UK pubcasters BBC2 and BBC4 are taking audiences to the ballet this March, with a slate of factual programming featuring rare archival footage and interviews with major dance figures.
The season kicks off March 1 on BBC2 with Leopard Films-produced documentary Darcey’s Ballerina Heroines, which has top UK ballerina Darcey Bussell discussing the influence of dancers who came before her. The film travels from France’s Versailles to St. Petersburg’s Winter Palace to explore the shifting role of the ballerina and the challenges faced by Bussell’s predecessors.
On March 5, BBC4 presents Dancing In The Blitz: How WW2 Made British Ballet, in which David Bintley, director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet, examines how the hardships of the Second World War were fundamental in getting the British public to accept and embrace ballet. The program, a BBC in-house production, details the history of Sadler’s Wells Ballet Company (now London’s Royal Ballet), and features rare and previously unseen archival footage as well as interviews with ballet icons Henry Danton, Dame Gillian Lynne and Dame Beryl Grey.
Prima ballerina Bussell is back on March 7 with BBC4′s Fonteyn ’59: Sleeping Beauty (pictured above), an hour of highlights from a 1959 Sleeping Beauty performance featuring ballerina Margot Fonteyn. The event, another BBC in-house production, marks the first time since the 1950s that British audiences will see extracts of the ballet’s second act.
Finally, on March 9, BBC4 will air Good Swan, Bad Swan: Dancing Swan Lake, where audiences will get an inside look into ballerina Tamara Rojo’s preparations for the challenging dual leads of the White and Black Swans in Swan Lake. In the BBC in-house production, Rojo – the artistic director of the English National Ballet – also traces the history of the seminal ballet and sheds light on the roles’ physical and psychological challenges.
BBC2 and BBC4 controller Janice Hadlow, who will take on a new role as controller of special projects and seasons at the pubcaster in March, said in a statement: “BBC2 and BBC4 are committed to showing a broad range of arts and performance programmes with expertise at their heart. This promises to be a fascinating series of programmes which will give viewers a real glimpse behind the scenes of the ballet world and showcase some exceptional footage.”
Jan Younghusband, head of commissioning music and events, added: “BBC arts and music programming likes to put artists centre stage, as their knowledge gives us a unique insight into great performance and how it is achieved. In this season of films presented by three great talents of the ballet stage, we will not only see the great performers of the past but important rare and rediscovered ‘lost’ archive.”