The Ballet of the Nations
Actor Billy Zane narrates this 50-minute arthouse film in which war is imagined as a diabolical dance choreographed by Satan and Ballet Master Death.
Impermanence presents their first short-feature film with a directorial debut from Roseanna Anderson and Joshua Ben-Tovim. The film was inspired by the pacifist satire, The Ballet of the Nations, written by Vernon Lee in 1915 and illustrated by Maxwell Armfield as a response to the outbreak of war. Impermanence’s film incorporates original dialogue inspired by Lee’s text, among intricate and stylised dance pieces, with production design by Pam Tait, an original soundtrack by composer Robert Bentall and cinematography by Jack Offord.
The film begins with Satan and Ballet Master Death discussing how to reintroduce chaos into a complacent society. Satan instructs Ballet Master Death to assemble an orchestra of human passions (Fear, Panic, Suspicion, Hatred, Heroism, Murder etc.) to provide the music for a corps de ballet of Nations to perform the dance macabre of war. What follows is an often-humorous assembly of the orchestra, filmed in the atmospheric cavernous tunnels beneath Bristol Temple Meads. Following this assembly, we see the core Nations perform their dance, joined by a larger cohort of Nations for the final act, Revenge. The film is interspersed with danced sections performed by a Chorus, evocative of the choric elements of classical Greek tragedy.
The original publication was rooted in a culture of experimental performance that developed in Britain during the war, against the grain of mainstream theatre and often in sympathy with the wartime peace movement. Impermanence’s production reanimates that world of movement, sound and design, using the evidence of archives, art works, footage, photographs and illustrated books to develop a richly-textured evocation of the wartime artistic response.
Through the organisation, instrumental support and project initiation of Dr Grace Brockington (University of Bristol), the project benefits from partners including The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, The University of Bristol & The Unity Theatre Trust.
Written & Directed by: Roseanna Anderson & Joshua Ben-Tovim
Director of Photography: Jack Offord
Production Design: Pam Tait
Composer: Robert Bentall
Producer: Gwenfair Hawkins
Co-Producer: Kim Heron
Executive Producer: Jack Tarling
Editor: Duncan Wood
Cast: Billy Zane (Narrator), Sonya Cullingford (Satan), Peter Clements (Ballet Master Death); Featured Dancers: Harry Alexander, Alessandro Marzotto Levy, Tilly Webber, Jordan Lennie, Roseanna Anderson, Joshua Ben-Tovim
Major Sponsor: Arts Council England