Dance: Quick steps to the brighter side of life

DANCE NIGHT BBC2, TONIGHT

YOU WOULD have to be mad to watch the whole of this evening's Dance Night on BBC2 from start to finish. But you would be crazy to miss it altogether. The opportunity to be instructed in the waltz, jive and salsa by that big fat show-off Alexei Sayle (no, that's his own description, not mine) is too funny to miss. Will he manage to convince the Great British Public that "dancing is beautiful. It'll make you live longer, be nicer, stand taller, smile brighter, and think more interesting thoughts". Well, I know it's true, but I'm biased.

His partner for the evening is the ballet dancer Deborah Bull, and she certainly has some interesting thoughts, even if they are not always convincing. Anyone would have to admit that it is a little bizarre to hear her claiming that the choreographer Kenneth MacMillan introduced realism into ballet, while the camera shows her in one of his works, held upside down, high above the glamorous Adam Cooper's head during what is supposed to be a wild seduction scene. We know about the Kama Sutra, but this is going too far.

Bull and Sayle are the hosts for the whole show, starting at 6.00 and going on until 1.50 tomorrow, and besides their nine highly varied main items they introduce some short archive films (from Torvill and Dean's Bolero to Best Ballroom) plus assorted celebrities from many fields telling about "my first dance lesson". Two feature films offer solid entertainment, and even if you feel, like me, that A Chorus Line lost a lot on being transferred from stage to screen, the Australian comedy Strictly Ballroom never misses a point with its canny, hilarious yet touching conflict between innovators and traditionalists.

If star quality is what you are after, dance doesn't come starrier than Fonteyn and Nureyev in Marguerite and Armand. Fonteyn's contribution, reprised from her 1979 series Magic of the Dance (we deserve to see the whole of that again, soon), is a reminder that she was not only the best ballerina the Royal Ballet ever produced, but the best talker too: wise, witty and well-informed. Eat your heart out, Deborah Bull, famous as today's talking ballerina. Her courage in having ideas of her own is terrific, but I want more argument about the question she poses tonight - "Why is practically every woman I dance created by a man?" - while her comments on some of the greatest past (male) choreographers, and her illustration of their works, will leave many balletomanes wondering why the Royal Ballet School doesn't teach better dance history and a better grasp of style and content.

Bull is doubtless delighted that women contribute so much to the creative parts of the evening. Perhaps she can explain what Clara van Gool's short film Nussin is actually about, with its murderous couples trapped in a snowy railway station, but somehow managing to luxuriate in hot baths. Rosemary Lee's Infanta, I suspect, is not actually about anything, except a young girl with a fascinating face dancing through a formal garden - but the child really does fascinate.

Siobhan Davies's The Art of Touch is something else again - one of the best works of the best living British choreographer, excitingly danced by the excellent dancers she made it for, inspired by Scarlatti's keyboard sonatas and a modem supplement for harpsichord by Matteo Fargion. Look how wonderfully it is filmed, too, under Ross MacGibbon's direction: this must be the best thing that sometimes infuriating chap (remember his daft Nureyev documentary?) has done.

Davies's work is not everybody's cup of tea, but those who like it will love it. Others may go for Clubbing, Marcus Ryder's film about young people who live only for the hours when they can dress up, make up, finesse their way ahead of the queue, get high on drink or drugs, and dance the night away. Desperately they try to explain just what the appeal is, and if you don't understand, it's not for you (or me, thanks).

Any complaints? Frankly, yes; the evening tries to be too many things to too many people, and will leave each section of the audience wanting more of the kinds of dance they like, at the expense of the rest.

But it is worth a cheer or two that dear old Auntie Beeb has finally woken up to what good entertainment dance can be, and maybe we can hope they will in future squeeze just a little more of it, more regularly, into their programmes.

Meanwhile, enjoy; there must be something here that anyone can like, if only at the risk of living longer, standing taller and thinking more interesting thoughts.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement