You Can Dance If You Want To

Posted Sunday, April 25, 2010, 1:16 AM





I was having a quiet evening in (just like 99.9% of all my other evenings) randomly leaping through YouTube, when I stumbled across the music video for the 80s one hit wonder Safety Dance by "Men Without Hats". Famous for its incomprehensible nonsense, coupled with a weirdly catchy tune, it was the band's only success, and is still popular amongst the nostalgic. And to match up the weirdness, the video is equally incomprehensible.

It begins with a man, Ivan Doroschuk, in pseudo-peasant dress skipping through a field, with a diminutive court jester (played by actor Mike Edmonds, who is great in the TV show Maid Marian and her Merry Men) when they spot a landmark and head off towards it. They meet up with an enthusiastic girl who is skipping along in her own way, where they reach a crossroads, and randomly choose a direction.

It takes them into a village, where they wait by a gate while continuing to dance, and are soon joined by locals and Morris Dancers in a parade down the main street, over a bridge, until they reach a farmyard where they have a May Day festival.

The end.

Pointless, but infectious, fun.

The "safety" dance, incidentally, is when you make an "S" shape with your arms, which they do a few times through the video. S for Safety, presumably.

Anyway, it occurred to me that I could probably find most of those locations in Google Maps.

Luckily Wikipedia solved half my initial obstacles by mentioning the exact village where it was filmed, called West Kington, in Wiltshire, in the UK. And amazingly it's barely changed in the intervening 25 years or so since it was filmed. There seems to be a commitment to preserve the old-timey feel of a lot of country villages in the UK, maintaining their chocolate box appeal for tourists and historians.

I present to you now a few comparison shots of the location, the map of which you can find in Google Maps here.

The sequence was filmed in two separate locations, so there's a subtle break in continuity, but that's not unusual in any kind of filming. In this case, the two locations are barely a mile apart from each other.





The field is still there, but they filmed it away from the roadside, so the Street View camera doesn't get the same angle. But after much searching (see next shot) I know this is the exact field, and the stone wall in the foreground of the video is that seen at upper left in the lower streetview pic. It is now overgrown with bracken.

You can see on this map the wall that leads away from the road, from the north to the south, towards the path. This matches the continuity of the video, where the characters walk through the field, to the corner of the wall, and then run down to the path.



I struggled to find this location, as the road is not a main one, and could have been private, where Street View rarely goes. I searched for the distinctive building on the hilltop. After matching up fields, pylons, buildings, and road divisions, I found the exact spot. And as you can see, it has barely changed at all.

And even more amazing, you see the log on the patch of grass in the music video? Well, it's still there! It's just been rolled a few metres away.

Then the sequence leaps to the village, and continuity is tight here. They start by skipping down the lane, west to east, past a house, up to a gate at the junction where the villagers cross a bridge, and straight into a farmyard.



This lane was a challenge, as there are three that radiate out from the village, and more beyond, so I had to look at each of them before determining which one it was. You can see the house behind them is the same, and the power pole to the left of shot also matches (a new pole, but in the same spot), with the shed behind the girl.



The girl then dances effusively in front of a couple of houses, which are distinctively recognisable by the fence palings and a red letterbox at the gate. Both remain unchanged.



The gate is just off the centre of the village, at the junction of three roads, a lot closer than the video implies. Though there are some considerable differences, and a mismatch due to the lenses used, you can recognise the same power poles in the field behind the gate.

Note the girl and Ivan (the lead singer) are each doing the "Safety Dance" "S" move.



The wide shot of the village bridge is deceptive. It's filmed in the middle of the field quite a distance behind the gate, and not as a POV from the gate. I couldn't find a matching angle in Street View, but you can see that there are vines on the main building just right of centre in the video shot, and also left of centre in the Street View angle, which are barely unchanged after 25 years. What's up with that?

In case you are confused by the different angles, if you look at the video frame, they are dancing on the bridge, marching from right to left. Whereas in the Street View shot, they would be coming towards us, with the bridge in the midground.





And finally a few metres down the road is a farm, with a large open courtyard, where they set up the fairground for the big dance finale. You can recognise the tractor shed and the long building as the most obvious matching features, though there are some minor alterations like new roof tiles and different paint jobs.

It was quite fun to go through it and confirm the locations, especially as it's such a beautiful, charming area. Whenever I found a match I got a thrill of recognition.

I am such a nerd.
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80 Reasoned Responses:

TS Hendrik said...

This was oddly one of the most interesting posts I've read in awhile. Very cool.

jenn said...

My younger son made such fun of me when he saw the video a couple of years ago and I mistakenly revealed the song had been a favorite of mine back in the day. He was especially appalled by the weird "S" arm movements. Haha! Haven't thought of this video in several years.

Cool stuff.

Dags said...

Now that's a real "you've got too much time on your hands" post LOL.

Ironically if you ever listen to the 12" extended mix of the song it's totally different to the normal version (why I don't know).

Still no matter what, just remember that you can dance if you want to ... :)

Anonymous said...

Wow ... your Google Maps technique is unstoppable! WTG ...

Joan said...

I loved this song and the video....still do!!

Anonymous said...

Brilliant research!

pierocampa said...

Does anyone know who is that lunatic girl?

Think I'm in love with her. :)

pierocampa said...

Nobody... Ok, I will kill myself, tomorrow.

GuanoLad said...

I had a look around, but couldn't find out. Nobody seems to know. If it's any consolation, if she's still alive, she'd now be about 45 years old.

pierocampa said...

I tried to contact directly the Men Without Hats (info@menwithouthats.com), asking for the name of the blonde girl.

This is the answer: "Have no clue what her name is, she was just an actress, plus, she's probably old enough now to be your mother. Cheers, Jason".

Give up.

PS Who is Jason?

Anonymous said...

I've been looking for the exact location online for a long time, as this is my all time favourate song. So imagine my excitement at finding this website!
Seeing those pictures has brought it all back to me, remembering it as a 13 year old.
My wife and myself plan on spending our anniversary there this August - can't wait!
Just hope Ivan is visiting!!!!!!

Jamie

GuanoLad said...

Glad to help. If you do go and take some pictures, please link to them, I'd love to see them!

Anonymous said...

I absolutely loved that girl when the video came out. thanks for the flood of memories. "les hommes sans chapeau" as we know/knew them in canada.

Andy said...

Thank you for this, I live 5 miles down the road and I didnt know this, Pure Genius... Thanks

Anonymous said...

Yes...I fell in love with that blonde girl back in the 80's.Astonishing that she can't be identified.Great research..I'm 50 with a wife and two teenage kids but I'm proud to be a nerd!!!

Anonymous said...

this is the most awesome info i've seen in a long time.
takes me back!!
awesome pics !!
beautiful location!!

Bex said...

Thank you so much for the most hilarious and nostalgic posting, you are a hero amongst men. I wish I could say I am the blonde girl but alas I am just another loopy blonde of the same sort of age, still playing the song at least once a day and smiling loopily, dancing and singing. Have you seen the 'literal version' video on youtube? Hilarious.

Anonymous said...

Quite a fascinating little article here. Well done. I'd still love to know who the girl is? I always believed the song had something to do with punk pogoing or is that just a myth?

GuanoLad said...

I believe that's true, that they weren't allowed to dance the way they wanted to in nightclubs. Not that pogoing is really dancing so much as acting like a tool.

Anonymous said...

you can visit this page. they say her name is JENNY. we must find her!!! Charly from Buenos Aires Maradona

GuanoLad said...

You mean this site: http://ask.metafilter.com/45566/She-can-dance-if-she-wants-to

It's not much to go on.

pierocampa said...

BEX: lol... "I'm insane!"

Anonymous said...

Hello! Friends Charly again from Buenos Aires!! Im infected & insane too Im going to confirm who`s that girl because its a brilliant research, only for that! perhaps sending calling or email to peoples who leaves there im sure they share something like beer jaja!. We have the families postcode like "the house with the red letterbox" see the video it say the number "4" but its the SN14 7JH (Drifton Hill, West Kington)anybody know who was the manager those time? I attach my email carales2005@yahoo.com.ar WE CAN DO IT IF WE WANT IT...)

pierocampa said...

I contacted the Bananarama's [http://www.bananarama.co.uk/exclusive/index.php?option=com_staticxt&Itemid=65&MainId=65], but no answer yet.

GuanoLad said...

Why would the Bananarama folks know anything about her? There's no connection.

pierocampa said...

Well, in this link [http://ask.metafilter.com/45566/She-can-dance-if-she-wants-to] they say she's "a good friend of Bananarama's"... ?

Anonymous said...

You're awesome. Love the descriptions of the 'lunatic girl'.

Anonymous said...

Charly again!!! we have to contact with mike edmonds sending a mail: http://mikeedmonds.winnsworld.co.uk/ HOW CAN I SEND A MAIL from this site please help me?

pierocampa said...

Mike could be our last chance.

Anonymous said...

who is the production company/director etc they will be able to find out ? how about a posting on facebook or youtube ? I am strangely obsessed too by this. We must find out-even if she has aged a tad !!

suzieq0805 said...

I have found out some info over the last couple of years - her first name is Louise, she was a local villager they hired due to her effervesence and now lives in London (and is a single mum of two teenaged boys). Apparently she looks much the same despite now being in her mid 40s, with the same long blonde hair.

unfortunately that's all I've been able to find out thus far...but I'll keep looking!

Anonymous said...

Hi I live t here the girl didn't come from wk

Anonymous said...

UNBELIEVABLE! I stumbled on this website doing research on the blonde girl in the video. I honestly thought I was the only person in this whole wide world who was infatuated with the girl in this little video from the early 80's. We never really get a clear shot of her face, just her flowing blonde tresses and her bouncing around, but that was all it took a then 16 year old to develop a crush. I am amazed there are others that feel the way I do about her.

Anonymous said...

On the official Men Without Hats Facebook page, someone asked about the blonde in the Safety Dance video. They said that she was an actress friend of the singers of Bananarama...but that's all they remember.

pierocampa said...

Thank you suzieq0805, by far the most precious info ever given up to now. !

A curiosity: how did you get them??? :)

Anonymous said...

Suzie, where did you hear this about her being in London? I've done some research in recent weeks and have frequented the MWH official FB page and other places. The MWH camp remembers is that she was an actress and friend of Bananarama. Also, someone posted just after your reply saying they live in WK and they insist this girl was not a local.

So far I've visited the MWH proboards but can't find anything of substance there, other than ridicule for trying to find out who she is :). I also joined the official Bananarama boards and started some threads there but haven't heard anything.

I also emailed the director of the video, Tim Pope. Haven't heard back anything yet. If I find anything out, I'll be sure to post here.

In the mean time if you would share with us your lead on the London connection, we'd all appreciate it. :)

GH

Anonymous said...

I really hope you'll find it. I'm really curious about who she is. Don't give up. :)

Anonymous said...

Okay, fans of the girl in the video, I created a fan page/group for her on Facebook. Should be easy to find. I posted several still-frames from the video (ones which I thought were flattering), plus some other info. Visit the page and join if you'd like.

GH

Anonymous said...

i read somewhere that this girl is the same girl that appears in the videoclip "pop goes the world". I've watched the videoclip and they kind of look like to each other so maybe that's true. Well, good luck :)

Anonymous said...

For current information about Men Without Hats, go to the Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/menwithouthats, or visit their website: www.safetydance.com

William Kulich said...

Wicked post! Great work! :D

Anonymous said...

After reading all that I am still none the wiser who she is...lol...aghhhhh

Anonymous said...

Agree with last posting... By the way, the Facebook group has only three members...

Just to add to the info, the company that produced the video was GLO Productions (http://www.mvdbase.com/prod.php?name=GLO&all=1). The last video this company produced was in 1990... probably out of business since then or doing wedding videos.

The producer's name is Debbie Kermode. She only produced two videos of the band back in 1983.
This info taken from the same link above.

GuanoLad said...

It's getting hard to tell one 'Anonymous' from another.

Anonymous said...

hi there ! many thanks for the info no this video. one of my faves from the 80`s! still listen to this in my car at 200wts per channel. and yes my teenage daughters think im strange. also many thanks for the location info will have to go visit one day me thinks.will keep checkin back to see if any one can find the name of the blonde actress. will post any info i can find in mean time.

pierocampa said...

Your teenage daughter doesn't know that you are on the right side ..`I wish I could give you a name`..
Anyway, I'll really pray for any successful research you can do!

Anonymous said...

Well it turns out that the FB group have validated her first name as Louise, corroborating the info I obtained from my source and posted here last year (someone on Youtube who knows her personally); I believe the rest of the information he provided (her being a single mum with two teenaged sons currently living in London and hasn't changed much) to be likely accurate as well.

This is Suzie btw - for some reason I can't log into my account.

Dunebasher71 said...

For those who are interested, I visited West Kington just a week ago (using this webpage as a guide - thanks GuanoLad!) in hopes of taking a photo of my 4-year-old daughter (who loves the song) doing the "S"-move in front of the gate.

Sadly, it turns out that the gate is on private property (albeit only a few feet away from the road) and the owners are remodelling their land, so it doesn't look much like it did in the video any more, plus there was a small earthmoving machine directly in front of it.

As well as the gate, something else that's changed from 1983 is the area in front of the row of houses with the letterbox. In the video we can see Mike Edmonds dancing along in front of a low wall, with more dancers in the distance behind him. Behind that wall is a stream, and since the video was filmed a row of conifer trees has been planted all the way along, so nowadays the dancers in the distance would be completely obscured.

On the plus side, I was able to speak to some of the villagers, including one lady who said she appears in the video and was pregnant with her first child at the time. She also said that her dog appeared (it's the black labrador that can be seen very briefly behind Ivan as he sings "We can dress real neat...") and that many of the people from the video still live in the village (which really is absolutely tiny, as well as incredibly pretty).

We then drove on to the crossroads, which still looks virtually identical, and I took a photo of my 2-year-old son standing on it. At some point I'll make up a side-by-side image of a screengrab from the video and the photo of my son in the same place.

Lynn Irwin Stewart said...

As a long-time MWH fan, I enjoyed this post very much! Am actually going to see them perform in less than two weeks -- only had to wait nearly 30 years!

Capt Uante said...

Nice Post. I was in the US Air Force in England when this song came out (at RAF Bentwaters and lived in a town called Clopton near Ipswitch) The video has always been one of my favorites from that time. Great Job on the pics...cool to see.

Anonymous said...

Wow...that was an amazing piece of investigation! Congrats

Anonymous said...

Excellent work!

Anonymous said...

If I was her I'd stay anonymous. Way too much interest in her from a 'select few'. This world is full of stalking perverts. The video is memorable for many reasons not just her small part in it. Leave the lass alone. So, what happens if you find out who she really is? You feel you know her, you want her life story from having a few seconds in a pop video from over 25 years ago? What's the big deal? I can bet you a million quid if she turns out to be fat, ugly and in her 50's then interest will quickly fade to nothing. If she's kept her youthfulness or any resemblance to this video then she will be stalked by some of you lot. The Facebook page was taken down for this reason. So, in essence, stop getting a hard on over what she's doing these days and get a life.

Anonymous said...

Im charly from buenos aires again. perhaps you had the pervert idea you show too much interest. thats your condition man. we are a nostalgics generation, here is a father who visit west kington whith her 4 years old daughter who loves this song. i can bet you a millon quid that you look for pervert webs. you didnt understand the message of this blog. LAMENTO QUE PIENSES ASI DE ESTE BUEN BLOG

Dan'l said...

Dan'l in Hampton N.H. The day, the mood, HER mood, the village, all combined in images that haunt millions .She'd be at least 50 now{I'm 55} but I'd love to tell her that she gave me a glimpse of 'bliss' that'll always be one "reminder" of the INTENDED human condition .No surprise to me that she ISN'T an outed celebrity.Meant to be........

Anonymous said...

Hello! i'm a young boy from Russia and i saw the video two days ago. The girl is so bright, so full of energy, always makes me smile and conveys a good mood. While reading your post i've got shivers, i realized how quickly time flies and life changes. Awesome work!
Best wishes, greetings from Russia.

Anonymous said...

Enjoying a beautiful female doesn't make us a pervert. I wondered if she (the blonde in the vid) did anything else like movies and such. She was so vivacious in her dancing it just stuck in my mind. a lovely girl.

Angelo Dimitriani said...

Guano Lad, I do not believe "Safety Dance" was their only hit. I think they had another about ten years again called "Pop Goes The World." I think technically they are two-hit wonders.

GuanoLad said...

They are still widely considered one hit wonders, even with other charted releases. After all, there are some people who think A-Ha are one hit wonders, and yet they had at least three other worldwide successes after 'Take On Me.' It just depends on how you measure it, and what country you're from.

Anonymous said...

Having being a wild child and disfunct for many years I do have an opinion. Doroschuck - drugs, rock star and a player. The lass "regret" and wanting to forget her part in a famous vid says one thing. Somthing probably involving sex, drink and drugs went on that is best left alone. She was the only young girl there so she was his target, simple.

GuanoLad said...

You may be right in that she may have regretted her involvement in the video, but the details you've guessed at are a little too specific and accusatory, and not at all necessarily close to the truth.

Anonymous said...

I watched the "Pop Goes the World" video. I'm one of those who used to read liner notes. Now I'll look around on the internet for backstory on the songs that seem interesting. I stumbled across this research showcase quite by accident. As I went thru the various postings I could feel the energy that went into this. I believe I was grinning nonstop for at least five minutes.
So shame on you trolls who dumped your dark insights on something innocuous. I'm still grinning. Not as much, maybe. But that's mainly because I feel a little sorry for you. I'm well aware that not all paths lead to happy endings. Sometimes it's just the journey and the things along the way that make any endeavour worthwhile.
Sorry If I'm not being clear. I wanted to say thank you. I had a good time here.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
rocky said...

Every few years this song pops into my mind for reasons I cant explain.It has some kind of supernatural quality about about it and the blonde mystery girl is unforgettable.I hope she is well and one day we learn her idendity

Angel llano said...

Igual siempre me a gustado esta canción y me pareció muy linda es chica bailando, pues no se medio curiosidad saber quien era, como se llama, mirar fotos de la imagen de ella y verla como esta ahora, pero bueno me di cuenta que no hay ningún registro de esa chica tan linda :( Saludos a todos !

Like I always liked this song and to me it seemed very cute girl dancing, not half as curious to know who he was, as it is called, look at pictures of her image and see it like this now, but hey I noticed that there no record of that girl so cute: (Hello everyone!

hagertx said...

Love the post. I did a similar Wordpress blog post about the one hit wonder Len and their video for "Steal My Sunshine"
http://hagertx.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/steal-my-sunshine-video/

Anthonie Wain said...

Dude!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! RESPECT!!!!!!!!

That's all

Anonymous said...

i cant believe nobody knows this girl!!!! she looks amazing on that video!!


what happened with the facebook iniciative?

hope we find out who she is soon

randall rhodes said...

This is an awesome blog post. Wish i had known about it - 2 and a half years after you did this, i had the same idea and put together http://rateyourmusic.com/list/drakkar/case_study_in_80s_music_video_via_streetview__vol__1___the_safety_dance/

Kind of embarrassing to spend a lot of time putting something together, only to find someone beat you to it by a couple years :-). In any case, i came to the same conclusions you did. I followed mine up with a similar post for 'Come On Eileen'. Haven't figured out what video to go to from there, though.

GuanoLad said...

Good work, Randall. You have a couple of additional angles I didn't, too. The only one I could think of to do as a followup was "Bitter Sweet Symphony" by The Verve, but that never panned out as a decent idea.

Anonymous said...

If you find the lass are we sharing bits of her between us all, or raffling her off as a whole person?.
If i can't have all of her to mount on my bedroom wall, i'd just as equally love a small piece of her to forever keep safe in my wallet.
Thanks!.

Anonymous said...

She’s Louise Court, current editor of Cosmopolitan UK magazine. Still a beauty.

GuanoLad said...

And seems to be true.

https://twitter.com/LouiseCosmoEd/status/68699558342955009

Peter N said...

Yep, the mystery is solved. The lady herself has confirmed it. The photo is pretty convincing,too.

https://si0.twimg.com/profile_images/663326150/Louise_normal.JPG

It'd be great to get the story from her how she got involved in the video.

Peter N said...

OK -- that question seems to have stumped most of you, although some of you made some good guesses. Her identity has remained a mystery -- that is, until now! The woman in the "Safety Dance" video is...............................(drum roll please)................................Louise Court! Although she may be best-known as the girl in the "Safety Dance" video, her work with Ivan and Men Without Hats was only a very short stint in her life. In fact, Louise, a highly accomplished journalist, is today the UK editor of Cosmopolitan magazine. Here is a recent video of Louise discussing her profession with some journalism students from Leeds: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wPJGpgAqgs

Everyone should try to get into a band video said...

This is fantastic. Just fantastic. Today it is heavy snow outside and so I'm stuck in twiddling my thumbs on the keyboard and stumbled across the video on YouTube. I've never seen it but been humming it for the past 30 years. I thought I was the only one in the world. I'm in the video as one of the villagers dancing down the street. I was 16 and a friend of a friend of a friend who knew someone who knew someone who... We went down for the day did some prancing about got a band badge and a signed copy of the album and that was that. GUANOLAD you are a hero. I was driven down so thought the location was long forgotten. I'm going to make a pilgrimage there this summer. Happy days. Ps I always thought the girl was with the band or record company.

Mark said...

Great to find this. I walked the route this weekend. Even met a dog near the "gate" who looked very much like the dog in the video! Obviously can't be the same dog but maybe a relative?

koko toto said...

Great, great post!!! Thanks God for uncle Google, so I could find it :-)

David said...

God I thiught I was the only person in the world who loved that girl, but there are obviously lots of others!

www.eastrockstudio.com said...

I am THRILLED that you posted this! I always wanted to go here and now I want to buy the farm and launch a KickStarter fund so I can host Renaissance festivals and May Days there forever.

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