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A Season at the Juilliard School, Sky Arts 2 | reviews, news & interviews

A Season at the Juilliard School, Sky Arts 2

A Season at the Juilliard School, Sky Arts 2

Infomercial about arts training looks set to be distinctly undramatic

New York's Juilliard SchoolChris Cooper

“You feel like you’re walking into Fame, the movie,“ says one of three third-year drama students towards the beginning of this six-part documentary. That’s what we might have hoped of what, at least in the first episode, turns out to be a mere infomercial for New York’s prestigious academy of performing arts.

The format ought to work: start of academic year in episode one - select, out of the lucky seven per cent chosen from auditions, a dancer, actors, violinist, jazz pianist, and follow their progress. I can only hope a singer will be in the offing, too; for now, there's a palpable imbalance. The chosen few are nice enough; we’ve already heard sufficient to know that Mathis, a 17-year-old jazz pianist from France (Arte have been involved in the making of the series), and violinist Mariella are true artists. So why the programme doesn't grant them the respect of surnames, I don't know: perhaps that's a Juilliard rule.

My curiosity had fizzled out by the end of this first episode

Their respective tutors, Frank Kimbrough and Itzhak Perlman, say what we want to hear about simply supporting and nurturing the artistry within a framework that allows the students to compare and contrast. The nearest we got to a less generalized insight was Kimbrough’s telling Mathis to go into a rehearsal room, record himself playing a piece in a number of different styles for an hour, and then go into Central Park, listen back and "when it's too much, you'll know."

Drama-wise, there are also sage words from Marcel Marceau acolyte Moni Yakim, though all we see is a bunch of youngsters doing a Marat-Sade, giving you the hunch that young actors are the most unbearable of the artistic bunch. For some reason it reminded me of the auditions for the prison Christmas show in the fabulous Orange is the New Black. What we’ll need to see is the taking apart and putting together of the person I read about in a much more informative bunch of Guardian comments from famous practitioners on going to drama school. As the first week's trio are coming to the end of their studies, that isn't likely to happen.

From the pallid eulogies of the commentary here, in fact, I doubt if anything much at all is going to surprise us. All the more reason, then, for one of our own filmmakers to take the format and do the same, in much greater depth, with the Guildhall School. I imagine I’d want to follow that through; here, my curiosity had fizzled out by the end of this first episode, a party on a boat going round Manhattan island.

Three stars mean a generous hope that it gets more interesting (and I'd be happy to see much more of dancer Raymond). And if you don’t see a single picture of any of the young people involved here that’s because the lousy set-up couldn't provide any.

We’ve already heard enough to know that Mathis, a 17-year-old jazz pianist from France, and violinist Mariella are true artists


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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