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Subject: "Bourne to Dance, Channel 4, Christmas Day" Archived thread - Read only
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Suzanne McCarthy

28-12-01, 05:30 PM (GMT)
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"Bourne to Dance, Channel 4, Christmas Day"
   The early evening slot on Christmas Day must be a light entertainment scheduler’s nightmare. Sandwiched between the Queen and the blockbuster movie, and offered to a nation drowsy and dull after probably a late and very heavy lunch, it must keep its audience amused and stimulated, but not be too dry or intellectual.

So, with this as the brief, you can imagine the creative meeting where Bourne to Dance was conjured up. “We got to have recognisable names,” say one. “I know, what about that guy who did the funky male Swan Lake”. “Mathew Bourne”, says another. “Great”, says a third, “we can do “Bourne to Dance”. Get it?” “And how about tying it in with Billy Elliot? That was a big hit and it had dancing in it. And we could get some clips of stars like Nureyev for Mom.” And so another jumble of a Christmas Show was born that, in the cold light of a January morning planning session, would not have got off the drawing board.

The programme did not know if it wanted to be: a) a discussion of what has, and does, influence Bourne as a choreographer; b) a study of the evolution of the Western European male dancer; or c) a consideration of gender and sexuality. Divided into three parts over 100 minutes, we had snatches of conversation with the usual suspects, Judith Mackrell, Alastair Macaulay, (who incidentally edited the book, “Matthew Bourne and his Adventures in Motion Pictures”), as well as others such as Anthony Dowell, (who confesses that he would have loved to have played the male swan in Bourne’s Swan Lake), Mark Morris and Robin Cousins. Hey, did I say Robins Cousins? How did he get in there? Good question. At one moment we are deep in men in tights and the next there is Robin Cousins being interviewed at an ice rink talking about the difference between spinning on the ice and doing a pirouette at the ROH. Such was the logic of this programme.

The second section was the most cohesive. Here Bourne goes to Hollywood. (The programmers must have reasoned that it’s cold in Britain in December so let’s have some shots of Bourne in warm and sunny California.) The focus was mainly on Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. Discussions about their contrasting dance styles has been heard on television before, but it is still nice to see those two major 20th century hoofers strutting their stuff even if there was time for only a number of short clips.

And that was the major value of this programme. While full-length dance pieces have not often been well served by the small screen, some wonderful moments have been captured on celluloid and several of these are in this programme. Most remarkable was the tap dancing duet performed by Gene Kelly and the Sugar Ray Robertson. Thus demonstrating that Sugar Ray was the first boxer who could really “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee”.

The programme ended with the remark that the idea of men expressing themselves through dance remains provocative. That thought is admirably suitable for exploration, and one that the programme makers could think about delivering. They certainly didn’t on this occasion.

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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Bourne to Dance, Channel 4, Christmas Day AEHandley 09-01-02 1
     RE: Bourne to Dance, Channel 4, Christmas Day Carly Gillies 10-01-02 2

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09-01-02, 10:18 PM (GMT)
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1. "RE: Bourne to Dance, Channel 4, Christmas Day"
In response to message #0
   Nearly finished watching this now and I think you've been a bit harsh. It was fairly lightweight but an interesting look at some of Matthew Bourne's inspirations and influences. Regarding the clips: I was more impressed by Baryshnikov than I was in his heyday (for me, he was (a) unattractive (b) appeared to try too hard and (c) didn't have a quarter of Nureyev's soul/artistry/acting ability but looking at those clips I could see his technique); it was wonderful to be reminded of why Anthony Dowell was a very close second to Nureyev (for me, anyway) - what a fabulous dancer he was; and at last I found some people who agree with me over Astaire and Kelly (incidentally the clip with Kelly and Robinson really gave pause for thought - it looked like trick photography as Gene Kelly looked so TINY beside Sugar Ray Robinson!). I was interested that no-one mentioned what is one of the deciding points IMO: Fred Astaire could partner, and Gene Kelly couldn't. Fred could adapt his style to anyone's, and star alone or show off anyone. Gene merely danced alongside other dancers. (relatively speaking, of course - oh for a thousandth of Kelly's talent!). Also an eye-opener to see the elderly Russ Tamblyn! I was going to wipe this from the video, but I think I'll keep it!

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Carly Gillies

10-01-02, 02:13 PM (GMT)
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2. "RE: Bourne to Dance, Channel 4, Christmas Day"
In response to message #1
   I've only just watched this too - Santa brought a video after all which proved remarkably easy to tune in. It seems videos are doing it for themselves these days!
I thought that the lack of any direction or cohesion was more than made up for by the archive clips shown.
The highlight definately Sugar Ray - What a revelation !
Also I've always thought Fred Astaire much better than Gene Kelly. And for that matter always prefered Cyd Cherisse to Ginger Rogers and John Currie to Robin Cousins

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