Animal courtship dances transformed into human choreography: the ‘Act of Love’ 2016 video for Sagami condoms


Dance+: Act of Love

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Animal courtship dances transformed into human choreography: the ‘Act of Love’ 2016 video for Sagami condoms
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Animal courtship dances transformed into human choreography by Russell Maliphant, to advertise condoms

What would it look like if humans flirted and mated like animals do? ‘Act of Love – Animal Courtships Performed by Humans’ is a funny and romantic ad for condoms in the form of a dance video, which interprets courting rituals from the animal kingdom into beautifully performed dances.

A young couple, both in yellow shirts, is sitting on a bench, on the riverside of a busy city. They are touching amorously, cheek to cheek, nose to nose, neck to neck, indifferent to the surprised looks of passers-by. A man and a woman dressed in black and white meet on the street – the man approaching with widespread steps as she moves her shoulders and hips seductively. A man, all in white, circles around a woman, catching her attention – they carry on moving elegantly around each other. Another couple rhythmically steps sideways on a staircase, locking eyes, stepping in the way of people who are climbing down the stairs. Under a bridge, a couple dressed in brown hues engages in a fluid, tango-like duet. A small group of people appears on the sidewalk, all dressed in pink, marching together at the same hasty pace, sharply turning their heads left, right, up, down. On the way they are joined by more people in pink, and form a larger flock. They make no eye contact, and there is a funny synchronicity in the way they move and pause together, lifting one leg off the ground.

As the little street performances develop, the dance – by acclaimed UK choreographer Russell Maliphant – highlights details suggested by animal movement: sharp bird-like changes in the movement of heads, intricate footwork, large wing-flapping accentuated by the use of overcoats and playful mammal movements, all delivered with a certain balletic nonchalance and a cartoonish sense of longing by the brilliant performers. The waltz melody adds to the feelgood mood of the video. Filmed on London’s South Bank, the urban setting works as a metaphor for the natural habitat – and it allows for reaction shots of amused passers-by. Much like in real life courtships – of both humans and animals – some of the encounters escalate passionately, and others end in disappointment. The two-minute video is worth watching till the very end, for an elucidating comparison between clips of actual animal courting and their choreographic interpretation.

Act of Love is part of 2016 campaign by Sagami Original Rubber Industries. The Japanese condom company released the video along with a website and a book exploring and celebrating the variety of animal courtship behaviour. According to the advertising agency, their intent was to build a branded communication without directly advertising the product’s function. Thus, they worked with the concept of animal mating, instead of directly addressing human mating, making a point on the naturalness of the act (of love).

Yet if we interpret the animal couples back into human terms, what we get in this ad are all heterosexual couples (apart from the flamingo flock), with each couple of similar physical appearance. Given the premise of naturalness implicit in the advertising of ‘the world’s thinnest condom’, this risks reinforcing racial and sexual stereotypes of what ‘normal’ attraction should be. Might not a more unbiased coupling from the cast of dancers be more inclusive, while no less funny, romantic – and human? 

Theme: Dance+
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