The choreography in the episode is rendered in gorgeous rotoscoped animation (check this video for a fascinating potted history of this innovative technique, and its origins in dance). The animators trace over recorded performances of the dancers (referred to as ‘performance capture’ as opposed to ‘motion capture’ by the team) frame by frame to produce a realistic result. The rotoscoping approach allowed director Alberto Mielgo to stay as close as possible to the original movement of Los Angeles-based choreographer Sara Silkin. The articulate, sinuous movement of the animated characters conveys the rigorous research by the dancers and Silkin, who was invited by Mielgo to work together on the concept even before the script for the episode was written.
The episode follows the seductive but deadly attraction between the deaf knight Jibaro and The Golden Woman, a mystical siren lurking under an unassuming lake, encrusted in the spoils of war of the soldiers she has driven to death. When Jibaro and an army of knights make their way to the lake, the mythical creature pulls them in deep in the water with her screams, drowning all but the deaf Jibaro. The narrative follows his point of view, tuning out the sound when we are experiencing the scenes from Jibaro’s perspective.
This bold and inclusive approach positions dance as the prized, primary storytelling medium in the wordless narrative of the episode, which won two Emmy awards for short-form animation and individual achievement in animation at the 2022 Creative Arts Emmy Awards.
The film’s appeal comes from the inventive and vibrant choreography by Silkin, which combines sharp, vertigo-inducing turns and acrobatic flips with the vulnerable demeanour of The Golden Woman. Her movement, performed by dancer Megan Goldstein, oscillates between sensual body waves, desperate shrieks and a dazzling sequence where she seduces the knight by snaking and slinking dangerously close to him and his sword. Her movement as she playfully licks his sword and bites the knight’s lip is informed by Ohad Naharin’s Gaga movement language remixed with the natural ebb and flow of the river, where the siren lives, and elements of pole dance.
The choreography in the episode becomes apparent the first time the knights are possessed by the siren’s destructive song, and suddenly launch into a virtuosic, almost balletic flurry of movement that becomes a dance to their death. The way the choreography is incorporated reveals a creative, forward-thinking spirit in Silkin. She has developed emotional subtleties and nuanced gestures into a movement style that often reads as grand and virtuosic for its own sake, and the response to the episode has been wonderful to watch.