Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Friday 17 October 2014

Strictly a Popularity Contest

I like to dance. The dort didn’t get it out of nowhere.

I danced in the ballroom right through my teens, and the husband and I took up dancing several years ago. It’s a lovely way to spend time together. We like it.

Strictly Come Dancing is a phenomenon. We don’t watch a lot of telly in our house, but we do watch Strictly Come Dancing. We’ve been watching it since the beginning. There’s ballroom dancing on Strictly Come Dancing, and Latin American, too, and the Argentine Tango and the Charleston and the American Smooth, and whatnot, which aren’t strictly ballroom, but which entertain and please us all.

Strictly on the internet
Strictly Come Dancing is telly, though. It’s all about entertainment. Let’s not pretend it’s actually a dancing competition. If it was a dancing competition, the public wouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the voting system, and the best dancers would win. If it was a Ballroom dancing competition Len Goodman would be the only judge the show actually  needed.

Strictly Come Dancing is telly and it’s entertainment. It’s about watching ‘Stars’ being fish out of water. It’s about finding things out about them that we didn’t know. It’s about watching them triumph, or, and we seem to like them better if they fall into this category, it’s about watching them fail. It’s about laughing at them and crying with them.

It’s also about making celebrities out of the professionals. We might all be charmed by Judy Murray this season, but we’re not all voting for her being a rubbish dancer, we’re all voting for Anton DuBeke, who’s become a stalwart of the show and a celebrity in his own right.

Regularly, on this show there is a hue and cry when two decent dancers end up in the dance-off and one of them has to go home. Regularly, on this show there is a hue and cry when none of the bottom two or three couples in the competition end up in the dance-off. It’s nonsense.

I doubt there is a single show on the TV and certainly not one of this kind that is not a construct. We are being manipulated, and we, in turn manipulate.

I had a conversation with a young woman while we watched last week’s show on i-player the other night. We were talking about Craig Revel Horwood. She disliked that he was not constructive that he was ‘allowed’ to be rude, and that he was ruder to some contestants than he was to others. She also wondered why Mark Wright was basically wearing skinny jeans instead of proper dancing gear. And that’s where the celebrities’ agents come into play. This stuff has got to be written into their contracts, right? 

Call me cynical, but I’m guessing there are things that Mr Revel Horwood is not allowed to say to some of the celebs, depending on what their agents have specified, and there are probably wardrobe stipulations too.

Strictly Come Dancing is a ratings success. It gives the public what the public wants, it’s good television. By definition that makes it something other than a dance competition.

I know this for sure, because I’ve been to dance competitions. I’ve been to lots of dance competitions. Do you know who turns up to dance competitions? Dancers turn up to dance competitions, dancers and their entourages. Dance competitions do not, for all sensible purposes, attract audiences. Dancers do not dance one at a time. They do not receive individual criticism. Dancing competitions are bloody gruelling, they are anonymous, they last for hours and they are sweaty, highly competitive affairs. No one earns any  money, either. They are however very real, and the best dancers win.

Strictly Come Dancing is a lot of fun. Watch it for the celebrities and vote for your favourites. We watch, but we don’t vote. We like Judy Murray, and one or two of this year’s contestants can even dance a bit. Go figure. 

If you want to watch real, honest to goodness dancing watch the professionals on the show, or, better still, go to a competition; the Tower Ballroom at Blackpool holds them very regularly and it’s a wonderful building and quite an experience to visit, and you can even say that you’ve been to a Strictly Come Dancing venue.

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