The South Bank Show

Series 1 - 4. Male Roles in Contemporary Ballet

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Radio Times
Review by:
Jack Seale

Ballet this week, and the rise of the male lead: having scrapped his way to stardom from grim provincial Russia, Rudolf Nureyev wasn't about to be second on the bill, even if the traditions of the form demanded it. He prompted a shift towards a new kind of dancer, and dance, in the second half of the 20th century, as documented by Melvyn Bragg's interviews, fresh and archive.

The focus is not just on the likes of Nureyev and Carlos Acosta, but also on choreographers, the creators who tell these tautly strung instruments which notes to hit. We see Kenneth Macmillan dropping fag ash on Lynn Seymour's shoulder as he creates the lustful entanglements of Mayerling, and Wayne McGregor "rewiring" modernist Royal Ballet principal Edward Watson in rehearsal for Metamorphosis.

It's a lucid, engaging film. If, say, you know Mikhail Baryshnikov mainly as the suave Russian bloke off Sex and the City, the door to another world cracks open here.

About this programme

4/6. Melvyn Bragg analyses the development of male roles in contemporary ballet, exploring the work of dancers and choreographers including Rudolf Nureyev, Matthew Bourne and the Ballet Russes. The programme features interviews with Mikhail Baryshnikov, Tamara Rojo and Edward Watson, as well as archive clips of Kenneth MacMillan, Michael Clark and Wayne McGregor and performances by Carlos Acosta.

Cast and crew


Melvyn Bragg
Rudolf Nureyev
Matthew Bourne
Mikhail Baryshnikov
Tamara Rojo
Edward Watson
Kenneth MacMillan
Michael Clark
Wayne McGregor
Carlos Acosta