From ballet to breakdance: Darcey Bussell to front BBC search for nation's best young dancer

'BBC Young Dancer 2015' will include hip hop and contemporary styles

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The Independent Culture

Darcey Bussell will front a BBC search to find a new young dance star in a competition which places hip hop moves on an equal footing to ballet.

The Strictly Come Dancing judge will co-present and act as a mentor on BBC Young Dancer 2015, a competition broadcast live from Sadler’s Wells, featuring the best dancers, aged under 20, from across Britain.

The acclaimed choreographer and director Matthew Bourne, ballet star Carlos Acosta and English National Ballet artistic director Tamara Rojo join the judging panel for the BBC2 search to find “the UK’s most talented and dedicated young dancers.”


The dancers will compete across four categories: Ballet, Contemporary, Hip Hop and South Asian Dance, with six entrants going through to the grand final.

Each dancer will premiere a new solo piece created especially for them by a leading young choreographer. They will also dance a solo, duet (pas de deux/battle) and an ensemble piece.

Ms Bussell, the former Royal Ballet principal ballerina, said: “Hip hop has become a tradition in itself. I’ve tried to dance some hip hop. It takes extraordinary strength and ability to perform. It’s very different so it will be an interesting mix.”

Kenneth Tharp, chief executive of The Place, the London contemporary dance school and a series judge, said the addition of the urban hip hop genre would challenge traditionalists.

“The programme is a real chance to educate people about different styles of dance. If you watch a hip hop crew they are as tight and disciplined as the Royal Ballet. Hip hop and ballet are stylistically similar, they are both virtuosic. This will test preconceived views about dance styles.”

Ms Bussell admitted that talent competitions do not always produce lasting stars. “I’ve judged a lot of dance competitions around the world and some of the people who do incredibly well in those have shorter careers. And the ones who don’t (succeed in competitions), become stars. Competitions like this give dancers an opportunity to be seen.”

Ms Bussell said hopefuls had to demonstrate extreme dedication and a flexible willingness to perform all genres, including contemporary styles, in order to succeed. “Dance is getting harder,” she said.

She is opposed to hip hop and South Asian dance being introduced to the celebrity Strictly Come Dancing series however, as mastering the waltz and the foxtrot was enough of a challenge for its competitors.

The Young Dancer series will be a highlight of a BBC Year of Song and Dance unveiled by Tony Hall, the BBC Director-General and former Royal Opera House boss.

The season includes an investigation into the “real-life drama” behind the opera La Traviata, a documentary in which Petula Clark explores the history of the French chanson tradition and the return of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

Lord Hall of Birkenhead said the season, broadcast across BBC4, BBC2 and Radio 3, would deliver “extraordinary access to some of today's great artists and performers. And we'll be working with the very best to inspire new talent right across the country.”