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BBC's "Christmas" Dance Offerings 2015


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I think it should be pointed out that Darcey's programmes are shown on BBC which has a higher audience than the more recherche BBC to which David Bintley, Deborah Bull and Tamara Rojo seem to be confined. Darcey is mainstream, the others just aren't. However, they do tend to produce programmes of greater interest to balletomanes. They are just a bit harder to find.

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I hope that the programme was more accurate about the BBC's popular dance output than it was about its ballet output. It seemed to me that the author of the commentary showed singular ignorance of both social history and of the history of ballet in this country..Here are some errors that I identified.

 

1) Alicia Markova was trained in Russia.

 

2)The assumption that the entire television audience knew nothing about ballet when a larger proportion of the audience had come into contact with ballet than is the case now because of the amount of touring undertaken during the war.

 

3) The assumption that Les Sylphides was an obscure work. At the time it was recorded it was a ballet cliche and probably the best known classical ballet in the repertory because every company performed it.

 

4)Describing the 1958 recording of the Nutcracker as the first full length version of the ballet shown on television in this country. When all the evidence is that only Act 2 was recorded.

 

5) Giving the impression that the Nutcracker was an established part of the RB  Christmas repertory in the 1950's.

 

 

FLOSS, I agree with you on most of these, but are you sure about (4)? I thought they did the whole ballet.

 

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I had assumed that the Beeb had dusted off its recording with the RB's original cast  of Les| Noces and included it in the footage of this documentary.I should have realised that a black and white recording of  Nijinska's handpicked cast could not compete with a colour recording from some years later.

 

It's possible that the BBC didn't keep a copy of the original cast programme - a lot of stuff from the earlier years is lost, I think.

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I think it should be pointed out that Darcey's programmes are shown on BBC which has a higher audience than the more recherche BBC to which David Bintley, Deborah Bull and Tamara Rojo seem to be confined. Darcey is mainstream, the others just aren't. However, they do tend to produce programmes of greater interest to balletomanes. They are just a bit harder to find.

 

 

TP, I assume you mean BBC1 or 2  for Darcey rather than BBC4 for the rest!

 

Firstly I would say that Darcey Bussell has brains and to suggest otherwise is rather rude.

 

 

 

I agree with Anna that it was rather rude.  

 

I would just like to say again that programmes intended to appeal to a mass audience are probably not going to be as in depth as programmes aimed at keen fans such as members of this Forum.

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Don't remember too much about Noddy - it's been some time, after all - so I thought I'd better do some revision.  It all seems much deeper than I recall, a framework for large-scale information, indeed.  He even harnesses signed epistelomologies and manages heterogenous information:

 

http://www.ida.liu.se/~andla63/TDDD24.2009/articles/article-36.pdf

 

As Jacqueline has said, he's clearly a complex character  .... and is probably at the bank with his seeming apologist, having a good laugh.

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I really do think that Darcey is the most marvellous ambassador for ballet. 

 

I have found her to be an engaging presenter and hopefully there will be people wanting to know more about ballet as a result.  It must be a fine line to walk between wanting to provide really meaty information for the already well-informed while also giving engaging details for those with little or no prior ballet knowledge.  Some people may start coming to watch live ballet as a result of seeing her on Strictly and then watching her documentaries.

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Anything which brings ballet to a wider audience is a good thing in my humble opinion. It needs demystifying, and far too many people think of it as something only accessible and of interest only to an 'elite' few. If there is more ballet on tv, then more people will begin to realise that yes, they can enjoy it too.

 

I come ballet via my dancing dd so don't actually know all that much about it myself, and I find that the programmes presented by DB are fine.

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Don't remember too much about Noddy - it's been some time, after all - so I thought I'd better do some revision.  It all seems much deeper than I recall, a framework for large-scale information, indeed.  He even harnesses signed epistelomologies and manages heterogenous information:

 

http://www.ida.liu.se/~andla63/TDDD24.2009/articles/article-36.pdf

 

As Jacqueline has said, he's clearly a complex character  .... and is probably at the bank with his seeming apologist, having a good laugh.

 

Please don't, Ian, or you run the risk of starting me off on the Freudian, Marxist and Proustian interpretations of Winnie-the-Pooh :)

 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Pooh-Perplex-Frederick-Crews/dp/0226120589

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Floss, much as I enjoy your posts, I find the comments about Darcey Bussell unnecessary. I share your frustration that the BBC have repeatedly used her to front documentaries on classical ballet, no doubt capitalising on her Strictly fame. However, someone who has been a principal dancer and had major roles choreographed on them is qualified to take on this role and hardly brainless. A glance at the credits for the Ballet Heroes program reveals she didn't write or direct the programme so it would be unfair to put the blame on her for much of the programme's content. I think most of us would agree that her interview style leave a lot to be desired and is very off putting at times, but there are other aspects to Darcey that would attract a new audience to dance, not least her enthusiasm, her interest in working with young aspiring dancers and of course her physical qualities.

I would add that David Bintley has fronted two excellent programmes recently which suggests there is a willingness to cast the net a little wider.

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I watched The Car Man yesterday and thought that it worked pretty well on the small screen. I thought that the small orchestra sounded particularly good. I didn't find much to complain about the camera work and found the lighting good on the whole, apart from one bit when the screen was briefly totally black (perhaps there was a scene change). I don't want to keep harping on about the Acosta Carmen but what struck me about the Bourne work (which is of course not the Carmen story at all) was how well constructed it is. It's very well paced with good characterisation and the choreography responds to the music so well. All the cast was excellent (I hadn't really noticed the rather enigmatic club owner before) and you really believed in the characters. I felt quite emotionally battered by the end. Luca's dismay at the trail of destruction which he had precipitated came across really well on screen.

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Not ballet and not TV, but if you haven't heard this already, BBC Radio 4's programme Strictly Russian is still available to listen to on iPlayer. It was being touted at the end of the Ballroom and Ballerinas programme.

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06rdxvj

 

I thought this was one of the best dance programmes on in December, and it describes why and how the Russians have come to dominate the ballroom dancing scene, both as the professionals in programmes like Strictly and in the world championships. It was written and presented by the BBC diplomatic editor and was a fascinating quickstep through varying political, cultural and ideological backgrounds of Russian dance. Great.

Edited by rowan
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Just wanted to add my tuppence worth!   I thought the Bohemian Rhapsody pas de deux was beautiful - Thanks for posting it!  Did anyone else wonder how after dancing like that for 6 minutes neither dancer seemed to be sweating???? 

 

I watched the Nureyev documentary and found it enthralling!  He made a huge impact on British ballet - even the training.  I was at RBS in the early '60s and changes were made after he came on the scene. I remember watching him in a stage rehearsal - he lost his temper, threw his shoes on the stage and stormed off!

 

Does anyone remember the Ballet for All series?  There were several programmes shown on TV in black and white and possibly can still be found on Youtube. It seems a shame that more programmes are not geared to explaining ballet in the way that Ballet for All did. I remember as a young child being sent to bed as usual at 7pm and then being woken up again as a special treat to watch ballet on TV!  Do any children actually go to bed at 7pm any more? Still I think it happened fairly regularly then -1950s. 

Edited by Dance*is*life
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FLOSS, on 28 Dec 2015 - 9:22 PM, said:

 

I hope that the programme was more accurate about the BBC's popular dance output than it was about its ballet output. It seemed to me that the author of the commentary showed singular ignorance of both social history and of the history of ballet in this country..Here are some errors that I identified.

 

1) Alicia Markova was trained in Russia

 

Alicia was not trained in Russia, but was trained by a Russian and worked with Russians..

 

Lilian Alicia Marks was born 1 December 1910 and was sent to ballet when young. Aged 10 she danced in a performance of Dick Whittington. She was then sent to train with a former Ballets Russes dancer, Princess Serafina Astafieva, who taught at her studio at 152 King's Road, Chelsea (The Pheasantry, now a Pizza Express!). Anton Dolin and Margot Fonteyn also studied with Astafieva. In about 1924 she went to dance with Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes in Monte Carlo.

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I searched for Ballet for All on youtube and couldn't find anything - but I did find this little bit of nostalgia https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnNXMK46toY

Thanks for posting this. Some lovely footage of Dowell & Sibley, but especially the section showing so many dancers from a previous generation as they are boarding the plane, including my favourite, Ann Jenner :)

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Mine was Beriosova, Odyssey!  We were not supposed to watch the company rehearsals, but I remember one day daring to peep in for a few minutes.  Suddenly the door opened and Beriosova came out.  I was sure she was going to tell me off, but all she did was to warn me to put on my legwarmers between classes, so as not to let my muscles get too cold!  That was it - I was a Beriosova groupie after that!

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Great clip Dance is Life .....thanks

 

Dowell doesn't look old enough in that clip SO young! I will never forget him and Sibley inThe Dream ....one of those performances etched in the mind. Sibley has such speed too!!

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The contrast between the tone of the programme presented by Bussell and the 90 minute documentary about contemporary dance was too great to pass without comment. I don't think that it is simply a question of the channels for which they were commissioned which explains the difference in tone. A great deal of the difference is attributable to the style of the presenters Presentation style is important because it governs how the audience assimilates the programme and its contents and how it  perceive its subject matter subsequently." The medium is the message" remains true to this day.

 

One programme had a series of presenters each of whom spoke with enthusiasm and obvious knowledge about the significance of the choreographers whose work they were discussing.Their enthusiasm was infectious and combined with  their obvious knowledge and professional involvement in the world of dance made them sound authoritative and gave extra weight to the importance of the subject matter of the programme . The other programme had a presenter whose chosen television persona is giggly, gushing and girly who by her  style of presentation says to the audience "None of this really matters. It's all superficial entertainment."

 

I said that ballet programmes could do with an obviously intelligent presenter. When I said that I meant it. It  

is a criticism of Bussell's chosen presentation style not of her intelligence. I accept that Bussell is very well known and popular .As president of the RAD I had hoped that she might have used her television  programmes about dance to do a bit more to get the general public to take ballet seriously.Gushing, giggly, girlishness may be an acceptable and  effective persona for someone in their late teens or early twenties but  is it appropriate in a presenter in her mid forties who was a highly regarded professional dancer? Just occasionally the mask slips for example when she is filmed watching a dancer in class, and suddenly you get a glimpse of the real Darcey Bussell professional dancer who is far more interesting and potentially far more engaging than the carefully crafted Darcey Bussell television dance presenter who we usually see.

 

 

 

 

intelligence

e them

Edited by FLOSS
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I don't disagree with the sentiments that a more serious and in-depth programme could be presented by Ms Bussell but she is still at the whim of what is required by her contract, the writer, director and producer.  If she is categorised as a light entertainment presenter then that is what we will probably get.

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Yes, but I would still like to see a programme about ballet with a bit more depth to it.  It doesn't have to be hugely technical, just a bit more "educational" rather than "entertaining."  An expert in their chosen field talking about anything is always interesting, no matter what the subject is.  Darcey cleary has a wealth of knowledge, and I would find it very interesting to hear her using that knowledge in a more serious way.

 

I didn't see the programme about contemporary dance, so I can't comment on that.  But does everything about dance on BBC1 or 2 have to be done in the SCD style?  I stopped watching that programme years ago when it became less about teaching people with no dance experience to do ballroom and latin american dancing, and more about "stars" with backgrounds at stage school, putting on the showiest routine in the skimpiest costume.  

Edited by Fonty
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The documentary about contemporary dance and Darcey's Heroes were aimed at different audiences - therefore the presentation was not the same. 

 

Fortunately, the BBC presents both styles.

 

I agree with you, billboyd; but I also think that Bussell could afford to be a bit more serious and it would still please/interest the target audience whilst conveying a slightly more 'serious' message about ballet. But equally, I think that ballet can speak for itself to at least some extent - although the presenter is important, the beauty is evident whoever presents it, for those who have eyes to see. And although the style of the documentary was lightweight, there was a lot of good content too.

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Sorry Bill I don't buy into the idea that the BBC has radically different audiences for which it has to cater. When you take the BBC's programming policies apart the different audiences turn out to be the mass audience (ordinary people,the proles) who are now treated as being incapable of appreciating high art and the elite (people like us) who are. Of course it is not presented as blatantly as that but  that is the effect of current BBC programming and commissioning and it is all presented as being done with the best of intentions. It would be so undemocratic and elitist to put the occasional serious arts programme on one of its mainstream channels.

 

 I recall the terrible elitist days when Reithism was still rampant at the BBC. Perhaps I am simply unaware of the damage done to me by having access to serious arts programmes devised by people who believed that they had a duty to educate, inform and entertain the audience. I happen to think that the corporation's current indifference to its audience's access to the arts is detrimental to all of us..By only providing the occasional simplified arts programme for its mass audience it ignores the fact that for many people television is their only ready means of access  to the arts..

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It seems to me that the audience has been divided into  a mass audience who are thought to require little more than the television equivalent of bread and circuses with an occasional jokey arts programme to keep them indifferent to the arts and a cultural elite who listen to Radio 3 who require the occasional serious arts programme to keep them  on side about the licence fee, Bussell's programme was a missed opportunity to provide something with a little more substance for the general public.Her popularity means that she could gradually raise the level of technical information in her programmes or go into greater depth about a ballet which everyone knows and take her audience with her. She isn't very good as an interviewer but she is quite acceptable when she is in conversation with former dancers who she knows and is comfortable with." Darcey Bussell talks to ...." a series of interviews with dancers and choreographers would get a lot of people to watch it. It could be a very painless format for telling people about dance history and other ballet related topics.

 

Out of interest does anyone have any idea how many people are involved in dance education in this country directly as students and teachers and indirectly as family members or how many people attend performances each year?. I wonder how big the potential audience is for dance or ballet related programmes or casting the net wider for programmes about the great ballet scores of the twentieth century and the ballets created to be performed with them?

Edited by FLOSS
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Sorry Bill I don't buy into the idea that the BBC has radically different audiences for which it has to cater. When you take the BBC's programming policies apart the different audiences turn out to be the mass audience (ordinary people,the proles) who are now treated as being incapable of appreciating high art and the elite (people like us) who are. Of course it is not presented as blatantly as that but  that is the effect of current BBC programming and commissioning and it is all presented as being done with the best of intentions. It would be so undemocratic and elitist to put the occasional serious arts programme on one of its mainstream channels.

 

 I recall the terrible elitist days when Reithism was still rampant at the BBC. Perhaps I am simply unaware of the damage done to me by having access to serious arts programmes devised by people who believed that they had a duty to educate, inform and entertain the audience. I happen to think that the corporation's current indifference to its audience's access to the arts is detrimental to all of us..By only providing the occasional simplified arts programme for its mass audience it ignores the fact that for many people television is their only ready means of access  to the arts..

.

It seems to me that the audience has been divided into  a mass audience who are thought to require little more than the television equivalent of bread and circuses with an occasional jokey arts programme to keep them indifferent to the arts and a cultural elite who listen to Radio 3 and require the occasional serious arts programme to keep them  on side about the licence fee,

 

 

 

And I fear that television is not the only art form that is dumbed down!  When I look at some of the glorious and witty American films of the 1930s, 40s and 50s I often wonder where that has all gone.  For example - It happened one night, After office hours, The Bride came COD, The Philadelphia Story and so many more wonderful films my friend and I used to watch on BBC2 on a Saturday afternoon!  I thoroughly enjoyed the new Star Wars film when I saw it this week but in terms of style and wit it is not a patch on any of the films I have just mentioned.

 

Come to think of it, I had watched about half of the Wayans Brothers White Chicks before I finally realised that it was a remake of Some Like It Hot!

 

The BBC may not have radically different audiences for which it has to cater but it does cater for radically different audiences.  I understood BBC4 was supposed to be a serious arts channel and I suppose that gave the Beeb license to think that it could dumb down BBCs 1 and 2.

 

The mainstream TV channels are competing with the streaming services and the likes of YouTube and perhaps their current policies are how they think they can compete.  Like it or not, we have moved away from the heady days of serious arts programmes on mainstream channels. 

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Does anyone remember the classical music quiz Face the Music?  My parents and I loved it.  It was a wonderful format - the panel were so knowledgeable and it was a serious minded quiz - except that it wasn't - it was great fun!  The light hearted banter that went on relieved it of being too high brow for a start!  I looked it up on Wiki and it ran for 13 years originally from 1966 to 1979, then again in 1983-4. They subsequently brought out a pilot for a new series in 2007, which presumably never got taken up.  Were viewers more serious and culturally minded in the 60s and 70s?  Or was it just because there were fewer channels and people watched it because there was something more boring on the other channel?  And yet in order to run for 13 years, there had to be more to its popularity than not having much competition for its viewers!

Edited by Dance*is*life
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Oh yes!  I used to love watching this with my Nan and Granddad.

 

I think TV standards have changed a lot since the advent of more and more channels.  The mainstream channels are trying to compete with the satellite and cable channels and everything seems to be moving to the lowest common denominator.  I would have now gone into a major rant about one of the alleged mainstream channels if it wasn't for the fact that it was showing some super musicals this week!

 

Actually nothing to do with dance but I used to be a volunteer at the Merseyside Film Institute and still keep up with a group of fellow volunteers.  We were having a natter a while ago and hardly any of us keep up with 'art house' films any more, one girl saying that after a hard day at work and looking after children she just wanted something she could watch and enjoy without having to think too much about it.  Perhaps a lot of people see media entertainment that way these days...

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Definitely some truth in that Janet.

 

As a 20/30 something year old I would have definitely been more up for going to see Arty films and theatre in general....including ballet...than I am up for as a 60 something year old!! Especially when I was working. .....and in those last year's of working in particular.......though has improved a bit since retired!!

 

Once I was home from work very little chance of wanting to go out again......especially in the winter!

 

Where TV concerned was much more likely to be happier with a bit of rubbishy easy watching on week days .....you know Paul O Grady and Battersea dogs home ....and Holby City etc .....haven't watched the latter since 2012!!.....though I've usually made an effort with more science based programmes especially if Brian Cox presenting .....though love Jim Al Khalili as well when I could keep awake that is!! I've more energy in the evening these days since haven't been working.

 

When I started teaching in Liverpool I could go out dancing till 2 am ( not exactly high brow activity) and still.be really fresh and up,for everything the next day.... but that didn't last that long I must admit.

A fact of Life I think that energy is harder to find for almost anything as you get older on the whole!!

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Oh yes!  I used to love watching this with my Nan and Granddad.

 

Actually nothing to do with dance but I used to be a volunteer at the Merseyside Film Institute and still keep up with a group of fellow volunteers.  We were having a natter a while ago and hardly any of us keep up with 'art house' films any more, one girl saying that after a hard day at work and looking after children she just wanted something she could watch and enjoy without having to think too much about it.  Perhaps a lot of people see media entertainment that way these days...

The same sentiment is expressed by one of my scientist friends who doesn't watch much tv but says at the end of a long day when it is turned it on, it is to watch something stupid with no brain power required.

 

I would like more informative ballet programmes too, but ballet doesn't film terribly well, and maybe there are too many issues with ballet, dancer and music rights nowadays - were any of these these case in the past?

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I don't disagree with the sentiments that a more serious and in-depth programme could be presented by Ms Bussell but she is still at the whim of what is required by her contract, the writer, director and producer.  If she is categorised as a light entertainment presenter then that is what we will probably get.

 

Too true, Janet.

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Oh dear, reading some of these posts, it would seem that people today work much, much harder than those people in the good old days, and use tv as a form of relief from their stressful lives. 

 

P.S.  I wonder what my parents would have had to say about that?

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Oh dear, reading some of these posts, it would seem that people today work much, much harder than those people in the good old days, and use tv as a form of relief from their stressful lives. 

 

P.S.  I wonder what my parents would have had to say about that?

 

 

When I think back over, say, the last 30 years the advent of technology has made a huge difference to the way we lead our lives.  I don't think they are any better or worse than in the good old days but they are different.  After all 30 years ago people did not live as they did in the Stone Age or even the Victorian age.

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True, Janet.  I am not saying lives are less or more stressful today.  But I do think that current generations who complain about how frantic their lives are would have a terrible shock if they were transported back 50 years.  One of the recent programmes said that in the 1950s, a housewife would spend an average of 70 hours a week on housework. 

 

Not sure about anybody else, but if I had to spend that long doing housework, I would be desperate for a bit of culture to take my mind off how dull my life was. 

Edited by Fonty
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