Exclusive First Look: The Story Behind Mumford & Sons' Dance-Filled New Music Video
Mumford & Sons' banjoist and lead guitarist Winston Marshall used to consider himself someone who "vaguely appreciated" dance. But then, about a year ago, he saw Yeman Brown improvise to Beyoncé's "Halo."
"My heart went into my throat and I was quite literally moved to tears," he says. "It stole my breath away. I didn't know dance could make you feel that way."
That moment—which occurred during a video shoot at choreographer Kristin Sudeikis' Forward Space in New York City—not only changed Marshall's relationship to dance, but his relationship to music, he says. It also inspired Mumford & Sons' newest video, "Woman," choreographed by Sudeikis and featuring Brown and dancer Stephanie Crousillat, and debuting here on dancemagazine.com:
(Since then, Marshall—who was introduced to Sudeikis and to dance through his wife, former "Glee" star Dianna Agron—has taken several classes at Forward Space. "It's blown my mind. It's such a workout and I'm so unbelievably unfit that it's farcical that I was even there," he says.)
The video features Brown—one of our 2018 "25 to Watch" picks—and Crousillat as lovers in a series of home video-style vignettes where sometimes the dancers are literally filming each other on a handheld camcorder. The simplicity and intimacy of the atmosphere is mirrored in Sudeikis' understated, touching choreography.
And though the song's lyrics describe its namesake "woman," Brown is the focus of much of the video, as we see him through what we presume to be his lover's camera. This was intentional, says Sudeikis: "We're seeing it through the female gaze, when often we see things through the male gaze."
For Marshall, this subverting of expectations is central to the song's meaning. "It's a little deceptive because the story of the song isn't the woman," he says. "It's the love between those two people and that's why the video is clever: It reveals that throughout the song. It's not something that smacks you in the face the first second of the video, it's something you learn."
The creative team—which includes director James Marcus Haney, a frequent collaborator of Mumford & Sons—also intended to rethink what it means to make a music video with dance. "You've seen thousands of dance videos of dancers doing virtuosic things that other people feel like they can't do," says Brown. "But I feel like what we were going for was trying to show the humanity and that we're all movers and we're all dancers." Or as Marshall puts it: "It's bloody believable."
This believability can be attributed at least in part to Sudeikis' focus on the quiet details of the body: "The love story is in the in-betweens," she says. "The hands, the throat, the back body, the third eye. This intuitive way that lovers connect with each other, as though they are speaking this other language. I think that's what a great love story is; a dance."
While the video—both in its inclusion of contemporary dance and its raw, DIY style—feels like an edgy pivot for the mega-popular folk rock quartet, Marshall says the band isn't premeditated about their artistic choices. "We just follow our instincts," he says. "We sing songs that we need to sing. This is a continuation of that. We don't think about what we need to do; we just do it."
Whether or not there'll be more dance videos in Mumford & Sons' future, the band certainly has a budding dance fan in Marshall. (And a eager collaborator in Sudeikis, who is a longtime fan and has used the band's music in her own work.)
"One of the big takeaways for me is the similarity between dance and music," says Marshall. "For music to be good, it can't be too chaotic because then it's just noise, nor can it be too ordered because then it's predictable. You have to be right down the middle, and I think it's the same with dance. It also ties back to the original moment with Yeman: He's dancing for his f**king life. Music is good when you're singing like your life depends on it."
If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.
Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.
Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.
So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?
When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.
You ever just wish that Kenneth MacMillan's iconic production of Romeo and Juliet could have a beautiful love child with the 1968 film starring Olivia Hussey? (No, not Baz Luhrmann's version. We are purists here.)
Wish granted: Today, the trailer for a new film called Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words was released, featuring MacMillan's choreography and with what looks like all the cinematic glamour we could ever dream of: