Darcey Bussell steps out of the world of ballet to present BBC Two audiences with two modern dance works that take familiar genres into uncharted territory.
Inspired by her love for exploring all forms of dance the film showcases two exciting new works from Barbican associate artists – Boy Blue Entertainment and Montreal based skaters – Le Patin Libre.
Taking us on a journey from hip hop to ice dance, former ballet dancer and current Strictly Come Dancing judge Darcey Bussell introduces us to the people and pieces that are breaking new choreographic ground, including Oscar winning director Danny Boyle. Both works were commissioned for screen by The Space, the digital commissioning agency supported by the BBC and Arts Council England.
Darcey Bussell said “I’m fascinated by the connections between different forms of choreography and agility as I enjoyed everything from gymnastics to tap before I joined the Royal Ballet School. In this programme I’ve chosen two stunning new works from artists who enjoy breaking conventions and exploring new territories.”
First to be showcased is Emancipation of Expressionism, an 11-minute piece of hip-hop dance theatre, from Olivier Award-winning company Boy Blue Entertainment (BBE) a Barbican Artistic Associate, that has been captured on film by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle in a staged performance at London’s Barbican Theatre. This is followed by 10 -minute ice-skating piece Vertical. Director Eddie Frost captures the essence of Montréal collective Le Patin Libre’s acclaimed Vertical Influences, a huge hit of Dance Umbrella festival 2014. The prize-winning ice skaters blaze a unique trail with their remarkable and inventive style of contemporary ice-dancing.
Emancipation of Expressioism has been selected by the UK’s largest exam body, AQA, to form part of the GCSE Dance curriculum. This ground-breaking choice represents the first time in UK mainstream education that hip-hop has been included on the curriculum alongside its contemporary peers.
The piece, choreographed by Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy with additional composition by BBE co-founder and fellow artistic director, Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante, was first performed at Breakin’ Convention, Sadler’s Wells in 2013. Kenrick uses structured freestyle, inviting specialist dancers to create their own movement in relation to the vision of the piece. Divided into four sections each scene, is a moment in life and the whole work is a journey.
Danny Boyle, director, said: “When I first saw Emancipation of Expressionism I was just dazzled by it; the precision, the discipline, the group dynamic and the individuality within that collection of dancers.
“People think that when you sit in a theatre like the Barbican and you experience a live show, you can’t have close-ups. But actually you have the telescope of your own eye; you are the editor and you decide where you want to look. My aim was to try and give that facility to a dance piece; we made selections, we take the viewer in so that they can literally feel the sweat that is there when you’re in the theatre live.”
Darcey's next choice is the group taking ice dancing as far away from sequins as it is possible to skate. Five person troupe Le Patin Libre use the ice in daring and dazzling ways to present a completely new perspective. In 10-minute film Vertical, commissioned by The Space, director Eddie Frost brings us thrillingly up close to the action as he captures the performers slashing and slicing the ice at top speed in one half of their award-winning double-bill Vertical Influences.
The show received rave reviews when it opened at Alexandra Palace as part of Dance Umbrella 2014, winning a Total Theatre Award and a Critics’ Circle nomination in 2015 before returning to London in 2016 where it played to sold-out audiences at Somerset House. The hit show has now been seen by audiences all over the world from Melbourne to Montpellier.
Founded by Alexandre Hamel in 2005, Le Patin Libre break the mould by challenging the conventions of traditional figure-skating through their experimental and at times nonchalant style, which draws influences from theatre, urban dance, and tap. From humble beginnings creating routines on the frozen ponds and canals of their hometown Montréal, their witty, inspired and creative performances have gone on to win fans around the globe.
Dance Umbrella Artistic Director Emma Gladstone said “It’s a thrill to see how audiences respond to these artists, in how they move and choreograph together so collaboratively. They are inventing a new way of moving on ice that banishes those familiar stereotypes of competitive skating or big ice shows. I am deeply proud that our original commission has reached so many thousands of people, and has now been captured expertly on film by director Eddie Frost. The first time I saw Le Patin Libre I thought ‘why on earth has no one done this before?’, and four years later they continue to astound me with their invention and skill.”
Fiona Morris, Chief Executive and Creative Director of The Space, said: “The Space is delighted to have commissioned the filming of these exhilarating new dance pieces, from two truly unique creative teams. We are also enormously grateful to Darcey Bussell for her enthusiasm and support in helping to showcase these young companies.”