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Dance at BFI London Film Festival

Posted on October 3, 2017

DUMB GIRL OF PORTICI camera e1507045391159

The BFI London Film Festival returns from October 4 to 15, with a programme that includes new and classic dance films. In the archive strand, the festival brings back The Dumb Girl of Portici, a 1915 movie starring Anna Pavlova in her only feature film role, a silent adaptation of Auber’s ballet-opera. Directed by Lois Weber, it is showing in a newly restored print with live musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne.

Danica Curcic in Darling

Among the new films, Bobbi Jene is a documentary following contemporary dancer Bobbi Jene Smith of Batsheva Dance Company. Directed by Elvira Lind, it follows Smith as she decides to return to the US and work as a choreographer. Darling directed by Birgitte Stærmose, is a drama about an internationally successful ballerina who returns to the Royal Danish Ballet to dance the lead in Giselle. It stars actress Danica Curcic and Royal Danish Ballet dancer Astrid Grarup Elbo.

Roller Dreams, directed by Kate Hickey, tells the story of Venice Beach’s 1980s roller-dancing scene, with archive footage and interviews with dancers. Then there’s nostalgia in a director’s cut of Saturday Night Fever, starring John Travolta as a would-be disco champion, and a restored print of Dario Argento’s Suspiria, a luridly-coloured horror film about an American ballet student finding terrifying secrets in a German dance academy. For dates and tickets, visit or call 020 7928 3232.


Top: Anna Pavlova behind the scenes on The Dumb Girl of Portici. Photographs courtesy of BFI London Film Festival

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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