Saturday, 23 November 2013

Come Off It (Strictly Come Dancing tour)

It's another less than fascinating fact from my childhood that my mother banned us from watching Come Dancing. In a house where ballet ruled, ballroom was not seen as appropriate viewing, a bit like Grange Hill and those films on Channel 4 with the red triangle. This might explain why I would later champion the most difficult choreography I could find (I was an early adopter of Michael Clark), and that my attitude towards Strictly Come Dancing (which my mother and father now watch) is limited to grinning every time it is mentioned (thanks to a memory of the playground joke).
However, the tour of Strictly has answered one of my key questions about the SECC Hydro, Glasgow's newest venue. Would any theatre or dance shows manage to fill the space? I know Still Game managed, but the Strictly tour explains everything. There can be stadium theatre and dance - just like stadium rock, relying on the large gesture and the immensity of scale - as long as it has been on TV first. 
They have stars lined up for it - I have never heard of them, not having a TV (Natalie Gumede and 'actor and funny man' Mark Benton) or being a rugby fan (Ben Cohen). The press release promises more celebrities will be announced soon, and my mind wanders to a fantasy version, called Strictly Interesting Dancing in which celebrities don't do a cha-cha-cha but, instead, a scene from works by Pina Bausch or Swan Lake

Back in the day, Come Dancing did champion a social dance form - whatever my mother's objections were, she can't deny that it tapped into a lively tradition that was still tearing up the community halls across the UK. I am not sure about the current status of ballroom in the hearts of the nation (frankly, I remain a snob and anyone who does a tango that is not strictly Argentinian gets little respect). But this Strictly business is all about the cult of celebrity. Much as I would like to claim it as a triumph for public perceptions of dance, I think it is the BBC's version of that show where Ant and Dec make desperate stars gobble ants and that. 

The tour also has a judging part, as well: just like the TV show, they have a panel. The panel are celebrities as well, mainly for being the panel on the... 

I am regretting getting into this. I wanted to do a little piece about what the tour might signify. Instead, I am getting exhausted by having to type 'celebrity' every other line. Hell, no-one is reading this far. I might deconstruct the press release later. Unfortunately, my savagery towards the show is tempered by the enthusiasm of the stars. They read as rather sweet. 

On announcing his place on the tour, Ben Cohen said: “I love to test myself and Strictly has certainly been a challenge, but I’m growing in confidence with every week that passes and I’m starting to feel at home on the dance floor now. What better way to take things one step further than to perform in front of thousands of people every night, in some of the biggest arenas in the country? Count me in!”

Natalie Gumede added: “I'm hugely excited to be part of the Strictly tour, it’s the perfect excuse to keep dancing! I'm having so much fun and I've learnt so much already, I just want the experience to last as long as possible. Dancing for all the fans who have voted to keep me in the show will be really special, I can’t wait.”

Mark Benton also commented: "Entertaining arena audiences with my ever evolving dance steps will be a fantastic way to start the New Year. I cannot wait to hit the road and recreate my favourite routines for fans around the country."

If you must go, here are the dates. I actually quite fancy seeing Cohen shake his booty - the connection between sport and dance is under-examined and I might even be able to write something about 'physicality and the arts' on the back of it. I'll probably get annoyed by Benton - he's the 'funny man,' so I bet he does it badly and gets pelters off the panel, to the crowd's amusement. 

Maybe I could be less close-minded about entertainment that, you know, appeals to a big audience. Even my mother has got over it.

17 – 19 January Birmingham: NIA 0844 338 8000

(Friday 17th at 7.30pm, Saturday 18th at 2.30pm and 7.30pm, Sunday 19th at 1.30pm and 6.30pm)

20 – 21 January London: Wembley Arena 0844 815 0815

(Monday 20th at 7.30pm and Tuesday 21st at 7.30pm)

23 January Liverpool: Echo Arena 0844 8000 400

(Thursday 23rd at 2.30pm and 7.30pm)

24 – 26 January Leeds: First Direct Arena 0844 248 1585

(Friday 24th at 7.30pm, Saturday 25th at 2.30pm and 7.30pm, Sunday 26th 1.30pm)

28 – 29 January Sheffield: Motorpoint Arena 0114 256 5656

(Tuesday 28th at 7.30pm and Wednesday 29th at 7.30pm)

30 – 31 January Newcastle: Metro Radio Arena 0844 493 6666

(Thursday 30th at 7.30pm and Friday 31st at 2:30pm and 7.30pm)

1 – 2 February Glasgow: The SSE Hydro 0844 395 4000

(Saturday 1st at 2.30pm and 7.30pm, and Sunday 2nd at 1.30pm and 6.30pm)

4 – 5 February Nottingham: Capital FM Arena 0843 373 3000

(Tuesday 4th at 7.30pm and Wednesday 5th at 2.30pm and 7.30pm)

6 – 7 February Manchester: Phones 4u Arena 0844 847 8000

(Thursday 6th at 7.30pm and Friday 7th at 7.30pm)

8 – 9 February London: O2 Arena 0844 856 0202

(Saturday 8th at 2.30pm and 7.30pm, and Sunday 9th at 1.30pm and 6.30pm)

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