Strictly at Wembley 17/11/12

Wembley, oh Wembley. Just once we’ve negotiated the horror of two consecutive themed nights, the loss of Artem’s chest to proceedings you are upon us.

Last year a lot of very important, overpaid people sat in a room at the BBC and thought “Wouldn’t it be great if we could find another place to put Strictly on in the week of Children in Need so that we don’t have a studio double booking?” and thus Wembley was spawned. Possibly the worst idea since Tess Daly decided to experiment with stylists circa 2006. Alas, this is the situation we find ourselves in, a televisual party to which you as the “at home” viewer are not invited, but 6,000 dance frenzy induced individuals most definitely are, but it’s Wembley, down your Saturday night tipple (or eight) and quiet with you.

The show opened with two “hilarious” staged VTs of the celebrities preparing for the mammoth trip all the way to North West London and the judges preparing for “Operation Sequin” in military style uniforms. Yes, that’s right, they’ve gone for the classic comparison of reality dance show with WW2 mission. The theme for our evening was “Dancing Through the Decades”. Lovely, except for the fact Denise Van Outen danced a Charleston, allegedly representative of the 20s era to The Bangles “Walk Like An Egyptian”. Most definitely 80s last time I checked and Nicky Byrne of Westlife performed a 50s Jive that consisted only of Rock ’n’ Roll steps. Just to top it off, they gave Pendleton a bicycle, harnessed her to it and flew her around the stadium, passing it off as a Pasodoble. It’s funny because she’s a cyclist, yah?!

Now, I am being rather harsh on what was a huge production that had hundreds of hours of work behind it but my honest judgement is that Wembley does not work as a venue for dancing. Dances are lost in the enormity of a stage that is approximately 8 times as big as the show’s regular home in TV Centre. Dances that could have wowed in the intimacy of the studio are instantly forgettable on a stage that is just too big, even for the professionals, to wow us on. Add to this the technical aspects and you find me melting in frustration; the intermittent sound quality and the screams of the audience often drowning out Bruce and co; the camera work on acid and the addition of backing dancers to performances (not a technicality but an irritant, nonetheless) and you will understand.

Returning to the dancing, and my pick of the evening was easily Michael and Natalie’s American Smooth, the one traditionally performed routine of the night. It was classy, polished and refined with beautiful, flowing choreography to boot. Denise and James’ Charleston was enjoyable but the whole concept of the music choice and dance style didn’t gel. Denise’s professionalism in this field is shining through more and more each week and I am concerned this will turn voters against her. Meanwhile, the Olympians are now both falling safely into the disappointment category with Louis Smith flouncing around the stage in his American Smooth like a teenager with a security tag at curfew time, whilst Victoria pulled an expression when she was announced to be through to next week that suggested she wishes she never has signed her life away all those weeks ago.

As far as a winner is concerned it’s difficult to look beyond Denise, her stage school background is now shining through whether she likes it or not. Louis is still rumoured to be topping to public vote but has failed to wow us whereas Kimberley Walsh’s visit to the bottom two couples two weeks ago suggest the public aren’t best pleased about the reforming of Girls Aloud.

First published on www.londondance.com

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