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  • Writer's pictureMadeline Shann

Rose in the Snow

Updated: Apr 15, 2021

This is a much more developed short video from my outdoor shooting day with dancer Rose Sall Sao, who was very generous and very brave getting right into the snow. This day felt like a huge triumph after weeks of incompatible timing and inclement weather, we really lucked out with a beautiful dry day with snowy ground and some gorgeous morning light.

And a major triumph for me because I miraculously managed to avoid falling over and smashing the hired equipment - still a very big fear of mine! - even though the ground was completely iced over and absolutely lethal, and it felt absolutely inevitable that I was going to.

Xavier Velastin wrote the score for the video - we had an interesting back and forth on this one, during which I had to get the rusty gears of my artistic language back into motion. As a keen but somewhat avant-garde conversationalist it can sometimes be a challenge to achieve clarity, and especially when I realised that actually, despite having written music, collaborated on music, commissioned sound for theatre, I had actually never had to explain sound for dance before. And of course not film. And suddenly it felt like a totally different ballgame. There's no narrative function or context to draw from, and with the dance language being from an improvisation and then edited out of sequence, there was no pre-existing rhythmic structure. Any number of things could work! And then there was the feeling out in the dark of things like mood, and tone, and some things which felt clear in our first conversations and then actually only revealed themselves when I heard an initial draft. Suddenly knowing for sure "Oh, OK so it's this, and this, but not this, it's not one of those, it's a bit like this, but not too much like this." I initially thought I didn't know how I wanted the audience to fell, really. But I found out pretty quickly that I did.

It seems like an obvious observation but it's incredible how transformative sound is. Obviously I've had to select or create sound for dance before and seen how it morphs from one thing into another every time you make a different choice. But somehow, with film you lose a lot of the forgiveness, openness to interpretation and SPACE, really, for distraction or subversion or myriad other things between the score, the action and the audience. Here, with film, the sound and the visuals seem to arrive fully-formed as one, there is no breathing between the layers; they are of one world and you have much less choice over whether to take it as it comes. It just *is*.

It's also funny, the sensation that happened over and over again where I would open my mouth feeling very confident that I knew what I was about to say, and then have no words at all. Music is so emotional, psychological, intimate, bound up in memories and thoughts and vast inner landscapes that it feels like something I know incredibly well. But actually the richness of that intuitive understanding is absolutely failed by the limitations of language. I found myself groping for words I was certain existed but absolutely don't, and eventually having to resort to ham-fisted referencing of other existing work. "You know that bit, in that film, where there's the guy, and the girl and they're waiting..." Luckily Xavier was very resourceful and brought a couple of great drafts to the table, and eventually, we got this.

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