A haunting dance film by Kate Church & Alice Willamson
“Skeleton Song,” by UK-based singer and composer Ana Silvera, is the second song from her BASCA-nominated song-cycle Oracles, released by Gearbox records. Written following an intense period of grief, Oracles was Silvera’s way to transmute her emotions into a cathartic work of art: “I wrote Oracles in a state of absolute urgency and emergency—it felt like I had been buried in the ground myself, and writing this music was a small pocket of air, my chance to breathe again,” Silvera notes. The dance film/video clip was a unique collaboration between Kate Church (dancer, director, choreography) and Alice Williamson (co-direction, costume and choreography), shot by DOP Mats Willand and produced by Stephanie Moon.
“Skeleton Song,” an Inuit myth-inspired tune about a woman who is sung back to life, is a fragile yet powerful paean to the female figures surrounding Silvera who “painstakingly pieced me together again” following the untimely death of her brother. Compositionally, the piece follows the arc of a quest—a folk tale that begins with a search for a tangible or symbolic goal and ends with a triumphant return home. The song-cycle was performed as part of a sold-out concert in 2012 on London’s Roundhouse Main Stage, earning Silvera a nomination for a British Composer Award.
Shot on an eerie expanse of the North Danish coast, dancer and director Kate Church embodies the Skeleton Woman, who wakes from her deathly slumber and slowly returns to life. Church, a former ballet dancer who trained at the Royal Ballet School, began her career in film and television on the flagship documentary arts series, The South Bank Show. This is her second collaboration with Silvera, who composed the score for Church’s 2014 multi-media dance theatre production, “Cassandra” for the Royal Ballet, co-created with choreographer Ludovic Ondiviela.
“Skeleton Song” marks the first foray into film for creative director Alice Williamson. A trained classical and contemporary dancer, in 2008 Williamson founded Designed by Alice, maker of coveted ballet skirts and unique objet. As well as choreographing and co-directing “Skeleton Song,” Williamson designed and sewed the costumes. She documents the process on her Instagram, recalling the moment of having “‘the best costume idea’ and having to call Ana and Kate immediately!! …. the costumes were fun, surprisingly complicated in their simplicity.” In the dance-film, Church wears an ethereal ‘ribcage’ of ribbon and tulle representing the polished bones of the Skeleton Woman, with the presence of a life-affirming embroidered felt heart tucked within.
“Skeleton Song” had its digital premiere on CLASH magazine and can be watched in full above, or on YouTube.