Crystal Pite, Ballet Black and Carlos Acosta in BBC Arts 2020 dance season

Featuring leading female choreographers Crystal Pite, Sharon Eyal, Kate Prince, María Pagés and much more.

BBC Arts has announced details of its 2020 dance season, which includes live performances filmed at Sadler’s Wells and the Royal Opera House, specially commissioned films and in-depth explorations of dance and leading dance practitioners on television and online, throughout May and later in the year.

Aimed at those who love dance as well as those who don’t yet know they love dance, as the BBC puts it, the season reflects the breadth of dance styles; from contemporary to classical, Latin to Irish.

Revisor by Crystal Pite and Jonathon YoungPhoto Michael Slobodian
Revisor by Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young
Photo Michael Slobodian

BBC Four will be screening Revisor, the latest dance-theatre hybrid created by choreographer Crystal Pite and playwright Jonathon Young, recorded during its run at London’s Sadler’s Wells in March 2020. Young and Pite revise an archetypal comic plot – The Government Inspector by Nikolai Gogol – to serve as the basis for the work which sees ten dancers embody the recorded dialogue of some of Canada’s finest actors, exploring conflict, comedy and corruption in the potent relationship between language and the body.

Sharon Eyal, one of four Danceworks films by Andy Dunn
Sharon Eyal, one of four Danceworks films by Andy Dunn

Also on BBC Four is a second series of Danceworks films produced in partnership with Sadler’s Wells and directed by Andy Dunn. The four 30-minute, artist-led, observational films take viewers behind the scenes, telling the stories behind the creative process of choreography, rehearsal and performance across several dance genres. Each film showcases the creators’ choreography in extended close up sequences.

María Pages
María Pagés

Israeli choreographer Sharon Eyal is seen during a summer residency in the urban cool of Bold Tendencies, an arts venue atop a brutalist multi-storey car park in Peckham. With her renowned company L-E-V, she tosses ‘rules’ to the wind, fusing movement, light, fashion, techno music and technology, with choreography inspired by the clubbing scene. In sequences filmed in Israel and London, the film explores how Sharon and her long-standing collaborator Gai Behar create and premiere a new work specially conceived for the Peckham backdrop.

A second film transports us to Spain and the work of flamenco star, María Pagés. It explores the tension in her work between flamenco’s traditional roots in her Seville birthplace, and her signature dramatic, theatrical shows on the big stage, embodied in a haunting new work called Una Oda al Tiempo (An Ode to Time).

The work of Ballet Black is explored in a film that follows artistic director Cassa Pancho as she trains and encourages aspiring young dancers. Interwoven with her story is a look at the creative process of dancer Mthuthuzeli November as he develops The Waiting Game, a new piece about the purpose of life that has its world premiere at the Barbican this month before touring.

The final film follows two of Strictly Come Dancing’s most popular professional stars, Gorka Marquez and Karen Hauer, as they put together a spectacular Latin showcase, Firedance, now on tour.

Kate Prince with Alan YentobPhoto Jim Ashcroft
Kate Prince with Alan Yentob
Photo Jim Ashcroft

Imagine…Kate Prince: Every Move She Makes on BBC One meanwhile drops in on the British choreographer whose ZooNation Dance Company has helped transform the profile of hip hop and street dance. Imagine follows Prince as she embarks on her latest project Message In A Bottle, set to the hit music of Sting, which opened at the Peacock in February 2020. Presenter Alan Yentob talks to Prince’s key collaborators and family, painting an engaging and surprising portrait of a fascinating creative force while exploring the wider impact of her work and politics on a younger generation of upcoming dancers.

Carlos AcostaPhoto Denise Guerra
Carlos Acosta
Photo Denise Guerra

Turning to the men, BBC Two will be screening Yuli: The Carlos Acosta Story, a film inspired by the life of Carlos Acosta, the first black Principal dancer of The Royal Ballet and now artistic director of Birmingham Royal Ballet. Based on his autobiography, No Way Home: a Cuban Dancer’s Story, the film shows him growing up in Cuba, becoming a dancer and moving to London. It follows his relationship with his father, who gave him the nickname Yuli, and encouraged him to leave his country and forge a career on the international stage.

The Royal Ballet rehearse Untouchable by Hofesh ShechterPhoto Tristram Kenton/ROH
The Royal Ballet rehearse Untouchable by Hofesh Shechter
Photo Tristram Kenton/ROH

Back on BBC Four, in Men in Dance, award-winning film maker Richard Macer discovers a golden generation of young dancing talent at The Royal Ballet. In attempting to gain the greatest insight to their world, Macer focuses on those at different stages of the dancer’s life cycle: he films with graduate year students of The Royal Ballet School when they first hear about contracts with the company; a principal who some believe to be the finest dancer of his generation; and another principal returning from a career-threatening injury. Macer also talks to younger company members taking on soloist and principal roles who not only lighting up the stage but have a big social media presence, and meets a longstanding star of the ballet facing the twilight of his dazzling career.

RiverdancePhoto Jack Hartin
Photo Jack Hartin

Switching to Irish dance, Devil in the Feet on BBC Four is a sweeping 90-minute documentary telling how Irish dance evolved from a primarily folk activity dance to become a global phenomenon. Featuring stars of today, Jean Butler and Michael Flatley, and stars of the past from James Cagney, Gene Kelly, Master Juba and Charles Dickens, the film presents a powerful factual narrative with new performances from today’s finest dancers and fascinating film archive.

Finally, BBC Introducing Arts: Dance is a collection of dance films made by first time and emerging film-makers. In them, dance is used to tell engaging and relevant stories from across the UK on topics as diverse as gaming, mental health, and society today.

Emma Cahusac, commissioner for BBC Arts, says, “It’s an honour to be able to showcase such a brilliant range of talent from the world of dance. Whether it be the global superstars of ballet or flamenco, ground-breaking new works from leading choreographers, or beloved traditional dance moves that we all enjoy today, I couldn’t be more excited about curating this year’s line-up for our audiences.”

Broadcast dates to be announced.