You may not be aware of it, certainly until the turn of the last century I hadn’t a clue, but at this time of the year, all over the country, dance schools are preparing for their Christmas Shows, their annual showcase of the year’s classes, the chance for mums and dads to watch Jasmin and Kylie, Margot and Mandy, perform, to see where their investment has gone, to be proud of their offspring. There are not many Freddie’s or Gene’s at these gigs; normally they’re down the park playing footy or stealing a car up The Mead. The teachers are normally girls too, their catchment children from the age of four to about eighteen though I do know one grandma that took part once. No, not mine and not very edifying.
If a dance school has been going for a while the teachers will find this part of the year tuff, for each show has to have a theme. Of course you could pick Disney, Michael Jackson, Bacharach and David, The War, Musicals or anything you like. But once you’ve picked your theme and used it you can’t really use it again for a decade or so, just in case the parents think that you can’t create anything new.
The Movies is the single most popular genre that schools perform to so there was no surprise this week that Strictla, the quarter final, featured exactly the same.
My favourite movies are born from my era; Errol Flynn in Robin Hood, Butch and Sundance, The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Towering Inferno, Bond, the latter a theme in itself. Songs? Robin Hood, Robin Hood riding through the glen . . . or maybe Burn Baby Burn . . .
This week we got Reservoir Dogs, Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves rather than Men In Tights, Pretty Woman, Zorro, Singing In The Rain and Shrek. We also got a remarkable standard, save one performance, sorry Rob, 39, 38, 37, 36 and 34. Rob did okay with 30 in his Quick Step, a score to match his Tango of week three but one shy of his American Smooth.
Here they are in order.
Top of the shop, her average for her last five dances 36.2, was Chelsa, dancing a Jive to ‘I’m A Believa’. There was no sign of Puss in Boots brandishing an epée but on the stage was a make-shift donkey, no room for a stallion, and unda all that green make-up was Pasha, apparentla. Me, I thought it was Shrek, a trimmed down version with nifta footwork.
The Jive is the paciest of the pacy and it can at times look frantic and manic but Miss Wobberla seems to have been cured except during an occasional turn where spotting would help but with such a high tempo song she had to be sharp, bubbly and on it and she was. Technically she was spot on and she really sold this feel good song with aplomb. Ogre-tastic, you could say! See what a good track can do? Happy, buoyant, smiling, terrific. It does make all the difference. Imagine dancing to a dirge like ‘You Don’t Bring Me Flowers’ and you’ll get what I mean.
The final at Christmas will be determined by the Show Dance. She had better get practising.
When I was a lad there were two ‘hero’ shows that we watched avidly on TV; The Lone Ranger and Zorro. Both heroes would tilt at windmills and defend the defeated, the former dressed like The Milky Bar Kid with a mask, the latter’s by-line being ‘to avenge the helpless and to punish cruel politicians’, a job still much needed.
Zorro, the Spanish for fox, was the alter ego of Don Diego Vega, a fine swordsman disguised by just a black hat and a mask that covered his eyes. How the bad guys didn’t spot who he was I don’t know.
Anyway, not one to stick to tradition on comes Artie, bare chested in black pants and jacket with red trim, a ‘Z’ on the back not an ‘R’ for R-Tem, a cape in his hand, no sword to be seen, and his head, hatless, thank goodness, but covered in what can only be described as a hangman’s hood.
Holly Hot Lips, for her part, looked very at home playing the Zeta Jones role in this simple but dramatic routine – there are not many proper dance steps in a Paso – the music, James Horner’s ‘The Train’ from the movie The Legend of Zorro, was perfect and once again the choreography was terrific, Artie’s knee walks mighty impressive, a bit like me trying to get off the floor after a few too many beers before going to bed. The Flamenco was sharp, her attitude hard, her shapes strong. One minor disappointment; they missed the finishing drop, the timing off by the most minor of beats. As they marched towards the host at the end, she glanced at Artie, he at her, it was late and they knew it. The judgies didn’t seem to care though. No one mentioned it.
Technology has moved on somewhat since the days of John Logie Baird but still there is no way for the viewer to have a real-time interactive communication with the show, you know what I mean, one where the performers can respond to direct requests from the audience at home. On radio you might need one too, one where DJs listen to protestations about talking over music and actually shut up.
Well, our Jase went at the American Smooth to ‘Singing In The Rain’ for a full minute before he was in hold or before Kristina deigned to take part. Yup, you got it, we were shouting ‘Get On With It!’ and ‘Close Your Mouth’, all falling on deaf ears. That said, in a world of karma and instant messages, Jase was plonked into the last two in spite of his performance, a clear communiqué, not from God, but from the GBP who really got it right.
The lamp posts were back out of the prop box, this time joined by the brolly, beautifully used to lift Kristina before they decided to actually dance. A minute of routine was left and generally it was sound if uninspired, a nice lift with four sections and a skip at the end that was supposed to be Gene Kelly but looked more like Norman Wisdom.
In fourth place for the night, unbelievable but true, and deserved, was Harry, the man with the feet that can do anything except Salsa . . . or Rumba.
Dressed like a cowboy with a scarf to hide his hickies, his pants brown, there was no sign of Lincoln Green or a bow and arrow but we did have the minstrel Alan-A-Dale singing ‘Everything I Do, I Do It For You’, top of the pops in AD 1096 and still on top nine centuries later. There was no sign of Robin Hood either though Robin Windsor was back, his foot repaired, his size nines planted firmly against Brendan’s neck, blaming him for his exit last week.
You might get bored with my little tirades at Aliona for they could easily be the same each week; when is she going to let him dance? This routine was another success for Ali, a great story, beautiful lines and another chance for her to showcase herself. I think I spotted Harry do eight bars of Rumba, the rest were turns, drops, dips, an off-time rock, a slip from her – did you see it? – and he even managed a gentle placement of his cheek on her upper left chest.
But there wasn’t enough of Harry.
Will someone please tell her?
When Roy Orbison recorded ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’ in 1964 I bet he would never have dreamed that it would be used in a film some twenty-six years later about a businessman and a prostitute. Similarly, twenty-one years thereafter, who would have believed that this song would have been chosen to dance a Fox Trot to, even in the guise of an American Smooth?
When Alex Jones strutted down the stairs looking every inch a million dollars the audience were entrapped. Then the music started. And it was all over. All interest lost.
James made Alex look very good, he does that well and the routine was fine but at a closer glance her technical flaws were there to be seen, another one wobbly on turns, another with feet chasing, concentration winning the day over performance, her memory trying to claw back the routine in her head. Alex felt that it was an amazin’ feelin’. When she watches it back one can only hope that she reaches for her copy of Guy Howard . . . Techniques of Ballroom Dancing.
The person who can now close that book, should he so desire, is young Robbie, back at home, hair straighteners in their own box, a man content with his dancing lot. He did well to get this far and it is only right that the best five dancers are left to contest for the glitter ball.
Robbie and Ooer-la appeared on the stage dressed in black suits, white shirts and a black tie apiece. Aha, I thought, here comes a song from The Blues Brothers. But no, ‘Little Green Bag’ was the tune. No, never heard of it either. Someone told me it was from a film called Reservoir Dogs, a cult movie, violence aplenty.
Perfect for the Quick Step then?
At first glance the thing you notice about Robbie in this outfit is that he really does have skinny legs, the last time I saw legs like that there was a message tied to them. At second glance he appeared a little bowlegged. The look is important for more than just aesthetics. Robbie looked like a gangster and that is how he danced. Had he looked like a prince he would have danced accordingly.
The result was an unsophisticated performance, two thirds content, one part walking and strutting, not the mark of a champion. It would have been better had he exited after a Fox Trot. Quick Step Oscar doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
So, on then to the semi-final, five cupples, each of whom will do two proper dances, no gimmicks, just the real content that the audience crave. This week’s show was an hour of glitz, fluff and padding, the ‘training’ clips more akin to a poor sketch show, almost demeaning this one, just the ten minutes of dancing.
Time to dubble that and then we’re back in business, dubble the pressure, dubble the effort and dubble the satisfaction. After all that I fancy a drink.
Mine’s a pint.
December 7th 2011