Select Page

The Expressive Power of Dance

The human movement of dancing in its many cultural, ritualistic and rhythmic manifestations has been with us for centuries as an expressive communication of emotion and narrative symbolism.

As most people have probably experienced, whether at home, at a celebration, in a dance club or concert audience, the activity of dancing can be a cathartic, liberating transcendence of the everyday.

The use of dance scenes in commercials has the power to draw viewers into sharing the emotions being expressed through the rhythms, patterns and movements created by a dancer or a performance group.


The formalized expressions of dance movements that we know today as ‘ballet’ originated in the Italian Renaissance courts during the 15th and 16th centuries. The name ‘ballet’ comes from the Italian ‘ballare’ meaning to dance.

With the marriage of Catherine de Medici of Italy to the French King Henry II, ballet was introduced to the court life of France.

The Paris Opera Ballet originated in the court of Louis XIV and was founded in 1669, making it the oldest ballet company in the world.

1. Three Ships Whisky, Kitty Phetla

Advertising Agency: Mirum, Cape Town, South Africa

Directed by Mzonke Maloneyme with imposing visual style and grace, the commercial features South African choreographer and ballet dancer Kitty Pheleta.

She describes dancing as a beautiful conversation; “While you dance, you expose your inner self. And at the heart of this conversation is the perfection of the art form. It’s theatrical, a magic of the mind, and I judge myself daily in pursuit of perfection”.

2. Johannesburg Ballet Company, Breaking Ballet

Advertising Agency: TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris, Johannesburg, South Africa

Directed by Jeana Theron, Ross Garrett, Chloe Coetsee and Zee Ntuli,

Each short ballet in the series is themed to reflect a current event, or a popular local culture interest. The ‘Breaking Ballet’ online campaign of 8 commercials features groundbreaking ballet and dance expressions with the aim of engaging audiences with expressive artistic performances they can relate to in a way they may not have been able to do before.

The ‘Breaking Ballet’ campaign was honoured with an Entertainment Cannes Gold Lion and a Creative Data Cannes Silver Lion.

3. Nike, Ballerina and Hip-Hop Dancers Duo

Produced by Nike JDI Russia, this TV and cinema commercial stars dancers Maria Vinogradova and Anastsiya Soboleva.

Something often taken for granted is that sports and fitness scientists are unanimous in regarding professional dancers to be the world’s fittest athletes.

The depicted ‘dance-off’ therefore, is a fitting tribute by Nike JDI Russia to the athleticism, elegant physicality, and routine disciplines of the expressive two stars, each representing a different dance genre that evolves into becoming one synchronised movement.

The music soundtrack is a remix by ‘Endless Noise’ of Alexander Borodin’s composition, ‘Polovtsian Dances’.

4. Bose Quiet Comfort 35 Headphones, Get Closer

Advertising Agency: Grey, London, UK

Directed by Jaron Albertin, the commercial stars dancer and performer Maëva Berthelot and a soundtrack of the composition ‘Alchemy’ by TALA, the stage name of London-based musician and songwriter Jasmin Tadjiky.

Just how personal and culturally important uninterrupted musical enjoyment is for their target audience, was an important insight for Bose.

Their competitors it seemed were primarily focused on designing stylish headphones as fashion brand accessories, rather than improvements in noise cancelling headphones technology.

Bose decided therefore, to concentrate their research and development on providing their target consumers with the emotional benefits of an unprecedented deeper connect to their musical passions.

The entrancing dance movements of Maëva Berthelot as she gets ‘carried away’ by the uninterrupted enjoyment of her music in a metaphorically ‘empty’ London, was an inspired and emotive communication that effectively saw Bose QC 35 Headphones become a market leader.

5. Coke Zero, A Step From Zero

Advertising Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, Paris, France

‘A Step From Zero’, directed by Nima Nourizadeh, was preceded by an extensive integrated marketing intiative that launched the Coke Zero ‘Make It Possible’ project.

The project website invited choreographers to submit videos of their dance moves for the making of a commercial and advertising campaign.

The winning entry was a side-to-side, toe-tapping dance by Joey ‘Knucklehead’ Turman; “I created the Toe Tappy as a way for people to express joy and celebrate the good things that happen in their lives”.

The next phase of the project called for aspiring young actors and dancers to submit audition videos. 300 entries were received and the final winner was Driss ‘Keemo’ Benhamida from France who was flown to Buenos Aires where the commercial was filmed.

The soundtrack is by Japanese female Reggae singer and songwriter Metis, and British singer and Bluegrass artist Anzli Jones, whose featured hit song ‘All In’, went to number one on the iTunes Charts in whichever market ‘A Step From Zero’ was aired.

6. KENZO World, The New Fragrance

Publicity and Communications Agency: Framework

KENZO is a French luxury house founded in 1970 by Japanese designer Kenzo Takada. He moved to Paris in 1964 to start his fashion career.

Starring actress Margaret Qualley, the commercial for Kenzo’s new fragrance was written and directed by Spike Jonez.

The original soundtrack ‘Mutant Brain,’ was composed and written by DJs Sam Spiegel & Ape Drums with vocals by Assassin.

The story is about a wedding guest in a green dress that leaves the confines of her table companions, and begins a surreal dance routine around the hotel. The packaging design for KENZO World features a prominent icon of an eye, a large symbol of which appears in the film.

The commercial was universally applauded by the fashion and advertising trade presses for its originality, spirit of independence and freedom. It was described as creating a new benchmark of what perfume advertising should be.

2 million YouTube views were motivated in less than a week after the commercial’s online posting. The campaign went on to win many awards including an Epica Grand Prix for Film, and 8 Cannes Lions.

The top Cannes honour was a Cannes Titanium Lion, an exceptional award that goes to game-changing campaigns that shake up existing norms and rewrite the rules.

7. Apple HomePod, Welcome Home

Advertising Agency: TBWA\Media Arts Lab, USA.

Apple is the first technological company to experience a higher degree of brand kinship with women than men.

It is probably not surprising therefore, that they choose women as their primary target market to launch their Apple HomePod.

Directed by Spike Jonze this engaging short film stars British musician and dancer FKA Twigs. The commercial rapidly dominated social media channels and 5 million YouTube downloads were recorded in the first week of its release.

The ‘Welcome Home’ campaign has won numerous industry awards that include a Cannes Grand Prix and 5 Cannes Lions.

8. Guinness, Alive Inside Africa Special

Advertising Agency: AMV BBDO, London and Africa

Directed by Kibwe Tavares, the commercial celebrates the launch in Nigeria of Guinness’s new stout containing a blend of natural African extracts.

The distinctively vibrant flavour of Guinness Africa Special is entertainingly echoed and expressed with a popular Angolan style of dance music called ‘Kuduro’.

The ‘Kuduro’ signature dance movements are demonstrated in the commercial by the featured dynamic young movers and shakers, to a soundtrack consisting of an eclectic mix of music by African performing artists and young musicians.

9. Nike, Run It

Advertising Agency: Wieden+Kennedy, Tokyo, Japan

Directed by Ralf Schmerberg, in collaboration with Korean-American Rapper Jay Park, the commercial for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, pays tribute to rule-breakers.

The vast Korean cast of the Hip-Hop ‘Run It’ commercial, includes local rapper Jessi, Olympic gold medalist SukHee Shim, world champion boxer HyunMi Choi, model HyunMin Han, choreographer J Black/J Pink and members of the public.

Nike’s aim was to use the hosting of the Winter Olympics as an opportunity to inspire young Koreans to pursue their outdoor physical activities with confidence and passionate originality whatever that may be, and whatever the weather.

Interspersed with animated figures, and the Jay Park song ‘Run It’ as the soundtrack, the commercial rapidly became part of Korea’s youth culture, made International headlines, and attracted a cult following.