Series going behind the scenes at English National Ballet during a tough and dramatic year begins by following its production of Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall.
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This programme contains some strong language.
On stage, a ballet dancer is serene, elegant and measured.
But behind the scenes it's a different story.
Do this. Derek says this is what it is. Do it.
With unprecedented access to English National Ballet, one of the UK's elite dance companies,
this series will reveal what it takes to stage a world-class ballet.
-They want from me more, and you have to repeat again and again.
-Go, go, go, go...
From the turbulent production of Swan Lake...
Listen to the shoes. Elephants.
..and the battles of Romeo And Juliet...
-Already, this week, we have three guys off.
-This is terrifying.
..to the struggles of creating a brand-new Nutcracker.
Ballet's not finished. We ain't finished.
You'll survive this. I don't survive bad reviews.
With the future of the arts in doubt, this is a company fighting for its life.
That's nearly £700,000 a year that we have to find.
I think we should be worrying about whether they're going to cut dancers.
From injury and defeat...
-I need to save my feet for tomorrow.
-..to success and elation...
-Very good, that is.
..will English National Ballet survive one of its toughest years?
English National Ballet is a touring company with its headquarters in Kensington, West London.
The 64 dancers, made up of 20 nationalities, rehearse daily
to produce large-scale classical ballet around the world.
The man charged with shaping the artistic direction of the company is Wayne Eagling.
Of all the people that I know,
English National Ballet are the hardest-working dancers.
We do over 120, 130 shows a year.
Classical ballet, it's the most demanding, I think, of dance forms.
You push your body to such extremes.
One of the dancers in class is Daria Klimentova from the Czech Republic.
She is the company's most experienced and longest serving prima ballerina.
I've been doing it for 20 years professionally now.
I'm quite an old ballerina now, and I'm still dancing,
so it's quite an achievement!
I had three operations on my knees.
I had one on my ankle.
And...I had a baby as well!
I've done everything I could.
It's been used and abused.
Ooh. Got to put weight on it.
I just did this morning class, and after class I was
warming up for my rehearsal, and everything was fine, and suddenly
I got a terrible pain here, like, in my ankle, going up here,
and I tried to go en pointe and I basically couldn't put my weight on it.
It hurts here, like, up to here.
'What I want to achieve next is I just would like to dance a little bit longer and be healthy
'and not being injured and try to enjoy it as much as I can.'
For another, I don't know, few years, two years, one year.
'I don't know. I really don't know.'
It just still hurts.
Old ballerina crying.
At 38, Daria is nearing the end of her career.
But Russian dancer Vadim Muntagirov's is just beginning.
He's arrived from ballet school to begin his first professional contract at the company.
-Is it your birthday?
'I am 20 years old, I'm really young.
'This is my...sixth month in company.'
I can say I'm really shy person.
I shouldn't be. I should be a bit...
more confidence, but I don't know. It's coming.
On stage sometimes I'm more confidence...than in real life, in normal life.
When I talk to someone, sometimes I feel like...
I'm not interesting, or something like that.
I'm saying something wrong, or something.
Over the next few weeks, Vadim faces a heavy schedule
of rehearsals, including extra half-hour stage calls.
But, being new to the company, he's still learning discipline.
What time is the half?
What time is the half?
-No, five to seven. There is a rehearsal at five to seven.
14 minutes past seven.
You were employed by this company to be here at the half.
There's going to be a report made about this,
if you have not turned up for the half. We've been here.
You have not been here. It's unprofessional.
You have the possibility...
I think you're beginning to realise, but you have the possibility to be a...you know,
But you need to listen.
You know, I can't really give up a bit or take it easy.
So every time, if you're late or something, they tell you straight away.
I get a bit of trouble.
But I think it's good sometimes to be trouble, someone pushing you,
so after that I start working even harder.
PIANO PIECE BEGINS
Wayne has chosen Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall as the company's next production to rehearse.
One of the biggest and most lucrative shows of the year, which is choreographed by Derek Deane.
I have this reputation for being tough.
The difficulty for me, every time we reproduce this production,
is getting the absolute 100% commitment out of a dancer,
emotionally and physically, so that they will almost bleed for me.
Derek has chosen Vadim to perform the leading role on opening night.
And it's their first rehearsal together.
-Ah! How are you?
-Good, thank you.
This boy, I'd heard about him. I'd heard about...
'I was worried. He was very raw, he was very young,'
but with this phenomenal physical technique, which is very impressive,
but it's not the whole package.
Right. Well, we'd better start.
'I just decided to take a chance,'
and just see what could be done with this boy in the short time.
It's very difficult when you're working with somebody so young.
You just don't know how much to push...
He's got all this talent, all the ability and all the possibilities.
And, if you just push him too fast too early, you can damage him.
But if you don't push him enough
you don't get to the limit of what he's got at the moment.
Why don't you try some things from the first act solo?
No, no, no, no, no.
Just stand in arabesque without the leg up. Without the leg up.
Long, long, long, long.
Look, you see, it's dead. I want to see something in here. Yeah.
Separate the fingers.
That's nicer! For you, that's nice.
You get this slightly sausage look, do you know what I mean?
'First, I wanted a more experienced dancer,
'because of the ballerina that's coming to the company to dance it, Polina Semionova.'
She's in the top three dancers in the whole world, and so she needs a partner to level up to her.
Guest star Polina Semionova previously danced the leading role at the Royal Albert Hall
to rave reviews in one of Derek's last Swan Lake productions.
But she's unavailable for rehearsals.
So Vadim must practise with Daria, who has recovered from her ankle injury.
Ah... We see immediately that hair.
She's going to get rid of that, isn't she?
My watch is, like, two minutes before 12.
In the story, Vadim plays the part of a prince
in love with Odette, a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer.
DEREK GASPS Who's that? Who's that?
Now, here, a slight...
Now, go. Pull her. Pull, pull!
Pull her this way, pull away!
'Because the audience get further and further away in such a big place like the hall, my most difficult thing'
was to get the emotion and the feeling and the drama and the story across to the back of the gallery.
Now, give in.
Have a look.
And have a look. And say, "No, no, no! No."
It's got to make sense.
It's all got to make sense.
The important thing for me always, as you very well know, is the reason you do it.
Why you're scared, why you're trying to fly away, because it's all the story.
We've got to get as much of that back in.
Because nobody does it anymore, and we have to get it.
It's just a little bit floaty. We've got to put the ideas back in,
put the story back in, so you're not predictable.
I spend most of my time...um... trying to...
Well, I just...
pull it out of dancers' heads and bodies. And I drive people mad.
'I drive people absolutely mad.
'And I will never change.'
No, no, no, no. You're much too early.
You're so unmusical. It's at the END of the phrase you come in.
What are you finding...problematic?
You have no idea?
You have no idea?
'Working with Derek, I think it's...
'Yeah, he work really hard. He screams.
'Sometimes you not feel comfortable what he's saying,'
but you can't say anything, because it's true.
'He remind me... the teachers from Russia.'
Vadim began ballet dancing at seven years old.
His training became serious at nine,
when he left home to join the Perm Ballet School in Minsk, Russia,
which produces some of the world's greatest dancers.
They just, uh...
..scream at us, like, sometimes just smack...
smack us in the legs. And then...
I remember, I was really scared my teacher.
Every time he go in the studio, I was standing like that.
I was... So every time I tried to do steps perfectly,
so he not going to scream at me. I was just so scared.
I remember the teacher have...
he was really tall.
He was two metres tall. We was ten years old, little boys, and he was screaming at us, "Work hard, hard"...
Like, you hate the teachers as well.
But later you understand what...
they give you...
your life, you know, your job.
60% of English National Ballet's annual £12 million budget
is provided by government funding to tour ballet around the country.
Oh. Stray dancers.
This could mean class is over.
But since the coalition government came into power
managing director Craig Hassall fears arts funding might be cut.
Let's try and get through that quickly. It'd be good if we have 40 minutes for this,
and we need to talk about the, um... just the implications of the cuts.
If it can be before next week that would be great.
All we know about the election result is that the coalition said
that it has to cut spending drastically across all sectors.
Of course that will effect funding for the arts.
So we could wait till the axe falls and we see how we're supposed to survive in the new funding climate,
or we could be a bit proactive and look at a few scenarios.
The company are reliant on the funding provided by the government to pay nearly 200 staff and dancers.
But, with the future uncertain, Craig discusses the options with the heads of departments.
I mean, for us it's quite simple.
We either tour less or make fewer new shows.
That's kind of it. Without cutting into the bone of the company.
If we can't afford to survive
going forward by doing those two things, reducing those things, then we start looking at...
are we talking about fewer members of staff, fewer dancers, fewer members of the orchestra?
Once you start talking about fewer dancers or cutting artistic quality, it's the beginning of the end.
Because then we'll lose all our good dancers.
The hard part of the job is creating a vibrant, artistic company, and you can't, you know...
and you may have some failures. At the same time,
the Arts Council wants innovation and new things. It does cost money.
If I were to hold a meeting now and say, "OK, everyone, new government,
"funding cuts are looming, we're going to have to make some changes,"
that would send panic into the company.
We'll work on this quietly and work out a solution.
It's almost like a dirty little secret.
For the company, the show must go on,
and Derek's epic Swan Lake production
needs a large cast of 140 dancers.
But there are only 64 in the company.
So extra freelance dancers have been hired to make up the numbers.
Rachel Ware from Ruislip is one of the chosen few.
It can be hard, because if you've trained most of your life,
but then you don't get a permanent contract,
you're just doing little jobs here and there,
it's getting the money to then keep your classes going
and keep training.
You don't realise, I suppose, until you come out the school, that it's the finances
of keeping that up. Um...
Well, Rachel has just trained all her life, really, to become a ballet dancer.
Her day is on her own. She doesn't have any friends around her.
I think she has to be really dedicated, disciplined.
Obviously the dream is to get a permanent contract with them.
Just...there's so much competition out there, and everyone's kind of fighting for the same few spaces.
Rachel has just six weeks to prove to the ballet staff she can play a swan.
If she succeeds and lasts the Swan Lake season, she might earn a full-time position in the company.
'Got to be in line. If you're the one out of line then you're screamed at.
'They say to you, "If you're told anything twice, you're out," so all that kind of bit scares me.
'There's so many people in the centre, there's no order where you stand.
'You literally have to push yourself to the front to do the exercise,
'and that's not really what I'm that good at.'
Any mistakes, I'll throw you out.
There's quite a few that are straight from schools,
so it's very difficult for them.
They've done an end of school show but that's their only experience
so they have to mature very quickly.
Close side one, passe.
Back, front, first head away, first head towards and fifth soutenu,
one to the side.
Am I going too quick?
If they aren't on board straight away, we've got replacements,
so we'll start dragging some of those in to see if they're any better.
These extra dancers will be paid £350 a week for the privilege of performing in Swan Lake.
But the work is welcome, as ballet jobs are infrequent and often poorly paid.
I don't know how anyone survived.
Some of the girls in the company had second jobs.
A lot of them had seconds jobs.
-That's how little...
-Like worked in a cafe and stuff?
No, like worked in clubs.
Oh, my gosh!
I know! Like exotic dancers.
Tomorrow we have class earlier, then we have rehearsal all day,
and we're starting to choreograph the swans with the whole of the company,
so that will be amazing, to be in the same rehearsal as all of them.
I'll have to keep concentrating because I'll probably want to just stop and watch all of them.
To replicate the size and shape of the stage at the Royal Albert Hall,
an east London studio has been chosen for rehearsals.
Nobody wants their names called over the mic,
like "Get in line," or, "No, you were down on the wrong count."
Important that we make a good impression and show them that we do know what we're doing.
The ballet staff begin with the two iconic Swan acts...
Starting from today, we can have all the legwarmers off.
..where 60 swans, including the 30 newcomers,
take to the stage to create intricate lines and formations.
'Everybody has a different way of moving. You've got to get them moving the same.'
There we go. And up and down...
'It's really hard at the Albert Hall because we've got not one front but we've got three fronts,'
so, where normally dancers have to stay in a line in a proscenium,
just looking at the girl in front,
they've got to look at the girl in front and the girl on the side.
'Then when they're moving around
'they have to be at certain places on the stage.
'It's a hell of a thing to ask dancers to do.'
The white line, OK? All the way round.
That's the edge of the Albert Hall.
And then each lino, that's what we call the cracks.
Most of the time we line them up on those cracks.
So now she's got to run up the crack.
She missed it.
That wasn't good.
1, 2. You've got up and a down, could you just go...?
If anyone goes that much out,
it just destroys the whole thing, so it's got to be completely together.
Painstaking. Boring for them, the process. But it's got to be done.
6, 7. OK.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Better.
Company dancer Adeline Kaiser is performing in the Swan Dance.
It's her first major appearance since she had a knee operation a year ago.
It's just going to be my first ballet back in a tutu
and make me feel like a ballerina again.
But when I inhale,
I feel sick.
It's terrible, because it's a patella tendon
and you're kneeling right on it and when you come back from surgery,
kneeling is the last thing that comes back.
It's not a very nice pain.
Adeline uses padding to protect her injured knee
and receives regular acupuncture.
Really swollen, I think.
Pressure of the floor when you're kneeling.
Even the knee pads don't help?
-I suppose because it's such a direct,
and you have to go down so quickly.
I know that's one of the problems with the dancing.
You tend to dance full-out for a couple of minutes
and then stand in awkward positions, or kneel in awkward positions
for a period of time, and so the muscles all get set. But it's the pressure.
We've just got to try and keep you ticking over.
You know when you come back from such a big injury
and you ask yourself so many questions.
If you don't really love it and if you don't really want to do it,
then you would give up.
It's such a, like, hard work getting up every morning.
It's really hard mentally and physically.
So I guess I want to do it because I'm still dancing.
Injured or not, the Swans have to complete another three weeks of daily seven-hour rehearsals,
sometimes running up to eight miles a day.
After three days of dancing, Derek decides to visit the Swans to judge their progress,
leaving Vadim to rehearse with his principal staff.
Derek has a certain aura. He can be intimidating.
He'll always speak his mind.
If it's crap, he will say it's crap.
I hate the word bully,
but I do bully them, but I bully them in a constructive way.
My name is above the title, and so at the end of the day I'm responsible.
Sometimes it makes your stomach turn over.
The responsibility is quite scary.
Very sad. Better feeling.
Again. Keep the barre going, keep it going, don't give in on the barre.
It's important for me to show that I can do Swan Lake
because it's the last ballet of the season.
I just want to show like I can do it.
Flat backs, ladies.
You look like turtles.
She hasn't changed legs.
Get down, down, down.
-That one. She's got a real problem with that knee.
What is the reason she can't do it?
-She's got a patella operation.
-Oh, she's had an operation? OK.
-And is it likely to damage her if we make her do it?
OK, let's not make her do it, then.
If they weren't here, I'd say let's make her do it, of course.
I'm a bit worried about Adeline.
She's wearing knee pads for rehearsals, but she can't for the show - that'd look a bit obvious.
Just a little bit worried she's not going to make the whole run.
She's never going to make it, that operation girl.
She's limping away.
We can't have a gap. The audience count 60 swans
and it would ruin the pattern - "There's only 59 swans!"
No pressure on Adeline, but actually, we do kind of need her on there.
With only two weeks left of rehearsals, the Swan dances are being practised more than any other.
There can be no drop in intensity, as they are watched by the ballet staff from every angle.
Fighting with the pain in your toes, your knees,
trying to hear the count,
trying to be in line
and not to stand out in a bad way.
I've been holding up really well until the last couple of days.
Now I've got bruised toenails, and there's a lot of kneeling,
you slide down into kneels,
and each time when I slide I take a bit of the skin off.
I don't think it'll ever be comfortable,
but it'll get more and more...
durable and enjoyable.
I have really big bunions and I have blisters on them,
so I need to save my feet for tomorrow.
Everyone goes through pain, so you just have to forget about it.
After three weeks of rehearsing alone with Derek and Daria,
Vadim is performing a solo for the first time
in front of the whole company.
I think he's shy. I think it's a nervous thing.
He doesn't know me, I must scare the shit out of him.
He wants from me more, he wants from me more and more.
It gets harder and harder, and then you have to repeat again and again.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6...
This is Vadim's last chance to practise his solos
before his partner for opening night,
Polina Semionova, arrives from Berlin tomorrow, replacing Daria.
You know Polina, you did it last...
-You know, beautiful, like Cindy Craw...
And he's so immature, that's what I'm worried about.
I'm just worried about him looking like a boy, do you know what I mean?
Cos he doesn't know how to walk, he doesn't know how to stand, he doesn't know how to say good morning.
And the more I perform with Vadim, the younger I feel.
We just have this special connection.
The same sense of humour.
But of course it is a little bit hard,
I get a little bit jealous that I have to share Vadim.
I'd rather have a partner for myself.
There's a little bit of insecurity in me
thinking that he's not going to like dancing with me,
and that he's going to think I'm a bad dancer.
But I guess it pushes me even more to be better.
I want to enjoy every second of it now, while I still have it.
1, 2. Hold the arabesque.
Show the arabesque.
Use the head.
While the dancers rehearse, managing director Craig Hassall
invites key staff on an away-day
to find a solution to the threat of Government cuts.
If the Government said, we need £600,000, what could give?
We could very easily cut quite a lot of costs by doing fewer performances on tour, couldn't we?
-But what's the point of us?
-That's what we do, yeah.
How much per week, roughly, on a major ballet,
like Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty, do we lose?
I think that's important, because we get funded to tour.
It sounds madness that every time we leave London for a week it costs us £100,000.
So to save 600,000 we have to lose six weeks touring?
We only have about eight!
And then we lose the justification for our funding, so then we lose our entire grant.
The meeting is interrupted as Andrew Morgan,
director of operations, receives an important message from Polina.
She was supposed to get a visa yesterday.
-She didn't, basically.
She will possibly get the visa tomorrow, and then we can fly her
out of Berlin or Dusseldorf into London, and she'll arrive for Thursday.
-She'll be fine, it's just Vadim.
I mean, the poor guy, he'll be thrown on with her.
He's 20. We have to take care of them as well.
I'm a bit concerned, really, because we don't have our prima ballerina.
At the moment she's delayed
because she has no visa on her passport,
because she's Russian.
There's a possibility that she might only arrive on Friday.
I'm very concerned for him, being so young and so inexperienced,
that he doesn't get the proper time with her, and it's already short.
So... Anyway, we'll see. Tomorrow's another day.
It's Friday, and there's still no sign of Polina.
It can take months to perfect a partnership, but Vadim has just five days.
It's getting later and later, so I get a bit more nervous.
We didn't dance together yet, never,
but... I know she's really tall, she's much taller than Daria.
All he can do is wait, and watch videos of her performances.
It's going to be a really different partnering,
so everything I did with Daria's going to be completely different with Polina, so this will take time.
I hope we can put everything together in five days.
What could be a problem, they're both very, very different, physically, Daria and Polina.
Polina is so much more expressive physically.
Daria is in the autumn of her career, let's say.
Her body still works very well,
but she does have limitations because of serious injuries.
You might be on on Wednesday.
-You pay me like you pay her, yes?
-I'll give you her fee.
'We're all hoping Polina's going to make it.'
She will be here, probably, but it's rehearsals they need.
And he'll be panicking. She could arrive today.
If she doesn't get away today,
we're looking at possibly flying Derek and Vadim to Berlin
to rehearse on Saturday and Sunday,
and then they'll come back to London on Monday,
but it's just a bit of a waiting game until we find out whether her visa's going to be approved or not.
Because Vadim is Russian, he needs a visa to go into Germany,
so it's not as simple as putting them both on a plane tonight to Berlin.
Time is running out for Polina.
If she doesn't get her visa today,
she will not arrive in time for the opening night,
due to a national holiday, and Daria will have to step into the breach.
I'm feeling exhausted, but mainly because I haven't slept last night.
A tiny bit stressing, you know?
It's getting a bit closer.
I'm worried I'm going to do opening night, which I don't want to do.
I know it sounds really strange, but...
You know, in my age, I don't need all this.
You now, you think after 20 years if I do one more opening night
and critics will see me, that I just will become a star suddenly?
I don't think so. It's important for Vadim, but not for me anymore.
I just want to enjoy myself. And the less pressure the better.
I just know she will get the visa, I know for sure,
because I am not doing the opening night!
Even though Polina hasn't arrived,
Derek has a busy schedule rehearsing other principal dancers.
Derek says this is what it is, do it.
So we don't have anybody going, "No, I don't know what that is," or, "I never did that."
Just unnecessary anxiety for everybody.
As if we haven't got enough anxiety without the ballerina being here,
trying to rehearse four, five different casts.
We just don't need any other problems.
Different casts play different nights through the two-week Swan Lake season,
and each cast must learn the same steps.
You, go now. Go.
And a kiss.
How come I know it? How come I know it?
And, end of kiss into hug.
Have a look.
Hi, I know you need a visa to travel to Germany,
and I'd heard that you applied for a visa to do a gala in Prague,
and I just wanted to check if you'd actually got a visa for that?
-No, I didn't get it.
-You didn't apply for it? OK.
All right. That just makes it impossible now.
Andrew gives Derek a final update before the weekend deadline.
I mean, it's three o'clock in Germany,
and the visa office closes at five, so there's,
we've got a minute, but it's hardly likely.
-I just don't think it's going to happen on Friday afternoon.
OK, you're not going to Berlin, then? So, if she doesn't get it today, what's going to happen?
Did anybody talk to you?
They don't talk to dancers.
Vadim has been called for an emergency rehearsal
at the Royal Albert Hall.
It looks amazing.
This is the first time he's ever been to the venue.
We have lost Polina for the opening night,
and I was hanging on for as long as I could
to try and see if we could get her here,
but unfortunately the visa didn't come through today, so she wasn't able to fly.
So, darling, I have an early Christmas present for you,
a very early Christmas present for you.
-What have you done to me?
-You have to be on there, darling, on Wednesday night.
-What do you mean, what have I done to you? Tell me.
-I'll do my best.
Of course you'll do your best, absolutely. And more.
-I'll try my best.
-You'll do your best and more.
'Daria is a very good dancer, she is the company ballerina.
She will go on and give a very good performance, I'm sure.'
It just doesn't have the same element of excitement for me
because I'm not working with the two artists that I put together,
so I lose the buzz, and I lose my energy,
because it's not really the picture I wanted.
Very nervous, actually. When I came here, I expected
he's going to be absolutely horrible to me, but I'm ready, you know?
I'm ready for the worst rehearsal in the world!
Stop, stop, stop. You're really in the wrong place.
You should be right over here, kids.
'With somebody who takes over from somebody else,
'the expectations become greater.'
Look at the leg.
'But, yes, a lot of hard work has to go into this rehearsal tonight'
to get anywhere near what I would be satisfied with as a performance.
One, and a two.
Slower and slower and slower and slower.
We won't be out before midnight.
'You have to look at it also psychologically, because you can'
damage the person rather than build them if you're not careful with them.
Vadim, Vadim, here, here.
You have to do what I tell you to do.
Everything I tell you to do, you must do.
Do you love her? Look, do you love her?
Yes, I love her.
I've told you a thousand times now.
The story is being told all the time, it's so important.
You know, 48 hours to go and I'm still telling you the story.
Everything we've worked on, I want to see.
And I'm seeing a quarter of what I want to see.
You got to a really good level, and now you've just let it all go again.
For fuck's sake! Unbelievable. And I have to watch it.
Two, one, two and one.
I'm so fed up.
'I'm quite an insecure dancer, but here, deep inside me, I'm ambitious.
'I'm just not going to give up just because I'm insecure,
'so I just go and fight it, all this criticism,
'and I just want to go and prove to him, well, yes, I can do it.
'Even if you are screaming at me, I can do it.'
It's like being in Paddington Station, isn't it?
A foggy day in London town.
Obviously, everybody thinks there's too much smoke!
The company are preparing for the dress rehearsal, and it's the last chance for the swans to impress.
Elephants, elephants. Listen to the shoes. Elephants.
Look across. Lara, gone too far.
Against the odds, Adeline has made it to the Royal Albert Hall, in touching distance of opening night.
'It's been very nice to be back.'
I'm not performing 100%, but it will be coming.
I have been holding on pretty well.
'It's been hard, I'm not going to say it was painless, but I enjoy it more and more.'
-It's not bad, actually.
-It's actually not bad.
The dress rehearsal feels like opening night, with a large invite-only audience.
The dancers will perform this production to a live orchestra for the first time.
There's no room.
So, you know, there's 60 of us back there,
we're all in the same tutus and you remember who you're behind
by their leotard or their hair,
and suddenly, everyone's got a bun in and is in a white tutu and you're like, oh, my goodness!
Before we ran on, every time there's like, "Where is someone?" You know. It's just constant chaos.
Holding the positions is worse and harder
than actually dancing, because it just aches every muscle.
'And you can get pins and needles in your legs,
'or they could start to get cramp and it's really painful.
'You can feel sweat pouring down and sometimes I get an itch as well, but you just can't move.
'You just have to let it go and let it all drip down.'
Some of the students looked like rabbits in the headlights.
They're a bit like, "Oh, God, I've moved too early," then they jump back.
All the back people went... And they had to try
and space themselves out and it just looks unprofessional.
Oh! So slack!
There are also issues with the orchestra,
who are playing at a different tempo than the dancers are used to.
It's the first time the music director has seen the pace of the full performance,
as he was unable to attend some earlier rehearsals.
But to actually be conducting without having attended any rehearsals is outrageous.
Tempi all over the place. Too fast, too slow, too in between.
We spend weeks and weeks and weeks on this,
and then a conductor walks in on the last day
and just completely wrecks he whole rehearsal.
All the diverts are the wrong tempo.
I gave him such a bollocking in the interval. We had such a row.
He knows he's wrong. He knows he's wrong, cos he couldn't say anything to me.
-I said, "How are you coming here unprepared?" "I've watched a DVD," he said to me.
-Did he really?
Beginning of the pas de trois was so slow.
-That was very slow.
-You know, there are so many things.
-They could deal with that.
-Yeah, but it's not the point. It shouldn't be like that.
-I know. But, Derek, unless you...
-He has to be here for a week.
But he's a good conductor. He's done it before.
-It's not like...
-He doesn't look like a good conductor to me.
He is experienced and he's done Swan Lake.
With a live orchestra, it will be different every time,
and every conductor will be slightly different.
A dress rehearsal is just that.
It's a rehearsal to make sure
that the costumes work, that the music works,
and so the rather tactless way that any issues were addressed to me, they hit hard.
But then I decided to just... let him blow his hot air out.
This is a ballet company. We're not a war factory.
We're don't make armaments. We're an arts organisation
and we should behave like one.
Oh, God almighty!
Look at her.
In for... the hug.
Dreadful. Absolutely dreadful. I'm not going to give her corrections,
I'm just not. I don't mind talking to him.
It just wastes my time talking to her.
There is so much to correct, there is so much to change.
I can't be bothered. It's awful. I'll spend an hour with him, if you like.
I'm not going to waste my time on people who don't listen and who don't care.
I'm very nervous about tonight,
because there are a lot of elements that I don't feel are really that secure.
Good luck, ladies. Enjoy. Good luck, everybody.
-Lots of smiles.
'I'm worried about some of the dancers.'
We had problems with casting through injury.
We had to take one girl out of a certain number because, you know,
we just felt that she wasn't really ready for it and up to it.
'So she had to be replaced.'
-I've travelled the world to find you. All right?
Enjoy. Really enjoy it and be calm and be collected, elegant.
Think of all the other things except the dancing, yeah?
You'll be very good, very good. Enjoy it.
Where am I going now?
Swan Lake is a box office success, with a sell-out crowd of just under 5,000.
Some have flown from across the world to see the guest star.
No disrespect to the current ballerina, but I didn't want to just see Swan Lake, I wanted to see
Polina Semionova dancing Swan Lake.
To be honest, I didn't want to do Swan Lake ever again, actually.
I'm a member of the English National Ballet and actually we cannot choose
which role we can do and which role we don't want to do.
So I thought, if I want to stay in the company, I have to do Swan Lake one more time,
and I would like to do Romeo and Juliet in the autumn.
So I thought, OK, I'll fight it one more time and I'll do Swan Lake.
'Ladies and gentlemen, would you please take your seats.'
Do you enjoy doing Swan Lake?
No, it's one of my favourite ballets, don't take me wrong.
It's just so hard and when you get as an older dancer,
you lose the arabesque and there is everything about arabesque.
It's much harder for me than it used to be.
What's an arabesque?
Arabesque is when you have the leg at the back.
You know when you lift the leg to the back? That's called arabesque.
How does it feel when you do that?
'Pain. Terrible pain for me.'
Physique doesn't go forever.
You sweat a lot and it actually expands quite a lot with you.
So if it's too loose, then it feels a bit unsafe at the front.
It's Act II, and 60 swans are gathering in the wings for the famous lakeside entrance.
Yeah, some of the other girls have gone a little quiet because they're a little nervous, I think.
This is the most important act, so I wasn't nervous up until now. Now I feel really sick.
They're actually right at your face,
so you can actually see people's faces and everything.
-Have you opened a bottle of shampoo?
-As good as, if not better
-than it has ever been.
-Do you think?
Well, I do, because there's a kind of drama going on.
Yes. Yeah, there's a lot of drama going on!
Have they started?
Act III has begun and Vadim and Daria are about to dance
their most challenging part of the ballet - the Black Swan pas de deux.
Maybe it's my last Swan Lake ever,
so why not try to give one more time everything?
Only a couple.
'But I feel young. I feel like I'm 25.
'I might not look like, but I feel like.'
And they say we work hard!
'So I guess maybe that's why I'm still here.'
For the finale of the routine,
Daria must complete the famous 32 fouettes,
where every perfect turn is counted by the critics.
It's looking good(!)
Well done, ladies.
'It's been such good fun. It's been really good.
'It'll be really sad when it's over.'
I really, really don't want it to end and it's definitely made me think this is definitely what I want to do
and do for kind of for the rest of my life, really.
That was really good.
He was fabulous, and she really came up. She really did come up.
Bless his heart. Ah! 20 years old, just out the school.
Bloody amazing. Bloody amazing.
How do you feel?
I think it went all right, yeah. I'm really happy.
Really hard work, but it's over.
I think second time going to be easier.
Daria was amazing.
She always comes up with the goods on the performance.
She keeps us guessing!
Yeah, I was so tired. At some moments, I didn't know what I was doing, but...
No, beautiful. Beautiful.
She looked so vulnerable and they enjoy dancing together,
so it becomes something really very special.
By the time you got to the third, it was very good. Very good.
-You've got to go over the top in the fourth act.
Yeah, but you're not going over the top. You say even more...
-But it's so hard.
-Yeah, but you have to do it.
You have to do it. You have to flap, you have to suffer,
or else it doesn't look like you're trying to be desperate to stay alive.
-I'll keep trying. I'll keep trying.
It's very hard to please Derek.
It's very, very hard to please Derek.
But if you please him, it means something.
But you know what? I'm happy. It was the first show, you know,
and the first show is usually the worst because it's just the start.
'Ladies and gentlemen, congratulations on a fantastic opening night.
'We will see you tomorrow for class onstage at 11.30.'
Guest star Polina Semionova eventually performs, six days after opening night.
Rachel is still training for her first professional contract.
Since Swan Lake, Daria and Vadim have become English National Ballet's number one partnership,
with their performances winning rave reviews, comparing them to Nureyev and Fonteyn.
Romeo and Juliet's unique. It's not a love story in Rudolf's productions.
The whole story, it's about death.
We're short of boys, so we have to be very careful with them.
I came to stab him and caught the blade instead of my hand.
Already this week, we have three guys off.
There's swelling a bit, I'm afraid.
One thing that's going to happen
is there will be cuts to the arts budget.
We have to at least look at redundancies.
There's only one week left. Now we can start
to do bad cop and get them scared.
That's a ball breaker.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Exclusive behind-the-scenes series which follows English National ballet on their 60th anniversary and reveals the complexities of staging world class ballet.
The ballet world is traditionally one of poise, serenity and calm, but this raw and enlightening series follows the company over one of its toughest and most dramatic years to date - from the extravagant production of Swan Lake and the battles of Romeo and Juliet to the turbulent creation of a brand new Christmas Nutcracker. Every production must be an artistic and commercial success and the dancers and staff are under increasing pressure to deliver in the present financial climate.
Told through the eyes of the very people who make this physically challenging art form beautiful, this is the revealing truth of the dancers' lives - from injury and exhaustion to accolades and elation. All in the pursuit of perfection.
From the rehearsal room to the boardroom to the magical big night performances - the fruition of months of hard work that make it all worthwhile - it follows the main players within English National Ballet over an industry-defining year. From the dancers to the artistic director via the choreographers and the management behind the scenes, it goes deep inside a modern arts institution.
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.