Variations on a theme night


Whatever happened to varied programming in television? If it wasn't bad enough batting between interminable weekend sports coverage, the "Themed Evening" is still with us. The Radio Times' letters page is usually just useful therapy for the bewildered, but occasionally a ray of sanity penetrates the flood of grateful or outraged twaddle. Why oh why, someone wrote, do they persist in allowing one person or subject to monopolise an entire channel? What happens if you don't actually like Michael Caine?

The RT correspondent will probably be reaching for the Basildon Bond this week when they learn that Channel Four is devoting the bulk of Easter Monday evening to a feast of 20th-century dance. It kicks off with Debra Hauer's From a Classical Position (Channel 4 7.30pm). William Forsythe's imported works have for some years now been the Royal Ballet's main defence against allegations that they don't have any great contemporary choreography. His In the middle, somewhat elevated, Herman Schmerman and Steptext have provided exciting vehicles for Sylvie Guillem, Adam Cooper and Deborah Bull. Sadly, his attempt to collaborate on an original work with the Royal Ballet in 1995 came to grief and he announced that henceforth he would only create on his own Frankfurt company. In Hauer's film, Forsythe himself dances what he says will be his swansong in a new piece together with his dancer Dana Casperson. It is followed by Ross MacGibbon's Nureyev Unzipped (8pm), a sorry little film in the J'Accuse tradition which attempts to suggest that Nureyev's celebrity owed more to style than content. There is depressingly little archive footage of the great man actually dancing and a parade of mostly has-beens and never-weres decrying his lack of technique. Ghastly.

After a break for Brookside (which has not got a dance theme) and Secrets and Lies the dance is back with MacGibbon's film of the Royal Ballet dancing Kenneth MacMillan's 1992 piece The Judas Tree (Channel 4 11.40pm, above right). The ballet shows us what happens when a beautiful young woman strays half dressed into a docklands building site. The ensuing gang rape is one of the nastiest things ever seen on a ballet stage.

The excuse for this is that it's all about responsibility and betrayal and the excuse for watching it is that Irek Mukhamedov gives a magnificent, carpet-chewing performance as the gang foreman tortured by passion and guilt. His co- star is Leanne Benjamin as the vixen/victim.

People have been known to sit this ballet out in the bar when it appears in triple bills. They aren't showing it this late for nothing.

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