The Penguin Dance: Veteran Broadcaster didn’t mind looking ridiculous to stay warm in Finnish Lapland. Photo / BBC, Handout
From life in the freezer to murder on the dance floor – naturalist Sir David Attenborough has picked up a few surprising skills during his 95 years on our planet. Yet, few knew the BBC’s nature man had moves like this.
The veteran broadcaster was pictured performing the ‘penguin dance’ with crew from upcoming doco The Green Planet. On location in north Finland where temperatures routinely drop to -45°C, they were instructed to stay warm while waiting for cameras to roll.
Hands splayed, shoulders raised and knees bouncing – it’s an odd looking movement, but an effective way of raising core body temperature.
In the freezing Borealis forest the team didn’t mind looking ridiculous.
What is the penguin dance?
The broadcaster is well known for his work in the 1990s visiting penguin colonies in the Antarctic. However, the dance comes from opposite poles.
Producer Mike Gunton told the Mirror the idea came from the team’s sound recordist, who had spent time in Lapland with the Sami deer herders.
“One of our sound recordists had spent some time in that part of the world, working with the local indigenous people there, who have a particular way of keeping warm.”
“They do a thing called a penguin dance,” though that’s not the real name, says Gunton. “It’s the wrong place for penguins!”
“What it does is it pumps blood in a particular way around your body, and it helps send it to the extremities to keep your fingers and your toes warm. It really works.”
Filmed in February 2020 during the depth of the northern winter ahead of the Pandemic, David Attenborough braved the cold in the series exploring Earth’s extreme places.
Freezing conditions were playing havoc with the filming, said series producer Rosie Thomas. Shooting at -18°C, camera batteries were going flat in the cold and their drone almost fell out of the sky.
The documentary about plants involved a lot of patience and waiting to film in hostile environments. However Attenborough said that it was the most travel he remembers doing for a show since the pandemic:
“The series itself is slow growing, like plants. We started [filming] a long time ago, before Covid. And so I was dashing around interesting places, in California and so on, in a way that hasn’t been possible for the last two years,” he said.
The use of time-lapse photography was instrumental to show the secret life of plants, he says.
“It’s that that brings the thing to life, and which should make people say, ‘good lord, these extraordinary organisms are just like us’,” he said of the plants that fight, live and die in slow motion.
“They do them so slowly, we’ve never seen it before. And that has a hypnotic appeal, in my view.”
It’s almost as mesmerising as the strange Sami dance moves.
The Green Planet airs on TVNZ on 14th February