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Christmas dance on television

Posted on December 17, 2015


strictly-christmas-bbc-guy-levyWe’ve gone through the listings with our highlighter pen, seeking out dance on television over the festive period, from Strictly to ballet to the traditional New Year’s Day concert from Vienna. We were feeling completist, so decided to include circus spectacle and migrating birds on our list.





Saturday 19 December

Strictly Come Dancing, BBC1, 6.35pm and 9.00pm

It’s the final! Who will waltz off with the glitterball trophy this year? Don’t forget to check back for Marianka Swain’s Strictly Speaking verdict on Monday.

Rudolf Nureyev: Dance To Freedom BBC2, 8.50pm. New drama documentary on Nureyev’s defection to the west in 1961. It combines interviews with former dancers, friends and KGB men, plus reconstructions starring the Bolshoi Ballet’s Artem Ovcharenko as Nureyev.


The Nutcracker, Movie Mix, 12.35pm. Part-animated film version of the Christmas ballet, starring Elle Fanning.

Cable and satellite

BalletBoyz: A Chance to Dance, Sky Arts, 7.00am. Documentary series in which Michael Nunn and William Trevitt seek new dancers.

Cirque du Soleil: Fire Within, Sky Arts, 8.15am. Series charting the journey of young acrobats working toward the Canadian circus troupe’s production Varekai.

Sunday 20 December

The Sound of Music Live! ITV, 7.30pm. Former Strictly champion Kara Tointon and Katherine Kelly lead the cast in a live stage musical adaptation of the Von Trapp story, made famous by the film with Julie Andrews (which will be shown on BBC1 on New Year’s Day). 


Stepping Out, Movie Mix, 6.50pm. Liza Minnelli stars in the tale of amateurs training to become a dance troupe.

Monday 21 December

The Making of The Sound of Music Live, ITV, 8.00pm. Behind-the-scenes programme for last night’s live show.

Mumbai High: the Musical, BBC4, 11.00pm. Musical documentary set in a school in Dharavi, the biggest slum in Asia. It features footage of the children’s lives, with songs reflecting their dreams.

Cable and satellite

Swan Lake, Sky Arts, 9.35am. Zenaida Yanowsky, Nehemiah Kish and Gary Avis lead the cast in The Royal Ballet’s production, filmed in 2012.

Les Patineurs, Sky Arts, 3.30pm. Frederick Ashton’s joyful skating ballet, performed by The Royal Ballet.

Tuesday 22 December


Annie, Sky Greats, 6.00am. 1982 musical film about the Depression-era orphan.

Oliver!, Sky Greats, 8.20am. 1968 film of the Lionel Bart musical, with a cast including Ron Moody and Oliver Reed.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Sky Greats,10.55am. Dick Van Dyke stars alongside the flying car in this 1968 musical.

The King and I, Sky Greats,1.25pm. Shall we dance? Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr star in the 1956 musical.

Into the Woods, Sky Greats, 3.45pm. Meryl Streep stars in this 2014 adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim stage musical.

Chicago, Sky Greats, 6.00pm. Screen adaptation of the Bob Fosse musical, starring Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta Jones.

Grease, Sky Greats, 8.00pm. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John are 1950s teenagers in love in this 1978 musical.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Sky Greats, 10.00pm. Let’s do the Time Warp again! Tim Curry stars in this camp cult musical.

Little Shop of Horrors, Sky Arts, 11.45pm. A killer plant with a soulful voice is the heart of this cult musical.

Cable and satellite

A Season at the Juilliard School, Sky Arts, 6.00am. Series looking behind the scenes at the prestigious New York school of drama, dance and music.

Wednesday 23 December


The Glenn Miller Story, Channel 5, 2.30pm. James Stewart stars as the band leader.

Mamma Mia!, ITV3, 8.00pm. Meryl Streep and Colin Firth lead the cast in this Abba-themed musical. 

Christmas Eve, Thursday 24 December

We haven’t spotted any dance today, which should give you time to finish wrapping presents…

25 December

Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special, BBC1, 6.15pm. Six former contestants return for a festive battle: Tom Chambers, Abby Clancy, Alison Hammond, Harry Judd, Cassidy Little and Lisa Snowden, plus a performance by Shirley Bassey and dance sequences filmed in the great hall of Hogwarts from the Harry Potter films.

carlos-bbc-roh-tristram-kentonCarlos Acosta’s Carmen, BBC4, 7.30pm. Carlos Acosta said farewell to The Royal Ballet with this new production of Carmen, starring Acosta himself with Marianela Nuñez and Federico Bonelli.







Darcey’s Ballet Heroes, 8.50pm, BBC2. Darcey Bussell looks at the role of the male dancer, including Carlos Acosta, Edward Watson, Arthur Mitchell, Irek Mukhamedov and choreographer Matthew Bourne.




Happy Feet, ITV, 11.30am. Tap dancer Savion Glover provided the moves for Mumble the penguin in this animated movie.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Channel 5, 1.05pm. Howard Keel and Jane Powell star in the musical tale of a rancher’s new wife who finds she has to look after his six unruly brothers. Michael Kidd staged the musical numbers – look out for New York City Ballet’s Jacques d’Amboise among the dancers.

Cable and satellite

The Nutcracker, Sky Arts, 1.05pm

Boxing Day, Saturday 27 December

The Dancing Cranes of Sweden, BBC4, 9.50pm. It’s a nature programme rather than human choreography, but promises the spectacle of migrating birds, dancing around the edge of a lake on their northward journey.

Cable and satellite

Merce Cunningham: a Legacy of Dance, Sky Arts, 6.00am. Documentary on the radical modern dance choreographer, who explored the separation of dance, music and design.

BalletBoyz: A Chance to Dance, Sky Arts, 7.00am. Documentary in which Michael Nunn and William Trevitt seek new dancers.

Sunday 27

Gypsy, BBC4, 9.00pm. Imelda Staunton won rave reviews and awards for her performance as Mama Rose in Jonathan Kent’s production of the Stephen Sondheim/Jule Styne musical, filmed live at London’s Savoy Theatre. 


Mary Poppins, BBC1, 1.50pm. Julie Andrews stars as the magical nanny. 

Monday 28


An American in Paris 10.50am Channel 5. Gene Kelly stars in and choreographed this lavish MGM musical, set to music by George Gershwin.

High Society, Channel 5, 3.55pm. Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra star in this musical comedy, based on the Philadelphia Story.

Cable and satellite

The Nutcracker, Sky Arts, 8.00am. Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man, Sky Arts, 1.40pm. Bourne’s production for New Adventures turns Bizet’s Carmen into a pulp noir tale of lust and murder in a 1960s American diner/garage. 

Cirque du Soleil: Ka, Sky Arts, 5.00pm. Film of one of the Canadian circus company’s spectaculars.

Tuesday 29


Show Boat, BBC2, 8.45am. Ava Gardner, Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson star in this 1951 film of the Jerome Kern musical.

Cable and satellite

A Season at the Juilliard School, Sky Arts, 6.00am. Documentary on the New York school of dance, music and drama.

Dance, Dance, Dance: Ballet, Sky Arts, 6.35am. Dance on Screen, Sky Arts, 6.45am. Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man, Sky Arts, 8.00am. Bourne’s production for New Adventures turns Bizet’s Carmen into a pulp noir tale of lust and murder in a 1960s American diner/garage.

Wednesday 30


White Christmas, 1.10pm Film4. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye star as two army buddies putting on a show. The dance numbers include the Martha Graham spoof, “Choreography”.

Annie Get Your Gun, Channel 5, 1.55pm. Betty Hutton stars as sharpshooting Annie Oakley in this 1950 film of the Irving Berlin musical.

Dirty Dancing, 5*, 9.00pm. Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray star in this romantic drama. 

New Year’s Eve


The Wizard of Oz, Channel 5, 3.55pm. Follow the yellow brick road! Judy Garland stars in the classic movie musical.

Silver Linings Playbook, Film 4, 11.10pm. Romantic comedy starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as a couple who hope a dance competition will be therapeutic.

New Year’s Day

New Year’s Day Vienna Concert, BBC4, 7.00pm. The Viennese get up early enough for the traditional New Year’s Day morning concert of waltzes and polkas by the Strauss family and others, often staged with dancing. British viewers can sleep in and catch highlights.


The Sound of Music, BBC1, 1.15pm. Julie Andrews stars as the nun-turned-governess in this celebrated musical. 

Pictures: Top: Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special. Photograph: BBC/Guy Levy

Middle: Marianela Nuñez and Carlos Acosta in Carmen. Photograph: BBC/ROH/Tristram Kenton

Bottom: Darcey’s Ballet Heroes. The Royal Ballet’s Nicol Edmonds and Fumi Kaneko being coached by Jonathan Cope and Darcey Bussell at the Siobhan Davies Studios. Photograph: BBC/Leopard Films/Bill Cooper

Zoë was born in Edinburgh, and saw her first dance performances at the Festival there. She is the dance critic of The Independent, and has also written for The Independent on Sunday, The Scotsman and Dancing Times. In 2002, she received her doctorate from the University of York for a thesis on “Nationhood and epic romance: Ariosto, Sidney, Spenser”. She is the author of The Royal Ballet: 75 Years and The Ballet Lover’s Companion.

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