Seeing this picture yesterday on Gethin Jones’ Twitter page and with the obvious link to Strictly Come Dancing (Gethin having left at the semi-final stage of the competition, before Darcey was a judge, with no dance or stage experience, ah, the good old days!), my thoughts turned to a Strictly spin-off with ballet as the focus.
I found Darcey’s contribution to World Ballet Day really meaningful and although her enthusiasm is clear during broadcasts to the cinema, I think it is difficult for her to be seen as other than a Strictly Judge who used to be a Ballet Dancers. World Ballet Day gave her so much more chance to become involved and pass on her wisdom on, not just her many years of stage experience coming through but her Presidency of the Royal Academy of Dance and enthusiasm for teaching. I found her partnership with Gethin Jones made the Royal Ballet’s contribution to World Ballet Day, the slickest and most interesting. The presenter, who as far as I’m aware, is brand new to ballet, was fully engaged with the work of the ballet dancers and asked meaningful and interesting questions that would help the novice to ballet, negotiate what was happening but not bringing it down too far to a level where, the ballet aficionado would feel patronised.
With the recent Great British Bake Off debacle, it has made people evaluate what the BBC is for and what it does best and it is those programmes that give you a warm and cosy feeling and programmes that are informative and cultural and make you think. The BBC is also very good at creating spin-off programmes from popular shows, so why not Strictly Ballet? Although those of us that have even the smallest experience of ballet know that it is incredibly tough to do and even more tough to make it somewhat elegant and also, most ballet dancers don’t have a moment to do anything else but focus on their intense but short careers. The UK is world-leading in its’ cultural output and to sustain that position, it is good to get as many people interested in high arts as possible and it is a challenge that uplifts and enriches our lives. At the same time, must be balanced against not dumbing down the elements that make us culturally significant which can be found, especially in ballet, pretty much that unobtainable search for perfection that drives great art forward and an awareness of the balance between past heritage and modern innovation.
There was a great programme on many years ago as part of the Imagine series about the ‘Company of Elders’ at Saddlers Wells which I still fondly recall. It showed the profound impact of dance on people of an older generation through finding something that engaged physically and mentally but not only that, provided community. Wouldn’t it be great to have an inter-generational, popular ballet programme, on the television where the public could be educated as to why we get so immersed in this art form and to preserve our theatrical heritage for generations to come by letting others see the struggles but ultimately the exhilaration that keeps us coming back again and again. Strictly has worked very well for inter-generational viewing and has made alive again, a tradition of families of all ages, sitting down, Saturday night viewing.
The fashion and advertising industry have not only bought into the aesthetic qualities of ballet but have also seen beyond that to the people behind the peak physiques and the consummate artistry. Social Media has been a massive boost and given power into the hands of the dancers. A recent Elle Magazine article proclaimed, ‘Ballerinas are the new Rock Stars‘ and hopefully they are being recognised for their talent, at last, or certainly as they were in the heady days of Fonteyn and Nureyev or Darcey Bussell herself.
I can’t wait to get home to watch World Ballet Day, all the bits I missed by valuing sleep too highly and without the welcome distraction of social media which is an essential part of the day. This should keep me going until my next live ballet experience or viewing via the medium of the big screen. I’ll also watch the Royal Ballet segment again with my focused attention and really listen to the advice and wisdom from Darcey that was so interesting. It will also not be a big imposition to watch the handsome Strictly dancer with the mellifluous Welsh voice.