Behind-the-Scenes: Bells & Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies

Lyndell took a break from choreographing, filming, editing, and dancing, and a million and one other things to fill me in on the inspiration behind the two pieces Stretch is releasing in December.  Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into making these videos!

What was the inspiration to do both Bells and Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies?  Did you have a strong vision for both, or did one inspire the other? 


Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies came first.  Pentatonix came out with a Sugar Plum Fairy version that was on the darker side.  It gave me a vision of little mischievous fairies as opposed to the pretty ones we’re so used to seeing. I thought, “That would be really interesting.”

At the same time, I had to think about “How do I make this accessible to everyone?”  Because with copy written material, YouTube won’t allow people to watch it phones and iPads.  I hate thinking that way, but you have to think about how people can connect with your material. Matthew Bourne says something to effect of, “Half is business, half is art.”

In comparison, Bells, is less dark than a lot of the pieces we’ve seen from Stretch so far. 

It is less dark–we’re wearing white! But it’s still somber.  I had no idea which one I wanted to do, so I just listened to a lot of Christmas music. “Carol of the Bells” came on, and I had this image of the dancers embodying the vocalization and instrumentation of the song.  I thought that would be a nice juxtaposition to the Sugar Plum Fairy piece.


I noticed on your Instagram that you have a picture of you writing dance steps on the music.  How do you choreograph without words?  What techniques do you use? 

Actually, Bells is the first time that I wrote directly on the sheet music.  Usually, when I come up with the idea of choreography, the dancing just happens in my mind. Sometimes it’s a visualization, sometimes it’s a story–I stick with what inspired me.  For Bells, I was choreographing to the vocals that didn’t exist; the dancing stood in place of the vocals that were missing.  I wanted movement to match sometimes, so I had to find exactly when the vocals matched.  I was literally drawing little people under the notes.

(Fun fact: the dancers were split up into four different vocal parts: soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. Each “vocal” part had a slightly different timing.  See if you can spot when we split into our sections! Hint: try watching at 0:16 & 1:10)

How was it working with the composer, Brian Barrale? Were you very specific about what you wanted, or did you let him run with it? 

I had worked with Brian on the promo for my husband’s Kickstarter, and I thought “Hmmm…there could be something here.”  And there was! After we established that he loved Christmas music, he asked me for things that he absolutely needed to know.  I gave him a time limit, a tempo, a tone that I was looking for, and a style, and I let him run for it. I like to give people as much artistic freedom as possible, because the end result is always better.

What kind of things were you looking for? How did the collaboration work between the two of you?   

For example, for Bells, I wanted it to be very classical, but free—I didn’t want it to sound like a metronome. I still wanted to use classical instruments, but have a tone like CoralineCoraline has very dark, yet naïve innocence to it.  Brian played out the skeleton of it, and then he would send it back to me, and the movement I created was inspired by it.

Ninety-four percent of what he sent the first go around was there for me—we were very in sync artistically.  Both of us like stuff that’s a little off. He sent me a version of the song, and wrote to tell me that he wasn’t sure if it would be too dark.  But when I listened to it, I thought “Yes! So good.”

Don’t forget to watch “Bells” and “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” on our YouTube Channel!    

If you loved the music and want to download it, The Dark Bell Carol and Viscous Plum Faeries are now available on iTunes.  

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