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Why I made this film

picture of ellie taylorElly Taylor tells why she made the film: Peter Darrell Scotland's Dance Pioneer

Peter Darrell founding father of Scottish Ballet was larger than life, a one off kind of guy and I first met him when I worked on the television recording for the BBC of his ‘Nutcracker’ ballet in the late 1980’s. I attended rehearsals to get to know the work and the impact of that meeting remains with me to this day. The atmosphere in his rehearsal room at 261 West Princes Street, Scottish Ballet headquarters at that time, was one of fun, warmth and laughter. His dancers loved him and I liked him immediately. His enthusiasm was infectious and his passion for his work palatable.

So when Angela Petrie, Chair of the Peter Darrell Trust, approached me a few years ago to ask if I could get a film made about Peter Darrell, I felt compelled to try, simply because I admired his ballets, and had great memories of him. Another plus was that no film had ever been made about Darrell and his great body of work. Here was a golden opportunity. So I rose to the challenge to honour someone who created a National Ballet Company for Scotland.

Fellow filmmakers will know how hard it is to get a film commissioned but I set off on the long journey. The more research I did, the more people I met who had worked with him I knew there was a good story to tell. A must for any film. The discovery of early innovative choreographic work before he came to Scotland was so exciting and ‘Mods and Rockers’ and ‘Houseparty’ which are being screened along the documentary are only two examples of the great diversity of his work. He was a man who told stories through dance about life and human relationships. It’s a cliché but he was ahead of his time and pushed the boundaries always. Having great archive helped my film enormously and I was able to bring the past alive. Scottish Ballet were wonderfully supportive and the core of the film is a moving pas de deux from Darrell’s ‘Cheri’ danced by Scottish Ballet dancers, Claire Robertson and Owen Thorne. This brought his work into the present. With all these elements as well as great interviewees, I wrote my script and pitched like mad. In the end BBC Scotland commissioned the film. It was a journey worth taking for the man ‘who made dance speak’.

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