It was in January of 2012 that we were introduced to “This Head I Hold.” Well over a year later, the Electric Guest song produced by Danger Mouse has a video to go with it. The clip was shot in a small village in Russia, where a group of dancers showed off their moves.
The full story behind the video:
When a small London film crew headed to Kostroma, a district of Russia located some 400 kilometres north-east of Moscow, to continue work on a documentary they were making about ethnic dance traditions across the country, their preconceptions were soon dashed. When they arrived in the small village of Karavaeva on the outskirts of the region, they discovered that the Karusel dance troupe were similar to what their research had suggested — packed with larger than life characters, the troupe’s performances and clothing remained true to their traditions which date back many centuries.
The crew spent the first day observing their varying styles of dance, most of which was accompanied by frenetic musical accompaniment from an accordion player. They were particularly interested in the Kazachok, an intensely physical dance characterised by repeated kicks of the leg set to a rapidly increasing tempo. They learned that the dancers’ choice of clothing denoted which dance they would perform, just as different clothing would distinguish one Scottish clan from another.
The next day, the director suggested that they could make Karusel’s first ever official Youtube video. Could they perform a Kazachokfor the rest of the world? “We want to do something a little different,” countered their leader Dmitry in surprisingly clear English, explaining that their dances were timeless, just as rock ‘n’ roll is. As Dmitry went to play some music, the film crew thought they might be about to spin some old Elvis, or perhaps some Buddy Holly or Bill Haley. They didn’t recognise the song. In fact, it sounded far more contemporary than they had anticipated. What was it?
Dmitry beckoned over Anatoly, who he introduced as one of the troupe’s youngest dancers and the village’s computer expert. As Dmitry and Anatoly conversed in Russian, the crew could just about make out a few of the teenagers words: “Electric Guest” and “This Head I Hold.” The film crew didn’t recognise either name. Dmitry’s translation stated that Anatoly had somehow discovered the song and downloaded it via the village’s one agonisingly slow dial-up connection. ‘This Head I Hold’ had since become a favourite of the entire troupe.
The film crew spent the afternoon filming the troupe rehearsing and eventually performing the song. What they observed was a visual feast: in a demonstration of bravado, the men puffed out their chests, threw their bodies at each other and competitively delivered a deafening amount of wolf-whistling. The ladies pulled in the local children to join the dance, and together they weaved through each other’s arms as the dance gathered momentum. It really demonstrated how vital dance was to maintaining and upholding the spirit of the community.
The crew departed with heavy heads the following morning after a session on the samogon, the villagers’ own home-made equivalent to moonshine. Arriving back home in London a week later after completing their journey via some other small Russian towns, the crew were already eager to reminisce on the strangest moment of the journey. They edited together this short film to celebrate the spirit of a society united by the sheer joy of dance. Work on the full documentary continues…