It was a highlight on Christmas day to sit down with three generations of family and watch the journey of one of Britain’s most famous ballerinas, Darcey Bussell, conquer one of the greatest challenges within dance: paying tribute to the Hollywood legends of Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
I couldn’t think of a more dedicated, passionate and caring dancer than Darcey Bussell; with numerous charity shows since retiring from the Royal Ballet in 2007 and actively promoting dance through publishing her own children’s books, guest judging on Strictly Come Dancing, and becoming a board member for Sydney Dance Company, dance never seems to stop running through her blood. It was fascinating to watch her journey of learning the three classical Hollywood routines paying dedication to Fred Astaire in an interpretation of ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’, Ginger Rogers in ‘Cheek to Cheek’, and to Singin’ in the Rain stars in ‘Good Morning’.
As much as I came away from the programme filled with knowledge of dance in Hollywood and the difficult challenges faced by dancers today taking on the same movement; I couldn’t help think of how amazing the opportunity would be for every other dancer in the UK to have had the opportunity to learn and perform these legendary routines. Bussell is a beautiful and technical performer and was a joy to watch perform these renowned pieces of choreography. But, with over twenty years of performing professionally, wouldn’t it have been great to have shared this experience with those just as talented and capable, but with a lack of experience due to a drop in opportunities?
With only sixty-eight dance companies being regularly funded in the UK over this past year by Arts Council England and with funding being cut over the whole dance industry in the UK, we’ve all been hit hard in one way or another! It made me wonder why the BBC didn’t offer this opportunity to dancers across the UK through an open audition process, with Darcey Bussell being the presenter and mentor throughout the programme, in order to draw in the public when the programme is screened on Christmas Day.
It irritated me the more I thought of what could have been made of the programme in order to benefit others within the industry. It was extremely clear the amount of money spent on this one show: choreographer Kim Gavin was joined by the gifted conductor John Wilson to create the great artistic produce of choreography and accompaniment which the show couldn’t have run without. The rehearsal venues and performance space would have taken a lot from the budget unless funded otherwise. Costumes were flawless, especially the dress custom made for Darcey for the famous number ‘Cheek to Cheek’.
There has been a very big debate within an online forum on the quality and accuracy of the choreography and the set, and a lot of people were disappointed in Bussell’s final recorded performances and commented on her movement as ‘awkward and uncomfortable’. I think Bussell did a fantastic job and she never set out to achieve perfection in balance with the Hollywood stars. She took on the challenge to present to people the huge influence the dances of Hollywood are to the journey of where dance is today. She achieved this! I simply believe that with individuals in the arts industry within the United Kingdom struggling to find jobs and opportunities at the moment, being dropped from companies which are closing due to funding cuts resulting in more competition for jobs, others should have and could have had the opportunity to share this unbelievable experience with one of UK’s best loved dancers!
‘Darcey Bussell dances Hollywood’ was shown on 25th December 2011 on BBC2 at 6.30pm-8.00pm
You can still catch it on BBC Iplayer here