Previously I shared the secret lives of dancers and looked at a year at The Australian Ballet. Recently I discovered a three-part documentary filmed in 2010 by the BBC following the English National Ballet as they stage a production of the most famous ballet, Swan Lake, with a Visa-challenged and therefore missing prima ballerina; address injuries and challenging casting choices for a production of Romeo and Juliet; and lastly, speed towards opening night of their biggest moneymaker, The Nutcracker, with a brand-new, incomplete, let alone ready, production.
During the 2001-2002 season I worked with American Repertory Ballet, which included doing the marketing and subscription operations for many performances of a brand new The Nutcracker. Watching the third episode of this series brought back vivid memories of the process of staging and selling what is without a doubt the key financial production of any dance company.
In the first episode, we follow the production of Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall and its enormous cast of new and experienced dancers longing for recognition. When choreographer Derek Deane puts his reputation on the line by casting a talented but inexperienced young dancer with a world-class guest ballerina, the challenge is on. Derek demands absolute perfection, and all the dancers are under pressure to meet his high standards
We join the company as they fight to finish their most ambitious production of the year - Rudolf Nureyev's Romeo & Juliet. From tensions on stage to challenging rehearsals using real weaponry, the men are performing for their lives. The company are already undermanned so it's crucial that no dancers are injured, but it's only a matter of time before the demanding schedule takes its toll.
The final episode offers a raw and revealing insight into English National Ballet, one of the world's premier ballet companies, at the climax of one of its most demanding years. From injury and pain to success and elation, the series exposes the storm behind the calm of big ballet productions.
Wayne Eagling has a highly demanding job as the artistic director of English National Ballet, looking after the 64 dancers that produce eight ballets a year. He has also decided to put his neck on the line by creating his first full length ballet for the company - The Nutcracker. As the company's crucial and lucrative Christmas production, there is no room for error and Wayne must complete the two hour ballet on an extremely tight schedule.
The film follows the creative processes of a choreographer under pressure and a new production fighting against time. With an important audience of critics, donors and government officials expected on opening night, the show must be finished. But with rehearsals running late and severe snow disrupting the making of the sets, it seems the dancers, costume-makers and technical staff are all fighting for stage time right up until the curtain rises.