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Strictly Speaking – Week 9

Ah, Blackpool – home of ballroom. Or, in Strictly’s case, home of prop dancers, inflated (in most cases) scores, and alarming combos like fire, feathers and copious amounts of hairspray. At its best, it provides history, spectacle and a thrilling element of risk. Elsewhere…a well-intentioned mess. Highs this year included paddle-tease Craig finally locating his […]

South of the Border

In Mexico, Anna Pavlova danced in a bullring. Serge Diaghilev arranged Ballets Russes performances in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina in 1913 and 1917. De Basil’s Original Ballet Russe appeared in Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Venezuela. Can you point to these countries on a map, or is the entire continent beneath your […]

Strictly Speaking – Week 8

It might seem a strange statement to make while the BBC is shoving Stacey towards the glitterball, and Joe’s YouTube views have now surpassed the last six series, but one thing I’m enjoying is this year’s unpredictability. Who could have guessed that none of Lee, Vick, Dr Ranj or Danny would make Blackpool? Or that […]

Strictly Speaking – Week 7

Post-Halloween Week, and it’s possible the judges were still hopped up on Haribo and egging unsuspecting strangers, with the series’ most inconsistent show so far in terms of scoring and comments. Of course, Strictly is a mix of dancing and entertainment, ringers and J-worders, and subjective interpretations of different styles, but even so, I think viewers […]

World Ballet Day 2018

This month I’d like to offer some thoughts on this year’s World Ballet Day. Last year’s online marathon of behind-the-scenes ballet viewing was, I felt, vital for our industry because it enabled dance-lovers to go behind the curtain and witness the kind of experiences that made me want to spend my life in dance. My […]

Strictly Speaking – Week 6

Ah, Halloween Week – the annual dumbing down of Strictly. Why have subtext or delicate concepts when you can instead bumble about dressed in the most thuddingly literal, kids-dressing-up-box interpretations of groaningly repeated and/or entirely insane songs? Under such conditions, the judges’ sudden desire for technical precision seemed rather cruel – although it wasn’t applied […]

Plain and Fancy

When George Balanchine choreographed Chaconne in 1976, he chose Suzanne Farrell and Peter Martins for the principal roles. They were the leading lights of New York City Ballet at the time, and people naturally wanted to see them in anything they might dance. The Balanchine historian Nancy Reynolds has described Chaconne as “a series of […]

Strictly Speaking – Week 5

In a firm bid to counter the Sean(n) Scandal of ’18, Strictly gave us lots of new things to gripe about this week – from Couple’s Choice (of which much more anon) to someone channelling the medicated enthusiasm and incoherence of Bruno Tonioli, if not the occasional dashes of lyrical expertise. Yes, it was another […]

Strictly Speaking – Week 4

Everything’s fine, we’re all lovely, why do you ask, oh I’ve always had that twitch, silly really, just keep smiling, did I mention I rescued an orphaned puppy from a fire last week, no reason, that’s just me, and of course you know my charming children, darling where’s that smile, smile for Mummy, don’t mind […]

Hands, Eyes, Mind, Emotion

How often do you want to see a performance repeated right away, immediately, from start to finish? That’s what I longed for at the end of Shane Shambhu’s Confessions of a Cockney Temple Dancer, a solo brimming with more subtle invention and detailed information than I could absorb in one viewing. Speaking, dancing and miming […]

Shooting Stars

Rudolf Nureyev’s passion for challenge has rarely been equalled. After his defection to the west in 1961, he repeatedly claimed he wanted to explore as many different ways of dancing as possible. Having conquered the classical repertoire and created roles at The Royal Ballet for Frederick Ashton, Kenneth MacMillan, Roland Petit, Rudi van Dantzig and […]

Strictly Speaking – Week 3

Ah, Movie Week – two words about as likely to deliver satisfaction as “Southern Rail”, “Theresa May” or “Topshop feminism”. So, it comes as little surprise (though sinking disappointment) to see couples slathered in Minions yellow or trying to jam a paso down the throat of hagiographic nonsense The Greatest Showman. And yet! A few […]