Dance in advertising and publicity campaigns is not new.
For almost 40 years now, marketing and PR have been openly flirting with dance. From mass to luxury, in all genres and in all shapes and sizes.
Back in 1983, Eram’s ladies having a perm under their dryer hoods perform an old-fashioned choreography with their legs to sell classic pumps for “only 149 francs.”
Jean-Paul Goude makes everyone move with “La Poste” and a new style of ballerinas in an opera-rock that was quite wacky for the time (1986).
GAP resuscitated Audrey Hepburn in 2006 with her skinny black pants in a graphic, energetic rock reminiscent of Tarantino.
Lipton served us Hugh Jackman chilled and mounted on springs in 2010
and Lanvin gave impetus to its bourgeois (and even Albert Elbaz!) in the Fall 2011 campaign movie.
For a long time, brands have leaned into dance’s archetypes, aesthetics, rhythms and eras—occasionally to transgress them, often to amuse, and always to create enthusiasm. Because there is something truly jubilatory in watching dance. In observing the body in motion inspired by the primordial energy contained in each of us yet released only by few. Dance’s aesthetics are anchored in the collective memory, whether we are dancers or not, actively interested or not.
Dance is a powerful medium, one of those veritable and rare universal languages sought after by brands, marketers, and agencies to help their message be recognized and understood by all. Given that it is polymorphic, with infinite plasticity, it allows every possible variation, form of expression, nuance.
So what is new, then, in an alliance of genres already well-enshrined at the beginning of the 21st century?
In our current world, saturated with images and experiences, suddenly emerges a piece of art that goes beyond visual seduction to touch our core being and leave an impression of beauty and trueness that makes us want to come back for more.
And so in 2012, dance was all over when Benjamin Millepied (who needs no introduction) and Virginie Caussin (ballet Prejlocaj) float through a pas-de-deux for Air France, as simple as it is vertiginous, all the more so as his feet never leave the ground.
After three or four decades when dance was simply an inspiration, a pretext to unrestrained creativity—often offbeat and sometimes of doubtful taste—it must be said that brands seem to be rediscovering the power of the art beyond the archetype. They are rediscovering that dance is, first of all, an art. They are getting back to those who create this art, and back to its beauty.
A new style of brand communication through the medium of dance has started to emerge. From inspirational, dance takes up again its aspirational dimension. An investment in the art of it, which beyond formal expression creates a strong emotional connection—almost visceral—between the brand and the individual-consumer-advocate. A vector of elevation and exception in a world seeking for beauty. Through dance, brands seek to have an impact that goes deeper than visual seduction.
Dance no longer only exists to be watched, but also to be felt and experienced by each person in their own way, as their own person.
The artist is at the focal point of this paradigm shift. Make way for the solo dancer rather than the ballet corps. Dancers are carefully chosen for how their practice, personality, and style fit within the world of the brand. By spotlighting the individual as artist in the practice of their art, brands are holding up a mirror to the consumer as an individual.
With Instinct of Color (2012), OPI instigated one of the first attempts to put genre dancers in the practice of their art at centre stage, in an unexpected dance-battle. While the horse is definitely not a born dancer and the varnish on the hooves is a bit strange, the tone was set. It is indeed dance embodied, the personified practices of an art that was projected beyond the actual image.
The UFO Kenzo World (2016) produced by Spike Jonze is a manifesto of the genre. Margaret Qualley gives an ungainly and staccato performance (choreographer Ryan Heffington), espousing and liberating in a faultless run the DNA of Kenzo’s non-conformist, exotic and electrical creativity.
The rising genius of Lil Buck—whose movement fits the Apple Air Pods the way they fit into his ears in a fluid challenge to urban gravity—reaches the peak of symbiotic emotion between dance artist and brand follower.
In a sign of the current fascination for the discipline, choreographers are now sought out by the world of fashion and brands for advertisements, short films, and performances.
Akram Kan already set the animal in Mélanie Thierry free in 2010 in Belle d’Opium for YSL.
In 2016, the tandem behind I Could Never Be a Dancer (Carine Charaire x Olivier Casama, who create choreographies for events, performances and adverts) staged the dance of the scarf for Hermes with Swinging Silk, a frenzied, swinging 1940s style ballroom.
And when choreographer and artist are one and the same, we discover a small, rapturous gem such as Christian Louboutin with Bianca Li. Louboutin places the Spanish choreographer in her role for a “rehearsal” (2016) bursting with talent and humour, presenting dancing couples wearing Louboutin shoes, both highly colourful but above all perfectly harmonized, reminding us in passing that Louboutins are, like dance, a means of expression.
In addition, dance and its actors are now stepping down from the stage into more direct “performance” on behalf of products or services. Female dancers are becoming brand ambassadors. Born of their art, their practice has forged an image around them that is now just as aspirational as that of rappers or socialites.
Acme Sylvie Guillem opened the way in 2010 for Rolex.
The serial heads of the Paris Opera (Clairemarie Osta, Dorothée Gilbert, etc.) have been in prominent position in Paris for Repetto for several years.
And in a superlative example, Marie-Agnès Gillot (prima ballerina of the Paris Opera) signed a collaboration and capsule collection with Petit Bateau and staged it in a “Water Dance” in the fountains of the Tuileries Garden (Paris).
The borders between the arts are porous. Dance mingles with opera, opera with the visual arts, the visual arts with dance. Dance confronts itself in an occasionally stunning way and heightens the power of narration.
Freely admitting to veering off-topic, I must end with JR’s fresco of Les Bosquets (2017).
Inspired by Ladj Ly’s story and short film on the 2005 riots in the suburbs of Paris, (Cite des Bosquets in Montfermeil), the performance of the New York City Ballet leads us into unknown territory, where the creative power of dance resonates with destructive power and reveals its unexpected beauty.