I’m writing with a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat having just watched the brilliant Baz Luhrmann film, Strictly Ballroom. It’s partly a comedy, although some of the tales I’ve heard from the world of ballroom dancing persuade me it’s not a total exaggeration. But it is also a film about casting off your fear and following your dreams. And it shows that even beginners can hope to dance beautifully if they are partnered with brilliant teachers who dance with their heart and soul – which is the essence of Strictly Come Dancing.
It’s Kevin’s favourite film, and if a casting director is looking for someone to play the hero Scott Hastings in the forthcoming stage musical, they should look no further.
When I tweeted that I was about to watch it, I was inundated with replies from Strictly Ballroom fans. The movie’s massive, enduring popularity – it celebrates its 21st birthday this year – is testament to how deeply ballroom and Latin dancing touches people and inspires them. It is a fairy tale in a ballroom, and it casts its spell so effectively because everyone thinks, “It could be me”.
That is why people fall in love with Strictly Come Dancing, too. The range of celebrity dancers means that every viewer can see a representation of their own dream out there, twirling – or in some cases stumbling – around that dancefloor. Dance experts may have their eye on Natalie Gumede, who dances like a dream with Artem. In fact she dances so well that she has been unfairly criticised for being too good to be part of the show. A show, remember, that is about dancing as well as you can.
Conversely – and perversely – there was criticism of Dave Myers, too, but for not being good enough to be in the show. A show, remember, that is about working as hard as you can to dance as well as you are able. But this range of abilities is key to the entertainment value of the biggest programme on British television.
A show that only invited excellent dancers to compete with each other would be monotone. A show that excluded anyone with previous dance experience would find it hard to decide where to set the bar. Is Mark Benton disqualified because he has danced in musicals? Is Abbey not allowed because she was in a girl band? Am I excluded because I shuffled around at the back of a ballet class as a child?
We have all arrived on the Strictly dancefloor with differing skills – and they reflect those of the audience. Each viewer can identify with a celebrity. And they can point and say: if I were partnered with a professional who spent hours teaching me, perhaps I could dance like that. And that’s the magic of the show.
Ultimately, that connection with the viewers counts for everything. We are all in your hands. You have the pin with which you can burst our Strictly bubble. Because no matter what the judges say and however high their marks, if you aren’t moved by the dance, you won’t vote. You may also think that someone is so safe, that you don’t need to vote. None of us wants to be in the bottom two and face “the dreaded dance-off ”, but that is ultimately your decision.
And so, if you’re watching Strictly Come Dancing and you love watching a dancer who could be mistaken for a pro, or you love watching someone who is stumbling through their steps with enthusiasm and joy, then vote for them. Because we want to continue to share the magic of dance with you, and keep dreaming the dream with you, and only your vote will make sure that happens.
Strictly Come Dancing continues on Saturday at 6:30pm on BBC1