Strictly is back

According to Wikipedia: “Strictly Come Dancing is a British television show, featuring celebrities with professional dance partners competing in Ballroom and Latin dances”, running every year September – December, from 2004. It is a show I follow when I can, happen to enjoy and is perhaps my favorite TV viewing.

This weekend Strictly is back to our television screens (along with Doctor Who – another favorite of mine although less so nowadays), marking for me the end of summer and the prelude to winter. I should add there is yet another popular program also returning to our screens, the X Factor, and while the different TV channel airing this has agreed a truce not to clash with Strictly, to the delight of those who have have their Saturday evening entertainment sorted, in my view the two don’t compare and Strictly wins hands down! 

My strict, early religious influences rather dismissed dancing as a pastime, discouraging us young people from having anything to do with it, and saw it as slightly (at least) immoral. Given the skimpy costumes worn by some on the show and the close proximity of the dance partners (looked down upon by my more puritanical teachers), and what some might see as a vain pursuit, I can see why, and hope my expressing my appreciation of the show here will not unduly offend. But I have to admit the format of the show, the chemistry between presenters, participants (amateur celebrities and professional dancers), judges, audience and those who watch on TV, and the spectacle of seeing those with little dance experience becoming better over the weeks, fascinate and draw me to the show.

One of the main attractions of the show is that dance pairs are brought together for he first time and these comprise well known celebrities from all sorts of areas along with their professional dance partner. Guided by their partner and following a strict training regime, each celebrity faces the daunting task of mastering a number of challenging dance routines, despite having little or no previous dance experience. As with many skills in life, some master them better than others, and always there are surprises, including among some of the older contestants who might be looked upon as “past it”. Some, whose dancing skills are limited, can and do make up for it by their personalities. For some viewers, the judges comments are what makes the show. While judges do decide who are to progress further in the completion until there is one pair left: winners, the television audience, who vote by phone or on-line, have the final say, and often their votes are contrary to those of the judges, giving rise to both amusement when the underdog is championed and frustration when more able dancers are voted out.

Certainly, over the several series, there have been many outstanding performances. Even among those more challenged, such as Ann Widdecombe and John Sergeant, they have made up for their lack of talent with their winsome personalities and sense of humour. The star of the show perhaps has been the presenter, Bruce Forsyth, now sadly retired, supported by, and having superb rapport with, the stalwart judges, who have present since the beginning: Len, Craig and Bruno. There is a lady judge too, although it was not to the producers credit when they sacked Arlene because of ageism, and her younger, more ambitious, replacement, Alesha, left after three shows. The professional dancers all had their own enticing personalities, adding to the attraction of the show. Further attractions of the show are the glitz and glamour, anticipation, slick presentation, outstanding music and excellent supporting acts.

I have to admit the performing arts (music, drama and dance) have, with one or two notable exceptions, largely passed me by, which is a pity. As a lover of the Bible, I can’t help noticing there are a number of references to dancing and all it seemed were positive. We are told, for example, to “praise his (God’s) name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp”. King David, danced before the Lord, for such was his exuberation. Then there is “a time to dance”, leaving us wondering when that time is. Despite the sad, mad, bad things going on around us, the world is still wonderful and I can think of many reasons for wanting to dance.

Therefore, I can’t help feeling though that this is the time to dance and, while I won’t be glued to the TV screen (I am more likely to watch past episodes on my computer, courtesy of BBC iPlayer), I will watch it with a degree of excited anticipation, expecting passion and performances that wow, and hoping the best dancer wins!

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