A Lover’s Dance

Lover (Susien Chong and Nic Briand), AW11
A Dance For One
Directed by Alice Wesley Smith and Kasia Werstak

I’ve long been a fan of Lover and the way that they create worlds, characters, and are influenced by so many things outside of fashion. Both Nic Briand and Susien Chong make for a fascinating interview. I could go on here about the balletic beauty of their latest fashion short, A Dance for One, or I could offer you the following interview with Nic…

You’re very timely with the ballet theme, considering Black Swan, but why did you go with this theme?
The idea of Ballet, in particular the ballerina, has always been a part of the Lover DNA. We always saw our girl as learning something classical, studying the craft, but she is in that moment of her life where she is discovering bands like Bikini Kill and Joy Division. She is in a state of lost innocence.

We have always been waiting to do a full collection based around that character. When we started to sketch out the collection and put it all together, we felt we wanted it to be more traditional. By the time the collection was released to sales at New York Fashion Week last year, we had never heard of Black Swan, or knew that it was going to capture the zeitgeist.

I guess it was unfortunate with the timing, because people just equate ballet with Black Swan right now, which is strange because I didn’t see any beauty or insight into the life of a ballerina in the film, I saw it as just a backdrop to someone going loco, and reinforcing negative stereotypes about people who study ballet.

How did you go about choosing this particular dancer, Amber Scott?
We have always been enormous fans of The Australian Ballet, Susien in particular goes to the performances with my Mum every season. So it was the obvious choice to get in touch and see if they would work with us on the film. To say they were excited is an understatement and it was also very gratifying for us, because we thought we would have to introduce ourselves and explain what we do, send examples of our clothes that kind of thing.

We told them the idea for the film and how we wanted it to be authentic, someone at the top of their game. We also had an idea in the back of our minds who we wanted, they suggested Amber Scott, and we said that’s exactly who we had in mind.

We didn’t meet until the day of the shoot, but within 5 minutes of meeting her she was so comfortable and intelligent, we knew we had something special.

Why Satie for the soundtrack? (My favourite!)
We had a Chopin piece that we had played while the collection was being designed. When it came around to discussing the film with the directors, we all agreed that the soundtrack should be a solo piano, to reflect that of a ballet rehearsal. We played them the Chopin piece, however it didn’t hit them straight away. So we all started to go back and forth on different pieces of music.

Then Susien and I were watching Woody Allen’s Another Woman with Gena Rowlands, and the film starts with “Gymnopedie No 1”. And we knew that was the piece we were looking for. We didn’t mention anything to the directors, but on location when Amber was dancing we played it. One of the directors said, “Can we use this piece, its beautiful.” And away we went. What I didn’t realise is how many people hold that piece of music close to their hearts, so I’m glad we did something respectful with it.

What were you hoping to achieve with the film?
We wanted to get across the essence and mood of the collection. We always have a vision of how our characters live, look, the world they inhabit. So when we get the opportunity to create that on film, it’s very rewarding. We also hope it adds another dimension to the clothing. It has a very definite mood attached to it, once you create a film using the clothes, and hopefully the customer responds to that.

It’s great that you can actually see the clothes in the film! Did you feel this was the best way to show them off?
With this film and [our earlier effort] The Harvest, we didn’t want the clothes to become the main character, we wanted them to be noticed because they enhanced the scene, just as the lighting, or music might. We don’t see our films as moving lookbooks, instead they a glimpse into a certain world. We wanted the clothes to be lived in.

Where was it shot?
When we started discussions with The Australian Ballet we asked if we could shoot it in their rehearsal studios. I don’t know why, but we thought they all had arched windows, floorboards and would have some kind of Parisian vibe. Instead they were completely state of the art, equipped with black bounce floors and digital screens, which was the complete opposite of what we were looking for. So we started to search ballet schools and local halls. We came across the studio which is used for Spanish Zumba classes or something like that. It took about an hour to strip back to bare bones, and the owner was a bit taken aback as to why we wanted to remove his stuff, but in the end it looked exactly how we had envisioned.

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