Episodes

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A Cape Sound Story2019061120190615 (R4)

Music and dance are so tied together; it is hard to imagine how a profoundly deaf dancer can become an International star in the contemporary dance world, but South African Andile Vellem has done it. Vellum lost his hearing at the age of five, but that hasn’t stopped him from dancing, or becoming the artistic director of one of South Africa's leading integrated dance Companies - Unmute.

To find out how, Nathaniel Mann, a British singer and musician, travels to the beautiful and troubled city of Cape Town for a close encounter with the talented dancer, as he embarks on a new production - Trapped Man – in which he and another dancer are bound tightly together, struggling for release.

The plan is to perform the dance out in the street but it’s a risky business. Adrienne Sichel, South African dance critic, recalls how a previous site specific dance attracted violence - a truck driven at dancers by an enraged white driver.

Andile grew up in a house full of dance. His parents were famous ballroom dancers - one of the few professional dance genres open to non-whites - and as a small child he remembers his sister holding his hand to a speaker so he could feel the vibrations created by the music. As he grew older, inspired first by Michael Jackson, and later by the rich musical history of the Cape, he learned to sense music through vibration - creating his own style of dance, including sign dance.

Now with his life partner, Mpotseng Shuping, he travels the world, performing at international festivals, and it was in Berlin that he first met UK singer and musician Nathaniel Mann. Mann follows two parallel stories; what it is to move to music which you can't hear, and how Vellum has interpreted a century of South African music, from the colonial era, through apartheid, and out the other side, through dance.

As a musical legacy, it's complex and politically weighty, but it is these sounds that Andile Vellem asked UK composers, Dom Coyote and Nathaniel Mann, and musicologist Noel Lobley, to work with as a sound track for one of this productions.

We hear his feelings about this music, his personal journey, and the recordings themselves - a powerful way in to the history of recorded South African music.

Producer: Sara Jane Hall

With thanks to Unmute Dance Company members -
Mpotseng Shuping
Andile Vellem
Siphenathi Mayekiso
Themba Mbuli
Nadine McKenzie

and Siemon Allen archivist - Flat International

All Alone - Irving Berlin - Piano Roll 9676
Marching on Pretoria - Ian Calquhoun - 1901
Wa Q'Um Udalimede - Reuben Caluza's Double Quartet 1930
Zulu Piano Medley - Thomas Mabilesta 1948
African Market Abdullah Ibrahim -1988
Slow-Moving (Trapped Man) · Orson Hentschel 2016

Giant speakers vibrating through the floor transport Andile Vellem into a world of dance.

Documentary series revealing how engagement with art has transformed people's lives.

Breath Is Life: Eileen Kramer2019060420190608 (R4)

"You don't start a dance by letting breath out, you do it by taking breath in... it's coming to life."

Eileen Kramer first fell in love with a dance in 1939 - watching the members of Gertrud Bodenwieser's company waltz to the Blue Danube in Sydney in a whirl of feeling and expression. She tracked down the Austrian dance pioneer within days, auditioned, and later joined her group - one of the first modern dance companies in Australia.

"The new dance... wishes to embrace all the human feelings, not only harmony, lightness and charm but also passionate desire, immense fervour, lust, domination, fear and frustration, dissonance and uproar. The new dance does not content itself with being enchanting and entertaining only; it wishes to be stirring, exciting and thought-provoking" - Gertrud Bodenwieser.

In this documentary, we hear how Eileen has carried this expression of feeling into her second century. Still working as a dancer and choreographer at 104, Eileen returned to her hometown of Sydney in the hopes of hearing a kookaburra. Across the decades, she has lived and danced in America, India and Europe, learned the twist from Louis Armstrong, written books, made films, fallen in love and most recently entered a self-portrait into the Archibald Prize, one of Australia's biggest art competitions.

"You have all this in you and then somebody comes along and shows you how to express it in dance... it's a wonderful thing."

Photo credit: Sue Healey
Additional recordings by Catherine Freyne and Fiona Croall
Workshop recorded at the Dance and the Child International conference in Adelaide (2018)

Produced by Eleanor McDowall
A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4

The 104-year-old choreographer Eileen Kramer takes us on a vivid dance through her life.

Documentary series revealing how engagement with art has transformed people's lives.

Elvis - A Tribute In Dance2018120420190527 (R4)

Claire Cunningham is a Scottish choreographer and contemporary dancer who performs with crutches. We join her in the studio during the research period for a new work, Thank You Very Much, which draws on Claire’s current fascination with Elvis Tribute Artists.

Claire is intrigued by the difference between impersonation and tribute, what it means to train to become someone else - or an ideal of someone else - and relating this to the lived experience of disability. She asks, “Is this also a life of being pressured to be someone you are not?”

The programme is a fun, exuberant and occasionally poignant mix of dance, music, singing, text and, of course, fabulous costumes.

Claire is a hugely respected artist who tours all over the world in both disabled and non-disabled arts festivals. For this new work, she has brought together an ensemble of professional performers who all identify as disabled - Dan Daw, Marissa Perel, Tanja Erhart and Victoria Malin - and they are all involved in the creation of the piece, which has been commissioned by Manchester International Festival and National Theatre of Scotland for 2019.

Through one-on-one masterclasses with Elvis Tribute Artists, practising harmonies, and offering up their own personal experiences of physiotherapy and speech therapy, the group not only learn to sing and dance like Elvis Presley, but also explore how paying tribute involves bringing something of themselves into the act. These tasks become part of improvisations in the studio, from which the final show will be devised.

As a choreographer, Claire is interested not so much in traditional dance techniques but in individual languages of bodies, particularly disabled bodies. For her, the lived experience of disability is inherently creative due to the ways it requires you to rethink how to move through the world.

Produced by Victoria Ferran
A Just Radio production for BBC Radio 4

We join choreographer Claire Cunningham as she creates a new work for disabled dancers.

Documentary series revealing how engagement with art has transformed people's lives.

Knife Imitates Art - How Surgeons Use Creativity20190613

Peter Curran presents a fascinating study of surgeons working in Belfast and Bristol who demonstrate the benefits of their work as musicians, songwriters and sculptors, and what that brings to the Operating Theatre.

Each offer a contrasting take on what music means to their lives; improving empathy, technique or just total immersion in a creative place that balances the life and death issues and responsibilities they face in their professional world.

In Belfast, the link between good surgeons and creativity is illustrated by the international prize-winning surgeon and Clinical Teaching Fellow at Queen's University, Ian Walsh.

Consultant surgeons Aidan Armstrong, Stephen White and Robert Cuthbert talk about the contrasting emotions of performing surgery and playing classical music concerts.

We visit the Bristol studio of Lisa Sacks, a South African plastic and reconstructive surgeon whose clinical career began in Soweto - but from the age of 13 she's been making sculptures of heads, bodies and hands. Her bronze portrait bust of Averil Mansfield, Britain’s first female Professor of Surgery is currently on display at the Royal College of Surgeons in London.

Produced by Peter Curran. A Foghorn production for BBC Radio 4

Top surgeons reveal parallel lives as sculptors and musicians.

Documentary series revealing how engagement with art has transformed people's lives.