Dance: Quick steps to the brighter side of life


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
Arts and Entertainment
Jude Law in Black Sea


In Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before

Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops


Arts and Entertainment
Full circle: Wu-Tang’s Method Man Getty

Music review

Arts and Entertainment
When he was king: Muhammad Ali training in 'I Am Ali'
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game