Inspiring culture: 50 works that changed our critics’ lives | Culture

Pop music

Twist and Shout by the Beatles
I could have picked any number of creation-myth soundtracks, but my father, long dead, owned all the Beatles’ early pop albums. From age four onwards, I wore them out. Dancing to the Beatles made me feel reckless. It was a kind of proto-lust: not for the men making the music, but for the music itself. Now I am aware of the context, the rhythm and blues records the Beatles ripped off. Twist and Shout (1963) is actually a cover. But for a 20th-century white person, it’s hard to swerve the Beatles as the alpha and omega of it all. Kitty Empire

1990s Pirate radio in north-east London
It’s hard to remember the exact shows, frequencies, artists or tracks. In the early 1990s, I wasn’t cool or knowledgable enough to have anything but a vague handle on the big two: Kool and Rinse FM. I just knew that every night you could twirl the dial and hear the distorted blare of happy hardcore, jungle and associated genres, sounds that turned into garage and grime. You rarely knew what you were listening to, but you knew teenagers were scaling tower blocks a mile away to hang an aerial and it all sounded mind-blowingly necessary and in real time. Apache MC’s era-defining Original Nuttah was just one gateway drug. KE

Grimes, second from right, performing with Hana, far left, at Glastonbury 2016.

Grimes, second from right, performing with Hana, far left, at Glastonbury 2016. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

Grimes tour, 2016
I’m not 100% behind her new music, but Grimes made manifest the dream of how one woman could master the gear and invent herself as a solo producer and performer. It was even better that this diminutive Canadian former dancer had such diverse inputs: Tool! Manga! Computer games! Saccharine pop! The gig she played at Brixton Academy in 2016 involved two women – Grimes and her friend, the electronic artist Hana – bounding around the stage orchestrating an industrial rave disguised as pop. Grimes herself alternated between joy and menace and anxiety. That night was a win: it seemed that one aspect of the riot grrrl manifesto had been ticked off the to-do list. KE

Pole 2
The Pole albums are being reissued soon, and I’m itching to declare how beyond magnificent they are, particularly the second one (1999), a record I love. I know nothing about either the artist – Stefan Betke, originally from Düsseldorf, now an in-demand studio technician – or his authorial intentions. But as pure sound, this is immense: minimalist techno, produced as ambient dub reggae, through a fizzing, crackling, broken processor, a Waldorf 4-Pole filter which that Betke accidentally dropped. It’s just sublime, a hydraulic termite rave. KE


Julian Bleach in Shockheaded Peter at the Lyric theatre, Hammersmith, in 2001.

Julian Bleach in Shockheaded Peter at the Lyric theatre, Hammersmith, in 2001. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

Shockheaded Peter
Shockheaded Peter in 2001 made me rip up my ideas about what a show could be. This punk musical punched through distinctions. Puppets and humans jostled together. The stories were grisly, but their effects were beautiful: when a child burned to death, the fire was evoked in a whirl of flame-coloured petticoats. The music – a creamy falsetto, a jaunty accordion – soared and attacked. I saw this during my first year at the Observer; I still think of it as one of my best ever nights in the stalls. Susannah Clapp

Escaped Alone
As I watched Escaped Alone in 2016, I realised how central Caryl Churchill’s plays are to my idea of what makes a vital theatre: urgent subjects; provoking form; intensity of speech. Inconsequential chat is interspersed with soliloquies in which catastrophe is dazzlingly imagined. Domesticity is a breath away from dystopia. As surely as any of the site-specific performances which have been another major excitement of my years as a critic, Churchill’s work has transported and immersed me. SC

Cyrano de Bergerac
Jamie Lloyd’s electric remaking of Cyrano de Bergerac (2019) thrilled me by showing how the theatre is changing. Drawing on the lessons of such groundbreaking productions as Phyllida Lloyd’s all-female Shakespeare, it showed how starved the stage has been by assuming the default position for a commanding actor is white, male, tall with an RP accent. Ticking to the vibrant sound of beatboxing, the only thing wrong with Martin Crimp’s adaptation was sticking to a title that suggested plumes and big boots. It should have been called “To Cyr, With Love”. SC

As You Like It
The show that lit up the theatre for me a child was As You Like It in 1961, with Vanessa Redgrave as Rosalind. She overflowed with feeling: every syllable seemed to argue with the next. She also wore a very interesting cap. I was fascinated by the sardonic Jaques, played by slinking Max Adrian, and I loved the shepherds making eyes at each other. I couldn’t follow everything, but the drama seemed to promise such an intriguing world, of jokes and romance and sneering. SC

Denise Gough
When I admired but failed to recognise Denise Gough as she shimmered in Desire under the Elms (2012), I realised she was one of those unusual actors who vanish entirely into each role. I’ve had a similar experience recently with the endlessly transforming Luke Thallon. Other fine actors – Fisayo Akinade, Patsy Ferran, Carey Mulligan, Thalissa Teixeira – have jolted me differently, carrying a distinctive glimmer from part to part. Seeing them early in their stage lives, trying to define what they are up to, has been one of the best bits of my job. SC

Wielopole, Wielopole (Tadeusz Kantor)
If one production could be said to have shaped my understanding of performance as a kaleidoscope of patternings, re-formed by every presentation we attend, then the Polish director Tadeusz Kantor’s 1980 Wielopole, Wielopole was that production. To me, Kantor’s work revealed the poetry of time and space expressed through movement and text. Like the teachings of Jacques Lecoq, it opened my heart to the infinite possibilities of performance: Alan Ayckbourn’s precise comedies, the anarchic wildness of Catalan company La Fura dels Baus, and everything around and between. Clare Brennan


Pan’s Labyrinth, directed by Guillermo del Toro.

‘The greatest art is created by those following their own instincts’: Pan’s Labyrinth, directed by Guillermo del Toro. Photograph: Moviestore Collection Ltd/Alamy

Pan’s Labyrinth
Described by Mexican writer/director Guillermo del Toro as the “sister picture” to The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth/El laberinto del fauno (2006) is the film that brought together my love of monster movies, fairy tales and political dramas. Set in the aftermath of the Spanish civil war, it juggles two worlds, each as “real” as the other. Having followed del Toro’s career since Cronos (1993), through the traumas of Mimic (1997) and the success of Hellboy (2004) this proved once again that the greatest art is created by those following their own instincts, without compromise. Mark Kermode

Dougal and the Blue Cat
Originally released in France in 1970 as Pollux et le Chat Bleu, this Magic Roundabout feature was redubbed by Eric Thompson and Fenella Fielding for the English-speaking market in 1972. In the days before video, listening to the soundtrack LP of Dougal and the Blue Cat (which featured music and dialogue) was the closest I got to rewatching a film at home. Playing it over and over again would conjure images of the film’s weird Caligari-esque visuals, teaching me that we can watch movies with our ears. MK

Second Coming
A reminder that the most exciting films are often the ones you know little about in advance. I saw debbie tucker green’s Second Coming (2015) at the end of two long days of screenings, and its blend of social realism and dreamlike religious analogy snapped me out of a soporific haze. From it, I learnt not pick my “film of the week” until I’d seen everything on offer – and to go into every screening with the awareness that what I’m about to see might just be a masterpiece. MK

French film-maker Julia Ducournau told me that when she was very young, her parents left her in a room with a TV on which she managed to find and watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Having grown up on horror movies, and lived through the “video nasties” panic about the corrupting influence of the genre, it was wonderful to find a modern auteur who cited a traumatic encounter with horror as a formative creative experience. Raw/Grave (2017) is a thrillingly confident debut feature, buzzing with subversive energy. MK

The Ghost That Never Returns
With Neil Brand and the Dodge Brothers, I have spent many years providing live, improvised musical accompaniment to silent films. Neil found this dizzying 1930 Soviet oddity, directed by Abram Room, which opens in a panopticon prison, moves to hallucinatory desert scenes, and finishes with a revolutionary call to arms. The strangeness of the narrative is accentuated by the fact that key scenes seem to be missing from surviving prints. Neil showed us how to fill the gaps, demonstrating the narrative power of music – using it to help the story make sense. MK

Taped from the television on a VHS cassette which warped from repeated viewings, Derek Jarman’s Caravaggio (1986) was a game-changer for me. As a teenager with an interest in cinema but, at that point, rather rigid ideas about what movies were allowed to do, watching it was thrilling and unsettling. Transgressive, iconoclastic, seductive: Jarman’s approach tore up the rules to period drama. It shaped my tastes and is one of the reasons that, even now, the cinema that excites me most is the cinema that pushes me out of my comfort zone. Wendy Ide

Albert Brooks, Holly Hunter and William Hurt in Broadcast News (1987).

Albert Brooks, Holly Hunter and William Hurt in Broadcast News (1987). Photograph: AF Archive/Alamy

Broadcast News
“News producer loves, also cries,” so goes my five-word plot summary of the 1987 romantic comedy Broadcast News. I don’t believe you have to see yourself represented to connect with a character, and certainly a brown girl growing up in suburban Birmingham doesn’t appear to have much in common with an overachieving southern belle played by Holly Hunter. Brilliant, fearsome and prone to emotional outbursts, Jane Craig is a pragmatist, driven by her ethics and dogged by her insecurities. Before the days of op-eds about aspirational yet relatable on-screen heroines, she was mine. Simran Hans

Three Colours Red
When I was 11, we went on a family cinema trip to see the third film in Krzysztof Kieślowski’s trilogy of human connection and communication. It was an alien form, but I was captivated: from the extraordinary, whooshing opening shot following a phone call across the Channel, it was the first film to make me consider what the camera could really do and why. I went home and attempted to put down in words what I’d seen, starting a film review diary that never really stopped. Guy Lodge


Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez.

Las Meninas by Velázquez. Photograph: Classic Image/Alamy

Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez
Flashing up before you is the mirror-bright vision of a little princess, her servants and the artist himself, gathered in a pool of sunlight at the bottom of a great volume of shadow that instantly sets the tenor of the scene. You know instantly these beautiful children will die, are already dead in fact, yet they live in the here and now of this moment, bright as fireflies – and what keeps them here, and alive, the artist implies, is not just his 1656 painting, but you. It means more to me than any other painting. Laura Cumming

Eva Hesse
I had scarcely seen anything by American artist Eva Hesse before Tate Modern’s 2002 retrospective. I’ll never forget the intense beauty, wit and tragicomic force of these paradoxically fragile works, made of little more than beeswax or string. Hesse could create a whole crowd of characters, like this, out of slips of paper. Her work was almost as ephemeral as the artist, who died aged 34 in 1970. Nothing looked like this before, and the fact that so much has since speaks to her extraordinary influence over contemporary sculpture. LC

Self-Portrait by Albrecht Dürer
Someone gave me a postcard of Dürer’s 1500 self-portrait as a child. It was the first time I realised that art had such power to move. So immediate yet so remote, the hair a glowing triangle, the face transfixing yet closed; I found it/ him stunning, but also frightening. It is exponentially more overwhelming in reality, with its unearthly radiance, symmetry and perfection. This painting inspired me to write a book on self-portraiture, of which it is exhibit A – amazingly frontal, Christ-like, epochal, the first great closeup. LC

The Visitors by Ragnar Kjartansson
Contemporary art absorbs elements of every other art form – poetry, theatre, cinema, music. And they are all united in Ragnar Kjartansson’s magnificent nine-screen installation, The Visitors. Shot in one take, in a crumbling mansion in upstate New York in 2012, each screen shows a solitary musician performing in a separate room. You can see them, but they are invisible to each other, unwittingly contributing to an overwhelmingly beautiful multi-part elegy for the artist’s failed marriage. Shakespeare in Woodstock; it changed my idea of what art film could be. LC

Four Mandarin Oranges by Édouard Manet
If I had money, I’d travel anywhere to see a Manet. They all come out of such deep looking and living. I saw this little canvas (from 1882) in a show of his still lifes in 2001 – lemons, asparagus, the flower paintings made when he was dying – and my exhilaration was completely primitive. I just wanted to be inside the pictures. One aim of criticism is to sustain that feeling, without any loss, while trying to express it in far more considered terms. LC


A photograph from Ed van der Elsken’s Love on the Left Bank.

A photograph from Ed van der Elsken’s Love on the Left Bank. Photograph: Ed van der Elsken

Love on the Left Bank
This book, first published in 1954, is a groundbreaking merging of fiction and reality, documentary and staged narrative that was way ahead of its time. Everything about the book – the images, the text, the characters, the setting – drew me in when I first picked it up decades later. Photographer Ed Van der Elsken brilliantly evokes the spirit of a short-lived Parisian demimonde where intellectualism and bohemianism went hand in hand. At its centre is cult icon, Vali Myers, as the semi-fictional Anne, her style – kohl-rimmed eyes, big hair and baggy polo necks – defining the beatnik sublime as she moves through the St. Germain night, trailed by a passing cast of beautiful outsiders. “I report on young, rebellious scum with pleasure,” he once remarked. This photo-book, more than any exhibitions of this work I have seen, brilliantly evokes that profane punk spirit.Sean O’Hagan

Classical music

Simon Keenlyside as Wozzeck and Allison Cook as Margret in Wozzeck by Alban Berg at the Royal Opera House, 2013.

Simon Keenlyside as Wozzeck and Allison Cook as Margret in Wozzeck by Alban Berg at the Royal Opera House, London, 2013. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

Wozzeck by Alban Berg
All my early listening – and playing – was chamber and orchestral music. I didn’t encounter much opera (outside the complete works of Gilbert and Sullivan) until later. An enlightened music teacher took me to Wozzeck (1925), Alban Berg’s tragedy about one soldier’s humiliation at the hands of his seniors. It hadn’t occurred to me that opera could reflect the human condition so probingly, or hauntingly. I fell for the music, its codes and cyphers and hidden tunes, and I fell for opera. Fiona Maddocks

The Trout
Apart from being there and doing it, nothing has conveyed the excitement of music-making like this 1969 film of the young, gifted Daniel Barenboim, Jacqueline du Pré and friends (all famous in their own right) giddily performing Schubert’s Trout Quintet. I saw it first as a child. I’ve watched it, mesmerised, countless times since. Christopher Nupen, a pioneer in independent TV film, caught a precious moment. It became history, made all the more poignant by Du Pré’s, not to mention Schubert’s, tragic demise. The joy remains indelible. FM

Brahms’s First Symphony
Many works, more radical or off-centre, hooked me early: Stravinsky; Bartók and Britten; the revelations of the conductor-composer Pierre Boulez. But this symphony made me realise for the first time how it’s not the tunes but something deeper, more abstract and emotional, that speaks to the heart. As a teenager, I bought a secondhand LP, not knowing Brahms but because I liked the moody colours on the cover. The second movement, especially, I played over and over. It felt like my own discovery. FM

BBC Radio 3
It’s guided me, exposed me to the unfamiliar, explained and informed and, yes, entertained, since as early as I can remember. It used to sound stuffy: old-style announcers. That’s gone. Maybe it’s too gushing at times, but better to enthuse than lecture. The emphasis on live music, still hanging on by a thread as the BBC teeters, gives it a vitality, energy, community: Proms, orchestras, concerts. It’s committed to experiment more than repetition. I’m glad at the success of Classic FM and Scala Radio, but Radio 3 remains the gold standard. FM


Geraldine Somerville, Robbie Coltrane and Robert Carlyle in Cracker, 1994.

Geraldine Somerville, Robbie Coltrane and Robert Carlyle in Cracker, 1994. Photograph: ITV/Shutterstock

In one 1994 episode, entitled To Be a Somebody (Part II), Robert Carlyle, shaven-head scary as embittered Hillsborough survivor Albie Kinsella, stabs DCI Bilborough (Christopher Eccleston). It was shocking not only for the violence, but for the programme’s audacity in killing off a seriously major character early. It affected me inordinately: years later, when I interviewed (with difficulty) Robbie Coltrane, it turned out the episode had the same effect on him. That eruptive, defensive, vulnerable you’re-not-me tribalism still has me jarred. Euan Ferguson

The Bridge
Scandi noir may technically have begun four years earlier in 2011 with The Killing, but Saga Norén, with her quixotic unempathy and that unlovely mud-green Porsche, ripped Sarah Lund’s sweaters to shreds. We’ve had so much of value since that plots the story not of a crime but of the effect on any community, and I wish in hindsight that 70s and early 80s television, of which much was by-numbers cop TV or dreck period drama, had given hints of some people’s personal psychoses or mental health problems. TV such as The Bridge has taught us (well, me) so much about empathy. EF

Brass Eye: Paedogeddon
Satire isn’t dead, even though the fat bluebottles are circling. Along with Black Mirror and The Thick of It, this 2001 episode gleefully shocked, not least in the range of voices who rushed to condemn, from every side of politics, without having even watched the show. As a TV critic, I’m astonishingly happy to be celebrating a revivified form of art. TV is on a new up, and will be until we’ll have seen everything, everywhere, for all time, and might as well just die. But until then… watch the bloody telly, and never, ever, condemn an artistic endeavour without having experienced it. Brass Eye inspires in me, to this day, a hatred of unthinking, kneejerk populism. EF

Black Books
This show (2000-04) was, I think, the bridge to modern comedy, supremely aided around that time by The Office, Father Ted and various sharp snarky Americans. But with Black Books, Dylan Moran and Bill Bailey gave me back my sense of humour at a truly difficult time. For anyone just back from reporting on the war in Iraq and juggling lovely girlfriends and fighting alcoholism, Dylan’s inspired refettling of a cellarful of fine wines was, is still, a hook around the neck back to reality. EF

Radio and podcasts

Annie Nightingale in 1970.

Annie Nightingale in 1970. Photograph: BBC

Annie Nightingale
I grew up listening to Radio 1: Stewpot’s Junior Choice on Saturday mornings, the Hairy Cornflake (Dave Lee Travis) on weekday breakfasts, Steve Wright in the Afternoon… But it wasn’t until I heard Annie Nightingale on Sunday evenings after the chart rundown that I understood what music radio could be. Nightingale had a broader music taste than, say, John Peel, but was alternative enough to introduce me to songs I never would otherwise have heard. She’s still on Radio 1 now, at the very Nightingale time of 2am. She still plays tracks I hate, tracks I love. She’s still the best. Miranda Sawyer

Podcast: Have You Heard George’s Podcast?
I’d been reviewing podcasts for around a decade when last year I came across George “the Poet” Mpanga’s first series. It was so revolutionary, in its daring mix of music, real life, fiction, acting, poetry and conversation, that I was genuinely astonished. Podcasting had already settled into a limited selection of formats, but George ignored those and turned it into something else: a gripping experimental journey through the intimacies of his mind and the realities of his social situation. His show assumes listeners are clever and interested enough to join his journey. Brilliant. MS

Victoria Derbyshire, 2011
Podcasting has revitalised audio in the last few years, but radio is the medium we turn to in times of trouble. The radio phone-in is where you’ll hear politics argued out, personal problems aired, worries shared… There are many phone-in shows that can make you stop what you’re doing and just listen – James O’Brien, Eddie Mair, Emma Barnett, Iain Lee – but I will never forget this utterly riveting call to Victoria Derbyshire’s old show on 5 live. Rachel, a doctor and an active alcoholic about to check into rehab, called the show to explain what it was like to be in the grips of this terrible disease. She remained a friend of the show and appeared on it several times until her death, aged 45, in 2014. MS


The net shops at Hastings.

The net shops at Hastings. Photograph: Peter Hawkins/Alamy

Net shops, Hastings
I grew up near Hastings, a wondrous nursery of architectural oddities – its disaster-prone pier, an apartment block said to be modelled on the Queen Mary, funicular railways with Norman-style turrets. Best of all are the huts erected on the shingle for storing and drying fishing nets, tarred black to resist the weather. They are built tall, like a mini-Manhattan, for lack of space. Their pitched roofs look domestic, but their shortage of windows makes them enigmatic and faintly menacing. There’s a lesson in there about form following function, which may have been lost on my young brain. Rowan Moore

The High Line, New York
Yes, the High Line is now an urban Mona Lisa, an attraction so overwhelmed with visitors as to defeat the point of going there. Yes, too, the promise to build “a high line” has now become a gimmick of more-or-less cynical city-boosters around the world. But the original idea, of turning an old railway viaduct into a park like none other, remains brilliant. The execution – with the selective retention of old metal, semi-wild planting, and occasional moments of theatre – is not bad either. RM

Dominus Winery, California
When I first came across the Swiss architects Herzog and De Meuron, in an exhibition at the long-defunct 9H Gallery in the 1980s, I loved their ability to be conceptual and physical at once – to have ideas and to bring them to life through building materials. Their Dominus winery in Napa Valley is a long, low shed whose wrapping of rough stones calms the heat, filters the light and bonds the building to its terrain. As a way of housing an ancient activity in the New World, it’s hard to beat. RM

The Alhambra, Granada, Spain
The Alhambra, which I first visited at the end of my first year at architecture school, is just plain heart-stoppingly beautiful. Not just to look at, but also for the ways it plays with your senses: the temperature of the air, the modulation of light, the scent of plants, the sound of water. It is bodily as well as visual, not just a building, but a landscape and garden too. Although it is hardly a secret, and is plainly in Europe, it somehow doesn’t feature in official histories of “European” architecture; as if this perfect summation of the power of architecture was somehow an exotic diversion. RM

Architecture: SESC Pompéia, São Paulo, Brazil
Brazilian Lina Bo Bardi (1914-92) was almost the perfect architect – her work is inventive and daring, rooted in the experiences and lives of those who use it. SESC Pompéia, a cultural, sports and social centre, is partly a subtle renovation of an old factory, partly unsubtle new build: three concrete towers linked by exhilarating bridges. It is a proud celebration of the communities it serves. RM


Fumito Ueda’s game The Last Guardian.

Fumito Ueda’s game The Last Guardian.

The Last Guardian
Japanese director Fumito Ueda’s trio of works – 2001’s Ico, 2005’s Shadow of the Colossus and 2016’s The Last Guardian – share similarities both aesthetic and thematic: a determined child protagonist, an ancient, forsaken ruin, a textless plot, a sidekick who must be both protected and relied upon. In The Last Guardian, your collaborator is a towering, abused creature who must be whistled and cajoled into position to act variously as stepping stone and transport as you work to escape a lonely castle. Unlike many other directors, Ueda is not in thrall to Hollywood, which has freed him to explore and develop his chosen medium’s unique narrative qualities – perhaps more successfully than any other. Simon Parkin

That a puzzle game as faultless as Tetris (1984) should have been designed in a Soviet laboratory feels like a kind of grand cosmic contrivance. Still, like a hypnotic virus, Alexey Pajitnov’s perfect game spread from the streets of Moscow into the world and, as the years passed, across each new wave of technological platforms. Like many, I first played the game when I was given a Game Boy for Christmas. More than three decades later, Tetris’s pristine lustre is completely undiminished. It is a game whose design feels as eternal as the Pyramids, as unimprovable as the wheel. SP

Video games evolved in the world’s amusement arcades, where financial imperatives led makers to design games orientated around taut tests of dexterity, reaction and high-score competition. This sport-like heritage underpins 2001’s Rez, but, as your character flies into the screen, shooting down futuristic foes, director Tetsuya Mizuguchi elevates the shoot-’em-up into a multi-sensory, artful experience. Each shot fired is punctuated by a quantized drumbeat, drawing the player into the role of trance musical accompanist. As you fly over wireframe landscapes, to a crescendo of soundtrack, the effect is not only beguiling, but transcendent. SP


The Ballets Russes in The Rite of Spring.

The Ballets Russes in The Rite of Spring, 1913. Photograph: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

The Rite of Spring
The Rite of Spring premiered in 1913, to outrage and riots. With its spiky, rritualistic movements, dread-filled undertow of sexual violence, folk influences and compulsive repetition, it shattered the elegant conventions of classical ballet. I saw it as a teenager on a late-night drama documentary about the Ballets Russes, and it was like nothing I’d seen before. Choreographed by Nijinsky, scored by Stravinsky, produced by the Ballets Russes, it exists in fragments, memories and reconstructions. It’s inspired many other choreographers, including Pina Bausch, Christopher Hampson and Yang Liping, and has fed into newer works like DV8’s disturbing mid-90s riff on macho behaviour, Enter Achilles. Bidisha

Jerome Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering
As a ballet-crazed child, my first visit to see the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden was in 1970, for a performance of Jerome Robbins’ magical, breezy dances to Chopin’s piano pieces, performed by a cast that included Rudolf Nureyev. My father had been determined that I would see my idol and bought great seats. We got lost en route because we’d never been to London before. I cried at the end and the die was cast; I have loved ballet for ever. Sarah Crompton

Nureyev and Fonteyn in Romeo and Juliet
Seeing them on film convinced me that classical ballet could deliver just as much edge as more recent forms. Many critics found the fiery Russian wunderkind and the steely British star duetting as a middle-aged pair of supposed teenaged lovers from ancient Verona to be pathetic, but I disagree. Their chemistry and love for one another as dance collaborators shines out, and each moment sizzles with their history together. Bidisha

In the Middle Somewhat Elevated
Created for the wunderkinder of Nureyev’s Paris Opera Ballet – the great Sylvie Guillem among them – William Forsythe’s deconstruction of classical ballet in 1987 has a casual insolence and a shattering brilliance that works like an electric shock. It made ballet look modern and relevant at a time when it seemed fusty and tired. It is still thrilling today. SC

Vogue by Madonna
I did ballet and modern at school and got dragged to Giselle and Swan Lake. But my really galvanising experiences with dance were through film. There were the three Fs: Flashdance, Fame and Footloose. There were classic dance movies like The Red Shoes. There was MTV. Then there was Madonna’s Vogue (1990, directed by David Fincher), choreographed by the great Karole Armitage: a whipping, euphoric, defiant thunderbolt in which movement and message are totally fused. It made me want to punch through the MTV screen and join La Madgesty on stage. Bidisha

Source: The Guardian

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