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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 1 April, 2003, 09:21 GMT 10:21 UK
Ballet comes back to BBC One
Dutch National Ballet at Sadler's Wells
The BBC has been accused of "dumbing down" its arts coverage
The first ballet to be seen on BBC One in at least two decades is being drawn up for this year's Christmas schedule.

A radical TV version of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker has been commissioned by BBC One controller Lorraine Heggessey, the corporation has confirmed.

Choreographed by Matthew Bourne, the traditional story is switched to take place in a Victorian orphanage on Christmas Eve.

Bourne's production was warmly received by critics during its run at London's Sadler's Wells Theatre last year.

It is believed to be the first time BBC will have shown a ballet for more than 20 years.

Ms Heggessey is also behind plans for a programme about the French-Canadian performing arts circus troupe Cirque du Soleil.

It will include film of their big top performances as well as behind-the-scenes footage of rehearsals.

Ms Heggessey has already commissioned an arts documentary series, Imagine, to be presented by former BBC head of arts Alan Yentob.

Her moves are being seen as efforts to stave off criticism that BBC One has cut back on its commitment to arts coverage.

John Tusa, who runs the Barbican arts centre in London, last week dismissed the BBC's arts programming as "barren".

But Ms Heggessey said: "These bold, exciting productions are a new departure for BBC One and a key part of our revitalised arts coverage."

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