TV Preview: BBC Ballet Season | Dance reviews, news & interviews
TV Preview: BBC Ballet Season
Archive footage of Margot Fonteyn among the highlights of a week of ballet programmes
Do four programmes constitute a season? Let's not quibble too much; though brief, the ballet season airing on BBC2 and BBC4 this week has some appealing offerings. Judging from the strong focus on famous names (Fonteyn, Bussell) and the best known Tchaikovsky ballets, the Beeb is aiming at a broad general audience, but balletomanes will be happy to see several eminent dancers crop up as talking heads, as well as lots of lovely footage of both contemporary and historic performances.
Reflecting perhaps a new confidence in the marketability of ballet, the season gets a primetime kickoff tonight with Darcey's Ballerina Heroines on BBC2, in which the eponymous former Royal Ballet principal takes us on a whistle-stop tour of ballet history as represented by elite female dancers from Taglioni to Pavlova, Ulanova and Fonteyn. The title conjures up visions of Dorling Kindersley photobooks, but contributions from ballet historian Jennifer Homans and plenty of interesting archive footage should lift this above the level of a primary school class. On Wednesday, David Bintley (perhaps less well known to the general public than the Ubiquitous Bussell, but no less a national treasure) will explore the origins of Britain's national ballet tradition in the Second World War (another eternally bankable cultural phenomenon, it seems). Dancing in the Blitz (BBC4) will feature more archive footage, as well ex-dancers recalling the hardships of performing in wartime ("the 10 o'clock morning class was like a roll-call to see if everyone was still alive!")
Margot Fonteyn, a major character in both Bussell and Bintley's programmes, gets her own star billing next Friday in Fonteyn '59, an archive film of a Sleeping Beauty performance from 1959 in which Fonteyn dances Princess Aurora (pictured right). As the Royal Ballet - of which Fonteyn is still considered prima ballerina assoluta - perform their heritage version of The Sleeping Beauty this month, this historic footage will give the ballet lovers of Britain a chance to see in action the Aurora interpreter who established the tradition in which ballerinas at Covent Garden still move.
The season is brought to a close by another tremendous ballerina, Tamara Rojo, who allowed cameras to accompany her as she prepared to dance Odette/Odile in Derek Deane's Swan Lake in-the-round. Viewers might remember Deane, and this production, from 2011's The Agony and the Ecstasy (BBC4), in which his sarcastic derogation of Daria Klimentova made compelling, if discomfiting, viewing. Given that Rojo is Artistic Director of English National Ballet, as well as a lead principal, Deane ought to have his claws firmly retracted in next Sunday's Good Swan/Bad Swan (BBC4): expect instead the delightful, gracious Rojo herself as guide to the artistic and technical challenges of the dual role.
- The BBC's Ballet Season starts tonight with Darcey's Ballerina Heroines on BBC2.
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 7,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
Independent ballet company gives engaging performances of mixed-quality material
Gorgeous rhythm from Kathak legend
A brash, strident, but ultimately likeable close to the season
Fonteyn and Nureyev must be spinning in their graves, but new Ratmansky is a delight
Uliana Lopatkina shows other ballerinas what it is all about
Arthur Pita's black comedy makes up for greige tedium from Cherkaoui and Naharin
Torpid conducting and nervous principals weigh heritage production down
Visual treats from Liam Scarlett and Russell Maliphant but the music's a drag
An astonishing evening from three dance world greats
Dated choreography is redeemed by luminous performances
Four collaborators but not much sparkle in former NYCB ballerina's new contemporary show
Good clean fun from bright young things