Degas section of documentary about the Impressionists filmed at The Royal Ballet School
On Wednesday 19 January, we were privileged to welcome the distinguished Arts Critic of The Sunday Times, Waldemar Januszczak, to the Upper School, together with a film crew. Mr Januszczak is presenting an important four-part BBC TV documentary about the Impressionists, due to be broadcast in September 2011. This series is aiming to take a new look at the Impressionists. As part of an innovative approach in the series, Waldemar is going to the heart of the matter, and with Degas, this means dancers!
In the third of the four scheduled programmes, Waldemar discusses the work of Edgar Degas in much detail, with a focus on the artist’s paintings and sculpture of ballet and dancers. Waldemar was keen to include real dancers and therefore wanted to present this section of the episode from The Royal Ballet School, offering viewers the opportunity of seeing a real ballet class at the national ballet school. The filming also included a few of the students reproducing the ballet positions depicted in Degas’ works.
Waldemar took time out to discuss the various positions Degas used in his works, with both the dancers and their teacher Anita Young, bringing a sense of the reality of ballet to the paintings. In particular, the episode includes a close look at Degas' Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, the only sculpture that the artist showed publicly in his lifetime, and which featured in one of the original Impressionist exhibitions.
It became clear through the re-enactment of this dancer’s position, by one of The Royal Ballet School’s students, that the sculpture is in fact rather awkward and the pose would have been difficult for the model to hold comfortably for longer than a few minutes. It was only through working with the students at The Royal Ballet School that Waldemar was able to realise this important fact about Degas' work, and it will go on to feature prominently in the episode.
Pictured: Waldemar Januszczak with some Royal Ballet School 2nd Year Upper School students.
Photo: Jim Fletcher