Jay McGuiness scored the first 10 of Strictly Come Dancing 2015 this weekend with a near perfect Pulp Fiction-inspired routine. It was only week three, but with an impressive score of 37, Jay’s was a Jive that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Grand Final. On Saturday night we couldn’t get enough, but soon afterwards Strictly critics began to brand The Wanted star a fraud. All because as a teenager he studied dance.
We haven’t had the diamonte-studded lycra pulled over our eyes by the BBC – “Jay pursued his love of performing by attending the Charlotte Hamilton School of Dance [and] the prestigious Midlands Academy of Dance and Drama,” reads his official Strictly Come Dancing bio – but the fact has still provoked outrage among some fans, who reckon the competition would be better, and fairer, if all the stars who took to the Strictly floor were complete novices.
It’s an argument which rears its head year after year (and in a few week’s time we’ll be moaning about the ‘novelty’ acts still in the competition). But who really cares if the celebrities have had dance experience before? I certainly don’t. Because, if it’s novices only, we’re going to have a serious shortfall of talent for series 14.
Each autumn Strictly bosses aim to secure a cast made up of well-known media personalities, actors, presenters and performers, many of whom went to stage school and probably had some form of dance training.
When it comes to previous pirouetting experience, it’s impossible to pin-point where that line should be drawn. I did ballet for four years at primary school. On paper that gives me an unfair edge, but I can absolutely promise you it doesn’t in practice (much to my mum’s disappointment, I never did make it out of beginners class or my training tu-tu…)
Plus Strictly’s not just about correct hand placement and a smooth top-line. Other factors – and advantages – come into play too. Perhaps we should get rid of Peter Andre, Daniel O’Donnell and Jamelia, pop stars who presumably have a better sense of rhythm than their competitors?
Characterisation is important as well, so actresses Helen George, Kellie Bright and Georgie May Foote are out.
While Kirsty Gallacher, Jeremy Vine, Carol Kirkwood, Anita Rani and Katie Derham all have an advantage in terms of nerves and poise because they are used to being on live TV. That leaves… erm, Ainsley Harriott. Not much of a competition anymore, is it?
You could never begin a series of Strictly with every star starting off at the exact same level, and learning and progressing at the same speed. And nor would you want to. We watch for the front-runners and the underdogs, the comedy acts and the technical performances – the big moments, whatever they may be. And Jay’s stand-out, jaw-dropping Jive was definitely one of those.
Strictly Come Dancing continues on Saturday at 6:30pm on BBC1
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news