BBC Arts

Curated and created through an innovative partnership with the world leading dance house, Sadler’s Wells, these artist-led films give viewers a unique insight into the world of contemporary and classical dance in Britain today.   Each film takes us behind the scenes with an extraordinary dancer at different points of their careers and from diverse backgrounds and styles.  We follow their process as they create new work and explore ideas and themes that inspire them through dance pieces, which will be showcased in extended sequences within the films. 


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, 44-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 – the Russian dancer Natalia Osipova – as they exchange reflections on age and the physical cost of ballet. 


Dickson Mbi is at a critical breakthrough point in his career as he transitions, with the support and guidance of Sadler’s Wells, 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).  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.  


Audacious and funny, Leeds-based Carlos Pons Guerra creates darkly humorous, highly theatrical and vigorously physical work that often explores questions of gender and sexual identity.  We find Carlos rehearsing dancers in preparation for a performance of ‘O! Maria’, a very Spanish tale of ham and bondage.  But now Carlos 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 and win over family audiences?


Experimental and highly original, Shobana’s new work Contagion will evoke the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which killed over 50 million people, through dance. This film will be 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.