves in Angband to sleep. BUT - controlling the wills of others in Tolkien's world is evil, and Lúthien wouldn't do that :p So, she gently suggests they enjoy a nap ;).

 

Rob Harding

Active Member
I don’t think anyone is saying magic = sex or vice versa. If nothing else, it’s rote, like you say. And it doesn’t fit Luthien as a blanket statement. My only argument was we don’t need to make her sexless or treat sex as an evil, particularly when portraying her and Beren. They are clearly drawn to one another in all manner of ways.

But she shouldn’t just have one kind of power. Her ‘magic’ is an expression of who she is. She can subdue Morgoth because, essentially, she is better than him morally. That’s kind of what magic comes down to. She isn’t physically stronger but she is as a person. She is powerful. In this instance, her autonomous power is not sexual. But that doesn’t mean it never has to be was the point I was trying to make.
 
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MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Sure, obviously her duet with Beren will be a typical male and female lead dancing together in many ways. She's inviting, and he accepts her invitation, and then they dance together. The magic of that scene is the encounter with faerie.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
I think both the court dance and the gaining Beren's interest dance could gain very much from the Indian dance tradition which is very feminine and erotic without being vulgar - focusing much more on grace, sophisticated expressions of feelings and artful flirting glances - much more than on overt sexual suggestions - and is also technically highly advanced - which would fit elves imho:

 
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MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Another example of a choreographed dance meant to convey magical combat is this music video by Babymetal.
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
I think both the court dance and the gaining Beren's interest dance could gain very much from the Indian dance tradition which is very feminine and erotic without being vulgar - focusing much more on grace, sophisticated expressions of feelings and artful flirting glances - much more than over sexual suggestions - and is also technically highly advanced - which would fit elves imho:

I think incorporating inspiration from a variety of styles will be important for Lúthien. One example of a Bollywood-inspired dance scene in a Western movie is the ending of Mirror, Mirror. No aspect of this movie takes itself seriously - the viewer is meant to see the stage it is set on, so that nothing has even the appearance of being real. I do like the choreography of this song, though.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
I think incorporating inspiration from a variety of styles will be important for Lúthien. One example of a Bollywood-inspired dance scene in a Western movie is the ending of Mirror, Mirror. No aspect of this movie takes itself seriously - the viewer is meant to see the stage it is set on, so that nothing has even the appearance of being real. I do like the choreography of this song, though.
Yeah, while this is fun the main figure is not really shown as an accomplished dancer here - while she moves gracefully - she does not really show her dancing skills off.

Now see this against it - girly, flirty while innocent, pure fun with movement - but energetic and even athletic at the same time:
(some elements fit imho for Luthien's "welcoming refugees" dance)
- it also uses the lenght of fabrics of the skirts and the veils in the dance without the dancers entangling themselves quite successfully -
 
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Rob Harding

Active Member
I do like this.
It’s hard though without and actual choreographer stepping in. As we’d want something that felt culturally unique and perhaps a blend of styles and existing forms to create something new. Otherwise we end up othering a certain existing dance style and exoticise it while also culturally appropriating it for a white woman to dance. But I don’t have the language to even describe how we’d go about blending the elements we like.

I think though, the use of slow motion in lots of these clips, including the above, lends to an ethereal quality. Thinking about the cinematography I find helpful. Do we have any choreographers or dancers? That’d be super cool!
 
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