NRFF Interviews Directors of Curing Albrecht
PRODUCED BY English National Ballet.
A young man checks into a bespoke institution, hoping to be cured of his inability to stop dancing. Performed by the English National Ballet.
DIRECTED BY Jessica Wright and Morgann Runacre-Temple.
Interview by Massimo Barbato
Winning Best Dance Film at NRFF feels very significant to us. It’s our first award and it feels brilliant to be recognised for the work that we, and everyone involved put into this film produced by the English National Ballet. We have been making dance films for over 10 years now, so this is an exciting achievement for us and means a lot.
2- How did this project with the English National Ballet come about?
Morgann had an existing relationship with the company as a choreographer. They saw the films she makes together with Jess and asked if we would make a film with a participation aspect to it. We made a film with ENB calledThe Last Resort in 2015 and then Curing Albrecht the year after.
3- What is the basic premise of the story?
It was inspired by the ballet of Giselle, and is a sort of subversive epilogue to the original ballet. Albrecht, the male protagonist, has a form of the St Vitus Dance illness, where he cannot stop dancing. He checks into a strange medical institution in an attempt to cure his affliction.
4- How did you cast for this film?
As soon as we started devising in Manchester Victoria Baths we knew we wanted a large ensemble for this piece. The ‘Health Professionals’ were young dancers from the Manchester region near where we filmed. Sam Coren who played Albrecht – who’s work we knew as a freelance dancer (he had previously danced for Hofesh) sent us some brilliant audition videos of himself with a dancing madness and we knew he would be right. Myrtha in the ballet is usually played by a young ballerina, but we wanted a stranger take on her character, and asked actor Jenny Runacre to play her as a sort of morally ambiguous ‘doctor’.
5- Where was it filmed and what was the most challenging part to film?
It was filmed at Manchester Victoria Baths. The most challenging part to film was probably the final sequence, creating the water splashing on Sam. Equally some of the smaller set ups were tricky too, for example the examination scene. We wanted all the movements to be very precise, the dancers movements and the camera co-ordinating. It was a big choreogrpahy.
6- Have you always wanted to work as filmmakers? What or who inspires you?
We became interested in the potential of film when we started filming each other dancing on our camera phones and reversing the footage – this gave us a lot of joy – watching movement in reverse and then creating movement specifically to be watched in reverse. Reversing movement on film became a sort of obsession for us, and we started creating little filmic narratives that would support it. We have since become interested in other things! But this is what got us started. Films by Thierry de Mey, Nicholas Roeg, Wes Anderson have all inspired us.
7- How has the film been received by audiences?
Curing Albrecht had over 230k views when it was released on the English National Ballet Facebook page in it’s first weekend – which was pretty amazing for us. What felt really nice was that people outside the dance world were engaging with the film, as well as people inside. And the comments showed that people were really loving it who weren’t friends or family or ballet fans. I guess sharing work on social media affords a much more quantifiable understanding of audience engagement than say, a cinema or TV showing.
8- What are you working on next?
We’re both quite busy at the moment (Morgann as a freelance choreographer and Jess as a dancer for Wayne McGregor) but we’re hoping to make another short film next year and are developing a couple of different treatments. We’re both very interested in bizarre real life stories and phenomenons- researching the St Vitus Dance plagues that took place in medieval Rhineland helped us to find an new angle on the story of Giselle, we’re always looking for narratives grounded in reality that can take us into the surreal or the absurd.