When it comes to TV dating, you’d have thought we’d have basically seen it all: we’ve had blind dates, dating ‘dans le noir’, dinner dates, celebrity dates, naked dates, even singing dates.
Then along sashays Channel 4’s new entry: the wittily titled Flirty Dancing, which aims to match singletons based on their love of dance.
Each hopeful will learn half a routine, taught by Dancing on Ice judge and Diversity star Ashley Banjo, which they will perform as a couple when they meet for the first time.
Should they feel a spark on the dancefloor, they meet again for a more traditional date.
But how does it work? Here’s everything you need to know.
What time is Flirty Dancing on TV?
Flirty Dancing will air every Thursday at 10pm for five weeks on Channel 4, beginning Thursday 10th January.
What is Flirty Dancing about?
Flirty Dancing aims to take the concept of dating back to its roots, before the days of swiping left and right and asking someone for a good old-fashioned dance in order to win someone’s heart.
It’s something that producer Deborah Sargeant was keen to recreate – along with a little cinematic flair.
“You log on apps and it’s very quick and it’s very transient and very throwaway,” she explained to RadioTimes.com. “So, we looked at what people used to do in the old days of dating, before people used phones.
“We found this extraordinary stat from the 50s where the majority of people met through dancing. The social interaction everyone had was going to a dance party, getting a tap on the shoulder and having someone ask you for a dance. We felt, ‘Hang on, this is a lovely reference.’
“You look at films like Grease and La La Land, where they dance together and you capture their emotions, and we wanted to do something similar.”
So how does it work?
Strictly Come Dating this ain’t. What makes Flirty Dancing so unique is that the two hopefuls are kept entirely separate from one another, not even learning each other’s name until after their first dance.
“We could have done a dating show like Blind Date where they each choose who they’d rather dance with,” Sargeant explained. “Or we could have got two people to meet and they dance together until they fancy each other.
“But we wanted to capture the looks on people’s faces when they see each other for the first time, and felt we’d get a more real-life experience if we did it outside in the real world, away from a studio, where our hopefuls don’t even meet until the dance itself.”
It was down to the producers to play matchmaker and link up hopefuls who they thought would be well-suited in the medium of dance.
“It was tricky,” Sargeant admitted, “The truth is, we were just pretty instinctive about it. We spoke at length with people who were hopeful in taking part in the show. We would speak to them on camera and off camera.
“It was almost like trying to hook two mates up; we almost had to date them ourselves and spend a lot of time of people to make sure we made the right decision.
“We had to spend a lot of time with people and read between the lines a little bit.”
Sargeant added that they also asked their applicants to dance for them to get used to seeing how they moved.
“You can sort of tell a bit about their personalities through the way they dance,” she said. “We saw who was into the same type of dancing or moved in the same way. Sometimes people were totally polar opposites yet they matched together so well, which got us really excited.”
The process of making sure the couples don’t meet prematurely was similarly challenging, with Sargeant explaining they had to make sure each hopeful’s rehearsal with Ashley Banjo was arranged with almost “military” precision.
“They have four days of training, but they only have a couple of hours a day,” Sargeant explained. “We tried to grab them whenever they could do it, fitting in times before and after work for a lot of them.
“It was a really regimented machine with lots of codenames for people. We have to make sure they don’t know anything about each other. They don’t know where they’re from, what they look like or what they sound like. It’s a real military operation to make sure that sticks.”
Is the show only for those who are already amazing dancers?
While the concept of Flirty Dancing is to see if people could find true love on the dancefloor, the show itself is open to everyone, be they a ballroom champion or have two left feet.
“We were really open to anyone within any age rage,” said Sargeant. “We wanted it to be reflective of the nation so we included a vast array if couples.
“And when it came to dance ability, we firmly believed that if you were open to meeting somebody using dance as a way of doing it, you’ve got an interest or enthusiasm about dance that could see you through. We didn’t think it mattered if they’re a good dancer or not.”
Will it actually work?
You only need to look at the notorious ‘Strictly curse‘ to see case studies of people who have fallen for each other through the medium of dance.
“There is a science to it,” Sargeant said. “When you dance, it does stuff to your hormones and reduces your cortisol levels.
“I’ve always watched shows like Strictly Come Dancing and seen the stories of how they got together; it’s an intense process they’re going through. They’re up close and personal.
“When you dance together, it does something to a person: it can be electric. When we were talking to Ashley, he said he met his wife and that it happens for dancers all the time.
“Ashley said he really connected to his wife on a different level through dance that he wouldn’t have done necessarily by just talking to her. That’s what we wanted to capture on the show.
“I hope that we’re successful. It might not be the answer for everyone, but it’s definitely a different way of approaching dating. It’s a more sensitive, creative way of meeting people.”
Flirty Dancing starts Thursday 10th January at 10pm on Channel 4