Spike Jonze + Ryan Heffington + Former Ballet Dancer = Absolute Magic

August 31, 2016

I always thought perfume ads were pointless. Visions of women dripping in diamonds or riding horseback with a muscular hunk may give an air of sophistication, romance, luxury, but that doesn’t tell me what a perfume smells like. However, there is always room for an exception: The new commercial for KENZO World is a fragrance ad I can totally get behind.

It’s completely bonkers. In a good way. And it’s successful because of this very special recipe it follows:

— 1 creative mastermind of a director (Spike Jonze, aka the man behind movies like Being John Malkovich and Her)

— 1 off-the-wall choreographer (Ryan Heffington, the guy who’s responsible for bringing contemporary moves to music videos like Sia’s “Chandelier”)

— 1 ballerina-turned-actress (Margaret Qualley, whom you may know from HBO’s “The Leftovers”)

— Mix all ingredients for a giant heap of magic.

The video features Qualley, who ditches a swanky gala to dance her way through a theater, even making an appearance onstage before she ends her crazed dance on a plaza outside. The choreography is frantic, energizing and raw—and recognizably Heffington. A favorite moment is when Qualley mimics a gorilla each times she passes a mirror. Even though Heffington’s sequences are spastic, Qualley clearly has dance chops. Growing up, she studied ballet, appeared in Bloch Inc. dancewear ads and attended American Ballet Theatre’s summer intensive in New York City. According to this article on Vogue’s website, she was even offered an apprenticeship there but decided to shift her focus to acting. (Another Qualley fun fact: She is the daughter of model-turned-actress Andie MacDowell.)

The KENZO World spot isn’t Jonze’s first foray into dance either. Remember this gem of a video that featured Christopher Walken tap-dancing and floating through a hotel to Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice”?

It was also directed by Jonze, and the two videos’ neutral color palettes and dance sequences that glide up stairs and down hallways are strikingly similar. Both start with a pensive, bored star. Then, the choreography slowly ramps up with some subtle nods and face twitching. Finally, Walken and Qualley let loose:

Granted, Walken’s moves are definitely more subdued than Qualley’s, but that doesn’t make me appreciate them any less. Watch the whole KENZO World spot below, and prepare yourself for nearly four minutes of “What’s happening?!” This is the first time I’ve been tempted to buy a perfume based on its advertisement. And that, my friends, is an über-successful use of dance to promote a product.

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