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dancing in the past

So, are your silk drapes shimmering?

Are your Corinthian columns standing proud? Do the crystals from your chandeliers gently sway in anticipation of another hour's escapism into a more innocent (or so it – seems at first) world?

The past is coming calling again tonight, this time borne aloft on Jazz Age swing in Stephen Poliakoff's BBC 2 drama Dancing on the Edge, which is set in 1930s London, a time when the ballrooms in hotels looked like the ones in liners which themselves looked like department stores that looked like hotels that looked like liners.

In the eye of the imagination it's all one great, glittering magnificence in which people try to dance away the memory of the Great War and ignore the storm clouds gathering in Europe. A time of the jitterbug before the doodlebug.

We can't seem to get enough of this sort of thing at the moment. From Downton to Mr Selfridge via Upstairs Downstairs and The Paradise we're looking back and away from today's austerity – even if those days were tough too, with the Great Depression across the water and the Jarrow March here. We're feeling the squeeze in our own lives, but it's as if we say look, let's join them for that cocktail, let's sashay across the floor with them to a timeless melody that reminds us of our grandparents. Perhaps it's no coincidence that one of the sell-out shows in London now is Top Hat. The past is a different country – they know how to swing there.

It's jazz meets royals in Poliakoff's story, which is told through the eyes of a black jazz band who endear themselves to the Prince of Wales and his entourage.

The jazz of this era has something of Downton about it too, what with its own Duke (Ellington) and Count (Basie), not forgetting the eccentric pianist Thelonious Monk who was befriended by Baroness Pannonica "Nica" de Koenigswarter, daughter of Charles Rothchild, one of the wealthiest families in the world.

She grew up in Waddesdon Manor, Buckinhamshire, a Downton pile if ever there was one. Many jazz compositions honour her name, from Nica's Dream to Pannonica.

But that's too much jazz detail. That's the trouble with the music, glorious though it is: you ask for two notes and get 74. Best to get back to preparing your Art Deco for tonight. Art Dekko?

Didn't he play sax with Basie?

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