With intimate, behind-the-stage access, these short films explore the creative process of extraordinary dancers and choreographers as they rehearse new work and performances.
Part 1: The Dying Swan
Using the lyrical and elegant metaphor of a ballet classic about death, this film explores how a dancer fights age, the deterioration of the body over time and fear of retirement.
Former Royal Ballet principal, 43-year-old Zenaida Yanowsky, plans to overcome knee surgery and fight her body back to fitness so as to perform a swansong, one of ballet’s best-known of solos, The Dying Swan. For Zenaida, this is one of her last public performances before drawing the curtains on an acclaimed classical ballet career.
The film also features an encounter between Zenaida and current Royal Ballet rising star principal dancer, the Russian-born-and-trained Natalia Osipova.
Part 2: Street to Stage
Dickson Mbi is at a critical breakthrough point in his career as he transitions from his street dance roots to the contemporary dance limelight. This film follows Dickson as he wins the UK heat of the international street dance competition Keep on Dancing (KOD), with his ‘popping’ team Fiya House. But this is nothing compared to the challenge that now faces him as he starts to choreograph and perform his first contemporary dance solo under the watchful eyes of Akram Khan’s producer, Farooq Chaudhry. At this crucial point in his career Dickson now has to push his mental and physical abilities beyond what he thinks is possible.
Part 3: Choreographing History
Experimental and highly original, Shobana Jeyasingh is a female choreographer in a male-dominated world. Her tenaciousness has resulted in her dance company surviving for over thirty years, a rare achievement in the dance world.
This film follows the research and development phase of her new work exploring a viral attack. The piece, called Contagion, will evoke the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which killed over 50 million people, through dance. This film gives a unique insight into a choreographer’s artistic process and their sources of inspiration as Shobana researches the pandemic and attempts to translate what she finds into movement as she workshops with dancers on the stage.
As part of this process Shobana meets Professor John Oxford, one of the world leading authorities on the Spanish flu, who shares with Shobana a lung sample of a British victim of the 1918 outbreak. Shobana also visits Professor Wendy Barclay, chair of influenza virology at Imperial College London. Professor Barclay has spent many years trying to learn everything she can about the way flu viruses behave and now leads a team of scientists based at her London laboratories. She shares with Shobana how flu viruses act at a microscopic level.
Part 4: Prejudice and Passion
Daring, audacious and funny, based in the north of England, Carlos Pons Guerra creates darkly humorous, highly theatrical and vigorously physical work that often explores questions of gender and sexual identity. This film finds Carlos rehearsing dancers in preparation for O! Maria, a very Spanish tale of ham and bondage.
This is the most important performance of the work to date at one of London’s major theatres, but Carlos isn’t satisfied. He now wants to bring his avant-garde style and preoccupations to a broader audience. He is choreographing a new children’s production at the Birmingham Rep, which tells a true story of two male penguins raising a baby penguin. This is about using dance to set an agenda – can Carlos channel the fight for acceptance that has defined him into the mainstream? For Carlos the show is deeply personal. He struggled hugely with homophobia as a child and as a young adult wanting to dance. What will his toughest critics – his parents – make of his new work?