Dannsa hits Episode the Third with a trip to Taynuilt, near Oban. Well, relatively “near”: Taynuilt isn’t near anywhere, which is sort if the point of Ballet West. In idyllic surrounds, the ballet degree students have few distractions, other than the odd stag sticking his majestic head through the studio window to enjoy a rehearsal.
The music goes thus:
Human (Armen van Buuren mix) by The Killers
Killers again. For some reason they write the perfect opening songs: catchy anthems that seem to beg to be remixed for the clubbers. This week: Human, reprised.
Starlight by Slash
The director’s Rammstein suggestion for episode one had linked Ballet West and rock in my mind. As with the Heavy Smokers in episode one, Slash’s solo album was still reverberating round my head.
When I first heard this song I felt like I’d heard it before, but not in a derivative, clone/ parody type way. More like when an old song comes on in an unexpected and incongruous place, like in M&S when your just holding/ guarding a bunch of dresses which may or may not get purchased in the next hour or two. A song comes over the tinny store speakers and your immediately back in a moment you thought you’d forgotten.
With this album, and this song in particular, Slash has entered that pantheon of rock survivors who have enough of a fanbase to please themselves, musically, knowing there’ll be an audience. Prince, Springsteen, Kate Bush, Paul McCartney, folk like that are still writing and recording vital material without an eye on the Top 40. They may not be cutting-edge, as they all once were, but they have proved that there was more to their genius than mere fashion, and their fans are well provided for.
Starlight is sung by Myles Kennedy, a guy so in tune with the rock era that he could stand in for Robert Plant in the as-yet unreleased ‘Led Zeppelin in all but name’ project. Check out those ball-curling high notes (which he can also reproduce live, btw).
The Killers may have a gift for the modern anthem, but this track, for me, stands outside time, demanding you lift you spirit just to accommodate it. For a montage of ballet dancers seemingly floating on air, what could possibly be better?
Here’s Where the Story Ends by Tin Tin Out (feat. Shelley Nelson)
The Sundays’ original is great, so it’s a testament to Tin Tin Out that their cover is the one you still here. Whoever performs it, what a piece of work: airy, melancholic, catchy. We use it here to introduce the school with contributions from our key players, and everything about it sets up the nature of the story to follow.
Grand Pas de Deux of “Le Corsaire” Act II, Variation for “Ali” (fast) by [no idea]
This episode was a (basic) education in ballet for me. I had no idea that there were so many variations, revivals or even what a Pas de Deux was. It seems that there is original choreography that is basically preserved through the ages, though occasionally modified.
So pay attention:
- Le Corsaire 1.0 was first staged in St. Petersberg in 1858, choreographed by Joseph Mazilier to music by Adolphe Adam.
- French Jedi ballet master, Marius Petipa, fiddled with it repeatedly over the course of four revivals, beginning in 1863.
- The other three, each with new dances and music (by Cesare Pugni) were in 1868, ‘80 and ‘99.
- In the midst of this, there was a revival by Joseph Mazilier himself in 1867, this time with new music by Léo Delibes.
- This kind of thing went on and on, ad nauseum.
I think this pas de deux variation emerged as late as 1955, but please, please don’t quote me. I certainly haven’t a clue who composed the music.
I use it here to foreshadow Duncan’s performance in the prestigious Genée competition. Also, it’s nice.
Flowerbed by Take That
The selection of this track dates back to before the first episode, when Dannsa was a fiery ball of potential, waiting to be wraught into the magnificence before you. At the time, I had just (God help me) bought Take That’s album, Progress. While experimenting with different styles of editing, I tried cutting a solo ballet piece to Eight Letters and liked the results.
For Sarah’s account of her school days, and the salvation her dancing offered, I could think of nothing better. Besides, it’s cool to like Take That now, don’t you know.
Here Comes Your Man by Teenage Fanclub
Nice to get a bit of Glaswegian power pop into the show, and another gentle ribbing of Andy Howitt. He’s the Man, you see, and he’s coming to visit Ballet West.
Champion by Chipmunk (feat. Chris Brown)
A minor theme for Duncan as Andy offers his first thoughts on the company and how they might best fit into his Grand Finalé.
Release by Black Eyed Peas
Once again I turn to the BEP. This time, it’s for our palate-cleansing jaunt over to Dundee and the Scottish School of Contemporary Dance. Their class in “release” technique contrasted nicely with the poise and precision of the ballet students. I needn’t tell you why I chose the track, I trust.
Lose Yourself by Eminem
At this point in the story, there is doubt as to whether Sarah’s dress for her Genée performance will make it to Ballet West in time for their departure to London. This instrumental version ratchets up the tension.
How it Feels to Fly by Alicia Keys
I needed a real moment here. Sarah’s story is one of personal empowerment through dance. The Genée competition seemed less important to her as a career move than it was for Duncan (though its importance for any dancer can’t be overstated); more, it was having the strength to face the situation, with its pressure and stress, that we concentrated on. In that way, how well the performances went fell mostly on Duncan’s shoulders in the final portion of the show. Putting on the dress that had had such difficulty finding its way to Taynuilt, then, ought to be an instant of semi-resolution for Sarah, i.e. molto importante.
Once again, Alicia Keys saved me. I went straight to her Element of Freedom album and this song leapt out in a brisé. The sentiment (“I’d risk the fall/ Just to know how it feels to fly”), the imagery (Sarah’s already described the feeling as “floating”) and the melody made this a moment large enough that I could afford myself the editing equivalent of a bow: the fade to black.
London Calling by The Clash
I could be accused of making an obvious and unoriginal choice here, as the gang arrive in London, but I defy anyone to come up with a better summation of the capital’s foreboding. Duncan and Sarah are about to be put under enormous pressure and the contrast between sleepy Taynuilt and frantic London couldn’t be put to any better music, imho.
Step Up by Samantha Jade
Following on from The Clash is this breezier offering, more “dance” but the lyrical content sustains the notion that our heroes need to dig deep to face the challenge of Genée, especially as the competing dancers are, shall we say, good.
Here We Go Again by The Hives
Musically, this frenetic track illustrates the adrenaline and pulsing heartbeat of waiting to compete. Because Duncan and Sarah were to perform separately, the title of the track (barked as a chorus) allowed me to reprise it to good effect.
Dance ’til We’re High by The Fireman
Did I mention Paul McCartney earlier? His third album with Youth as The Fireman is a doozer, and this is from that.
In keeping with our emerging pattern of inspirational closing tracks, this dreamy anthem (there’s that word again) speaks of inner strength and triumph, perfectly capping all the themes and emotions of the episode.
Next week, it’s to the Scottish School of Contemporary Dance, where the stakes are Genée-high for all the fourth year students facing the Big, Bad, World of forging your actual career in dance.
It’s a roller coaster.