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TV & Radio

Dance on film adopts a challenging posture

It's been an unusually fatuous week on television, both in drama and current affairs, which may be why Dance for the Camera (BBC2, all week) feels like relief rather than obligation. The Radio Times described it as "a journey along pathways real a nd imaginary", which under normal circumstances would have me getting out the map to look for an alternative route. In fact the series has been full of little shocks of pleasure, precisely because it gives precedence to bodily impulse over rational clari ty.

It began more strongly than it finished, though this may have had something to do with the fact that you became familiar with certain preoccupations after a while - sensual near-miss kisses, moments of transcendence in humdrum lives, lots of homoerotic smouldering. The series isn't going to convert anyone whose prejudice against dance rests on the essential narrowness of its utterances.

That said, Outside In (Monday), choreographed by Victoria Marks, distracted you with some beautiful surprises. One of these was a rather crude one; the surprise that a dancer with no legs at all - indeed no lower torso - should prove so graceful and fluid in his movement. There couldn't help but be a flavour of side-show to this, however high-minded the motives. The piece might have been an argument for us to go beyond our prejudices about disability, but that's only possible if you pass quite closely by them on the way. Marks' piece sensibly seemed to acknowledge that a word like "scuttling" will have been in many viewers' minds before what you saw on screen forced you to change it to "dancing".

Margaret Williams, the director, came up with some equally beautiful adjustments of perspective, in particular a lovely image in which a dancer bent forwards to inspect his face in a mirror and didn't stop; the liquid surface rippled and let him in.

Alistair Fish (Tuesday) was enjoyable too, a little drama about a man chasing his errant girlfriend to Glasgow, greatly assisted by the fact that the main dancer was as startled as we were to find himself in a choreographed world. He thought he was just catching a train until he noticed that every lolling head in the carriage was moving with the precision of a Busby Berkely chorus line. It had the feel of one of those half-waking reveries that often steal upon you in the captivity of a train journey - and it was delirious and paranoid by turns. I don't know whether the choreography was banal or subtle but the effect of the whole was pleasure.

More of which was provided by Jim Broadbent's performance as Colonel AD Wintle in Heroes and Villains (BBC1), the last of the series and a return to form after last week's slightly underpowered episode. Personally I think there's a less melancholy charm to these brief lives than the makers do, and there were times when you felt you were expected to dab away a tear of elegiac regret which, in my case, just wouldn't flow. But Wintle's reckless assault on army proprieties was very funny. "I make it my business never to be rude to anyone below the rank of brigadier," he serenely informs a superior officer, "but you're so blinkered I've decided to make an exception." He isn't just all talk either. "You should be shot!" he bellows at an RAF bureaucrat obstructing his plans for a one-man mission to France. "In fact I'll do it myself." He was sent to the Tower of London for emptying his revolver into the man's desk but got away with a reprimand.

Broadbent's depiction of him was wonderful, in particular as an old man, recording an edition of Desert Island Discs and fully conscious of his status as a "turn". He followed his more eccentric statements with a mildly deranged giggle which proved remarkably infectious.