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The Ballet of the Nations - Cinema in the Cathedral

We are delighted to welcome Bristol-based dance company Impermanence for a screening of their first short-feature film, The Ballet of the Nations, followed by a panel discussion. Actor Billy Zane narrates this 50-minute arthouse film in which war is imagined as a diabolical dance choreographed by Satan and Ballet Master Death.

The film was inspired by the pacifist satire, The Ballet of the Nations, written by Vernon Lee in 1915 and illustrated by Maxwell Armfield as a response to the outbreak of war. Impermanence’s film incorporates original dialogue inspired by Lee’s text, among intricate and stylised dance pieces, with production design by Pam Tait, an original soundtrack by composer Robert Bentall, cinematography by Jack Offord and a directorial debut from Roseanna Anderson and Joshua Ben-Tovim. The film begins with Satan and Ballet Master Death discussing how to reintroduce chaos into a complacent society.  Satan instructs Ballet Master Death to assemble an orchestra of human passions (Fear, Panic, Suspicion, Hatred, Heroism, Murder etc.) to provide the music for a corps de ballet of Nations to perform the dance macabre of war.  What follows is an often-humorous assembly of the orchestra, filmed in the atmospheric cavernous tunnels beneath Bristol Temple Meads.  Following this assembly, we see the core Nations perform their dance, joined by a larger cohort of Nations for the final act, Revenge. The film is interspersed with danced sections performed by a Chorus, evocative of the choric elements of classical Greek tragedy.

The original publication was rooted in a culture of experimental performance that developed in Britain during the war, against the grain of mainstream theatre and often in sympathy with the wartime peace movement. Impermanence’s production reanimates that world of movement, sound and design, using the evidence of archives, art works, footage, photographs and illustrated books to develop a richly-textured evocation of the wartime artistic response.

Impermanence is a Bristol-based company set up in 2011. The company creates and presents critically acclaimed dance works in a number of different media and settings including theatre, film, cabaret, site-specific projects and community events. Over the past few years they have built up a reputation for innovative live shows, utilising their training in dance to create performance pieces that defy and challenge contemporary theatre norms. 

The trailer can be viewed here

Tickets available here






Next The Ballet of the Nations - Cinema in the Cathedral Dates

  • Thursday 24th January 2019, 7:00 pm, The Nave