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BBC's "Christmas" Dance Offerings 2015


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Well I watched Acosta’s Carmen yesterday with Mrs Timmie and we both liked it… After reading this thread I went in with low expectations, which might be the reason, but I thought there were some nice pas de deux and I liked the opera singers on stage. I could have done with Miss Nunez keeping her dress on though (as an older gentleman I am a bit uncomfortable watching young ladies dancing in frilly underwear :o).

 

Mrs Timmie, a casual ballet watcher, said she enjoyed it and would be quite happy to have seen it at the ROH (she is quite fussy as to when she will deign to accompany me :().

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Of course one of the wonderful things about today's technology is that we are not reliant on the TV for our ballet treats.  You can find most full length ballets on youtube from any number of companies! Ballet documentaries, ballet extracts - all there with the click, click of a finger!  I sat in in the comfort of my own home and watched the live screening of the Genee earlier this year - and WhatsApped a friend who was watching it in London in the theatre in order to hear her opinion!  I have some amazing ballet DVDs too including the original Lise - Nadia Nerina - in La Fille Mal Gardee.  I can't see TV ever showing that!    Companies also travel more nowadays and we get the opportunity to see such a wide range of works and dancers. Also, when we do get something good on TV, we can record it for posterity - which reminds me that I recorded R & J on the Mezzo channel a couple of weeks ago and haven't watched it yet!  And instead of the little 13" spotty black and white TV we had when I was a very little girl - my grand children and I are watching on huge colour TV screens in HD!  Life may have been simpler in the "old" days, but the possibilities available today are endless!

 

Oh by the way - it's just gone midnight here !  HAPPY NEW YEAR !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Just a reminder if anyone is awake, the Darcey heroes prog is on again this morning at 10.15am on BBC2.

Edited to say an Elvis film is on at the moment with a rather vigorous dance routine, involving a lot of head shaking and somersaulting. Making me feel quite nauseous and I didn't even see in the new year. I do try but usually get to about 10pm, think there's still another 2 hours to go and I just can't be bothered. :ph34r:

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I would like writing for both film and television to return to the days when the 'f' word just didn't happen. Most modern screenwriters would not know where to begin. Maybe then a class of writers would emerge who delivered original plots and genuine wit.

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I agree. I would have enjoyed "And then there were none" much more if the BBC had restrained all the out of period f bombs which liberally cluttered the script. I know people swore but not like that in polite society they didn't!

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I finally got around to watching Darcey's Ballet Heroes last night.  I have to say that I enjoyed it, and thought it was much better than other things she has done.  The only thing that really annoyed me was the bit at the end, where she is larking about in front of the camera.  I know she was told to do this by the director, but I still feel it was wrong to have this.   I don't know why they felt this was necessary.  Fine if the programme had been about Darcey Bussell, but it wasn't, the focus of the programme was male dancers.  Just seemed a bit daft to me. 

 

One thing puzzled me, and apologies if someone else has answered this already, but if they have I don't remember.   Why were Peter and Luke Schaufuss practising outside in the park?  Is there a shortage of dance studios available?

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I enjoyed the Darcey programme more on second viewing. All the footage was certainly worth watching again and the Nureyev/Bruhn was even more fascinating. I wasn't quite as irritated by Darcey this time, although that may have been partly because I knew what to expect and so was able to almost block her out. I suppose the giggling and prancing was in keeping with the general lightweight tone. It was still quite annoying though. :rolleyes:

As I recall in the heroines programme, Miss Bussell was required to walk up and down various staircases/steps, which was presumably,unintentionally funny as she does have a surprisingly unballerina-like walk. More a slight touch of Dick Emery's "Ooh You are awful." Just my opinion of course!

If I remember correctly, Peter and Luke Schaufuss practice in the park regularly, to get some air and escape the confines of a studio. When Darcey said something about how jealous she was at the outdoor practice, they invited her to join them the following morning. They appeared to be practising in a park where a lot of people were doing exercise related activities.

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All ballet dancers tend to walk a bit clumsily, I think.  The turned out toes  look rather peculiar when they are wearing normal shoes and walking down the street. 

 

I thought the park looked a bit like the square in front of the John Soane's museum in Lincoln's Inn Fields.  Not sure how big it is, though, and whether it would be enough space for dance practise.  I would have thought the uneven ground might have proved a little tricky for dancing on, but I suppose it depends on what they are doing.

 

I know that some programmes or films have outtakes at the end, and I think that is fine if the content has been funny, and the people involved are comics or comic actors.  But this is the second or third time I have seen this at the end of a Darcey programme, and I just wish they would stop.  Yes, it shows she is good fun and a thoroughly good sport, but is it appropriate? Lucy Worsley has a lot of fun dressing up and play acting in her programmes, but it is relevant to the content. The producers don't have her giggling and peering round doors in Hampton Court or whatever at the end, do they?

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Talking of dancing on uneven surfaces, I noticed that the dancers of the Vienna Opera are usually filmed for the New Year's Day concert and they are frequently seen dancing outside.  But sometimes they are dancing on concrete or paving stones in gardens or outside various famous Austrian buildings.  Isn't that rather risky or at least painful in such thin-soled footwear as pointe shoes?

 

Incidentally, I watched Ballet Heroes again and it did improve (a bit).  I understand why the BBC wants to use Darcey - she's very photogenic and well-known - but would it cost so much to give her scripts written by someone with a little more insight?  Deborah Bull, for example, always found something interesting and fresh to say about ballet but I suppose she is too busy these days.  The BBC's objective is supposed to be to educate and inform as well as entertain but there was nothing in the programme to support the opening statement that male dancers are complicated and misunderstood.  I'd have liked a great deal more detail about their lives and not just the obvious ones we were shown. 

 

As for the Morecambe and Wise dancing at the end, it reminded me of Armand's exit in Marguerite and Armand.  I assumed M&W were attempting to mimic Nureyev and it was much funnier when they did it.  I don't think a retired principal dancer should be expected to send up her craft in this lame manner no matter how good a sport she is.

 

But the film about Nureyev's defection was excellent and I really enjoyed it.  Splendid dancing from Artem Ovcharenko and plenty of drama.  The detail about the KGB's control over the dancers and the struggle at the airport were well portrayed and the only thing that didn't ring true to me was when he was formally criticised at the Kirov for taking his shorts off and dancing only in tights.  I thought that was Nijinsky?  It could hardly have been scandalous in the 60's, could it?

 

 

Linda

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Shorts off - scandalous!  Oh yes indeed it could well have been criticised in the Soviet Union.  I remember going to some of the earliest Bolshoi visits to London in the sixties and most of the men still wore what we called 'modesty pants'.

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Slowly catching up on my Christmas ballet :). I thought the Darcey’s Heroes programme was excellent :ph34r:. Loads of good clips and a nice theme. For me the balance was fine, good for the ballet newcomer and enough specialist stuff for someone with a bit but not much ballet knowledge (me). I enjoyed the Bournonville stuff and I’ll definitely be watching again with a notepad to write down some names to Google and some clips to find.

 

I think it is the same with any topic on TV, if you are very knowledgeable then you are unlikely to be satisfied. I am at the bottom end of knowledgeable on ballet and I am happy with most of the ballet on TV. On subjects where my knowledge is much higher – then I rarely bother to watch and if I do it’s with my finger on the FF button. It’s just one of those things  :D!

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But the film about Nureyev's defection was excellent and I really enjoyed it.  Splendid dancing from Artem Ovcharenko and plenty of drama.  The detail about the KGB's control over the dancers and the struggle at the airport were well portrayed and the only thing that didn't ring true to me was when he was formally criticised at the Kirov for taking his shorts off and dancing only in tights.  I thought that was Nijinsky?  It could hardly have been scandalous in the 60's, could it?

 

 

Linda

 

At the Kirov they most certainly were wearing some sort of tights over-garment in the 1960's.  In many cases they appear part of the costume.

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I thought the park looked a bit like the square in front of the John Soane's museum in Lincoln's Inn Fields.  Not sure how big it is, though, and whether it would be enough space for dance practise.  I would have thought the uneven ground might have proved a little tricky for dancing on, but I suppose it depends on what they are doing.

 

The area used to house two netball courts, so yes, there would have been plenty of space.

 

I don't know what happened to those courts.  We used to play in a lunchtime netball league there many moons ago :(

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Did anyone else see the New Year's Day concert from Vienna?! Two sections this year with the Vienna State Ballet. How lovely they are too, amazing costumes every year. But, but, they scare me silly. Are they really dancing on pointe or in thin shoes on carpet and gravel?!! Every year, I fear for injuries.

 

Darcey's Ballet Heroes was lovely, I thought. There was genuine affection for her from many of the interviewees and therefore it made for much more interesting interviews.

 

I think that there may be a false impression of how much influence Darcey will have had on the programme, however. She will have been consulted as to whom she wanted included, and the content of the interviews, and maybe the commentary, but ultimately it is the director/producer who will have had the final influence on the depth of ballet knowledge in the programme. The horrible capering about at the end will have most likely have been something Darcey will have been asked to do! It is the false impression of editors and producers that the viewing public find this kind of thing amusing, that means that many programmes and films now use whacky outtakes at the end. The two rising stars used in the progamme also gave me the impression of having been shoehorned in at the end.

 

From working over twenty years as an editor at the BBC, i am sure that although Darcey will have been invited in at the end to see the finished programme, the programme will have been then subject to scrutiny by the head of documentaries and possibly even the controller of BBC2, and she will have been allowed only to make very nominal changes. For all we know, Darcey may have been stitched up like a kipper, and would have done things very differently herself.

 

So I think we might give poor old Darcey a break! I think we should be very grateful for any programmes about ballet at all. Television companies are so set now on churning out what they have been found to be a winning format, or programmes with the same old ,'popular' presenters. Maybe it is even possible that if we didn't have Darcey, we would have no mainstream ballet programmes at all. At least we have her, we could be stuck with the ubiquitous Lucy Worsley capering about! I remember a friend who was a producer at the BBC constantly getting her idea for a programme about the WI turned down with the comment that there wasn't enough interest.

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Thanks for your insight into the workings of the BBC CC.  I enjoyed reading your post.

 

Our member Skydancer was a participant in the Big Ballet programme a couple of years ago.  She gave some good insights into how the programme was made:

 

http://www.balletcoforum.com/index.php?/topic/4863-big-ballet-wayne-sleep-tv-programme/page-8

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Thanks Janet. I enjoyed the Big Ballet programmes, but you're right, it's another example of how a producer sells an idea that will be acceptable to the dept head and the channel controller, and then manipulates the footage to conform to that idea, irrespective of what actually happened during the filming, and that the contributors often get stitched up along the way to achieve this.

 

The idea will have been undoubtedly sold as an amusing and lighthearted look at larger women learning ballet. But when the programme threw up a more serious side, which could have changed the whole tone of the programme, these will not have been used in the editing of the programme, as showing the 'funny' bits, the things that went wrong and the bitchy comments of some of the interviewees, ultimately make for what the BBC imagines will be a more watchable programme for their audience, in preference to the bits that showed how important it was to the dancers and any more poignant and thoughtful material. And it's not always the producer's/director's fault. They too are under pressure to get their next commission which will have depended on how well received their last programme was. The zeitgeist I suppose. Sigh,

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The horrible capering about at the end will have most likely have been something Darcey will have been asked to do! It is the false impression of editors and producers that the viewing public find this kind of thing amusing, that means that many programmes and films now use whacky outtakes at the end.

 

  Perhaps next time she could say "No."  I am sure she was asked to do it, but she must have realised from previous programmes that it was likely to be included at the end.  If she had been capering with some of the male interviewees that might have been different, but as it was it left me feeling irritated after what had been an interesting and enjoyable programme.

 

 

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She may have been sold the idea that it might be fun to film a funny little pose in each location, to maybe be included, or not, somewhere in the programme, and might have gone along with it as it was what the director wanted. Perhaps she didn't want to appear to be being a Prima Donna about it so went along with it.

 

Or it might have been having a bit of fun at the end of a shoot, which she'd never imagined would get used in the actual programme.

 

And even if she did hate what they had done with the material at the end, which she will only have got to see as a fait accompli, when the programme was all put together, she wouldn't have had enough editorial sway to ask for it to be removed, as being embarrassing and in no way representative of the programme that had gone before, if everyone else thought it was great. As I said, her contract will probably have given her some editorial control over her sections, the interviews, etc, but non over the construction of the final look of the programme.

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I don't profess to know the ins and outs of such matters, but Darcey Bussell strikes me as a pretty canny operator and I mean that in a good way. She has forged a new career for herself after retiring from dance and good luck to her. She comes across - to me at least - as outwardly giggling and gushy but underneath there is a core of steel. She is certainly no ingenue and I would be astonished if she agreed to any sort of contract that allowed her image to be used in any way that she considered to be demeaning or unacceptable.

She has shown in other programmes, that she can do quiet reflection and insight. But you gotta give the people, or at least as many of them as possible, what they want. If somebody has decided what they want is gushing, giggling and silly prancing then so be it.

I would imagine Miss Bussell projects the image she wants to project. I can't imagine anyone telling her what to do.

I could of course, be completely wrong and in any case, this is as always, just my opinion.

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I just wonder why the BBC feels this need to project ballet in this way.  Compare and contrast with the way in which football is presented.  Every Saturday night, Match of the Day shows the highlights of the day's play, presented by an ex England football captain, and with two people who also ex players.  They analyse and discuss, in detail, each match, focussing on technique, style, team play etc.  At no point does the director feel any need to lighten the programme by making the presenters perform jokey stunts.  There are no outtakes at the end showing them larking about. 

 

Ok, there is a huge different between the audience for football, and the one for ballet.  But why should one be treated with such reverence, and the other be seen as a subject that is either subject to gentle derision (Ballerinas and Ballrooms) or has to have the presenter seen to be taking herself not too seriously.  And therefore, by implication, suggest that ballet is really just a bit of fun. 

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To many of us, Darcey is a goddess in the world of ballet, and thus should have total control over what is included in the programmes she presents, but to the majority of television producers, she is maybe just the go to person when there is a programme about ballet, as they know her from 'Strictly', so maybe don't allow her the kind of command she deserves over the editorial content of the programmes she presents?

 

In my experience, it is only the'greats' of television who are allowed that final privilege, to refuse to do what they are asked.

 

She will probably be more canny next time!

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I'm so excited! I won the Radio Times letter of the week with my criticism of Tony Hall's lack of ballet performance on the BBC!

 

This is what I wrote:-

 

'I'm so disappointed in Tony Hall. I thought when he became Director General there would be better coverage of the arts, especially opera and ballet, but no. There are ballet documentaries but with a 'celebrity' angle, mainly focusing on Darcy Bussell and Carlos Acosta. Great to see both of them but it would have been far better to see actual live performances. Even Carlos' Carmen which is being shown is only a third of a mixed bill. Why couldn't the BBC show all of it? Is it deemed not worth viewing because there are no celebrities involved only (perish the thought) current stars and dancers of the Royal Ballet Company? There are 6 ballets being filmed for cinema in this performance year (September to June) so the BBC don't even have the expense of filming if they want to show any of these. I know ballet is a minority interest but the BBC should be catering for those of us who have interests beyond the current celebrity culture. Surely one or two full length performances a year aren't too much to ask for?'

 

Of course now I can think of many better ways of expressing what I feel but I'm still amazed that anything critical of the Director General is deemed worthy of publication, let alone anyone asking for more ballet on tv (probably far more shocking!) It will be interesting if Sir Tony replies, but far better if he responds by addressing the problem of lack of opera and ballet performance on tv by actually scheduling some. However, this is probably just fantasy.

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Good for you. Pleased to see the Radio Times selecting your letter. Given there must have been quite a few letters reflecting on the Christmas schedules, it is refreshing to see ballet being chosen to bring this matter to its readers' attention.

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