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In the new horror film Suspiria (out Nov. 2), Dakota Johnson plays Susie Bannion, a young woman who travels from Ohio to attend a prestigious — if highly unusual — dance academy in Berlin. “She takes the place of a dance student who has recently disappeared and immediately becomes one of the top dancers in the academy,” the Fifty Shades of Grey alum tells EW of her latest role. Susie develops an “intense and beautiful” student-teacher relationship with Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton), “and then you discover that the dance academy is run by witches!”
The most impressive dance scene in this remake of director Dario Argento’s classic 1977 terror tale is a public performance of the routine “Volk” — German for “people.” Inspired by the pre-WWII avant-garde expressionist dance movement, the sequence was dreamed up by the film’s choreographer, Damien Jalet, and is soundtracked by an instrumental from the film’s composer, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke. The choreography is also part of the witches’ grand design.
“In Dario Argento’s film, you see mostly lessons; there is not a grand dance moment in the movie,” says director Luca Guadagnino (who helmed last year’s Call Me by Your Name). “We felt that dance needed to be part of the process of witchcraft. That performance builds towards the greater ritual that is at the core of the film.”
The cast members in the dance wore outfits made from rope designed to reflect the gory goings-on depicted elsewhere in the film. “We hand-knotted each costume in red bondage rope in our atelier, to give it a feeling of dripping blood,” says costume designer Giulia Piersanti. If that isn’t creepy enough, the choreography was in large part dictated by the witchiest of symbols. “We were moving on the points of a pentagram, as though the dance were casting a spell,” Johnson reveals.
The scariest part of the scene for the actress did not involve the movie’s supernatural shenanigans, but the fact that she had to dance in front of a crowd of strangers; there were actual audience members to watch the performance. Says Johnson, “I trained on and off for about a year before we started filming, but I’m not a professional dancer. It was terrifying.”
See an exclusive image from Suspiria and the teaser trailer above.