It’s hard to believe that ten years ago no one had heard of Strictly Come Dancing. Series One saw a mere eight couple take to the dance floor in simple costume and do a few hours of training a week, but only if they could fit it in, of course. These days things are quite different; cue red carpet launch show with Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly emerging from a vintage motor car, fifteen energetic professionals, (who are now better known than the positively B-list celebrity line-up, if the trailer has been anything to go by) dance past their adoring fans to the tune of Lady Gaga’s Applause, some clever camera work and now they’re in the studio jiving to I’m So Excited … and I really am. It’s all so grand scale, so epic, and as a long term fan it gives a lot of joy to see how the show has developed and grown.
Surprising then, in a way that it took the producers seven of those ten years to work out that the pairing up of the couples was indeed worth a show in itself, and that it might be enjoyable to see the professional dancers put on a brave face when paired with the likes of Johnny Ball and Edwina Currie in years gone by. And so the launch show was born – this year interspersed with generic warbling from Jessie J and Rod Stewart – providing excellent moments to retrieve dinner from the oven.
And what of the pairings then? Early indications suggest the producers have gone down the route of guaranteed drama. Twosomes of note include Radio London’s Vanessa Feltz and James Jordan, a pairing which will be anything but sedate. There are also some textbook pairings such as ex-Bond girl Fiona Fullerton with Anton Du Beke. If one-time winner Aliona Vilani hadn’t already got the memo that she wasn’t particularly favoured she certainly has now. (Vilani was unceremoniously axed over the summer and made no effort to disguise her sentiments. She now only has a place due to the injury of fellow professional dancer Natalie Lowe and a little judicious grovelling from theBBC). Her reward, it emerged, would be to partner veteran golfer Tony Jacklin. Her reaction was tellingly muted. My early favourite however, are the divine Susanna Reid and Kevin Clifton.
Pairings aside, highlights also include Bruce getting his tongue around some of the new professional dancers’ names – Aljaz Skorjanec, Janette Manrara, Anya Garnis and Iveta Lukosuite. Less of a linguistic challenge was Kevin Clifton … from Grimsby who is apparently going to give it “110%”, with maths like that it’s a good job he wasn’t paired with Countdown’s Rachel Riley. Other awkward moments include Tess asking actress Natalie Gumede, “You’re nothing like your character in Corrie, are you Natalie?” No, Tess, we think we can confirm she doesn’t beat her boyfriend in real life.
Of course, although they serve very little purpose at the series opener, there is a welcome return for the judges. Darcey Bussell’s instructing the celebrities to “eat, sleep and breathe dance” a contribution that fully justifes her appearance fee you’ll surely agree?
The show concluded with a group dance to This is It, which included an air borne Vanessa Feltz and some excellent Dad dancing from Mark Benton (a quick Google tells me he has been in Hairspray so I’m definitely not ruling him out yet). Appetites firmly whetted we must now wait three weeks for the competition to start in earnest. And if you can’t wait, there’s always ITV’s Strictly rip-off and general sleaze fest, Stepping Out, compered by an altogether too squawky Davina McCall. You should probably just wait then, yah?
First published on www.londondance.com