It was 007’s most dangerous mission and there was only one man who could help – celebrity choreographer Jack Murphy turned the waitresses of west London’s Thai restaurants into Vogue-dancing prostitutes in Bridget Jones’ Diary: The Edge of Reason, and the master of the ballroom was drafted in when Bond needed to sweep his partner off her feet.
“I taught Daniel to jive back in 2002, before he was James Bond, for a movie called Sylvia (see clip below) in which he played Ted Hughes. I was nervous because he’s an actor I hold in high esteem, but he was a fine dancer! Obviously he didn’t have to compete or deliver to a certain standard, but teaching him and seeing the enthusiasm with which he embraced it – I do love my job sometimes!”
In a new two-part documentary, Murphy, who first danced as a 16-year-old at the Hammersmith Palais and whose parents met at the Palais de Dance in Port-stewart, Northern Ireland, is on a mission to get teenagers waltzing.
“Dance halls disappeared for one reason – because space became too expensive. Society reflects itself through dance and in the 60s people became far more independent, so we went from couples dancing to solo dancing. You don’t need the same kind of space for that, so nightclubs took over and dance halls were turned into flats.
“But I think we’re ready to bring them back. The brilliance of Strictly means that the British public have fallen in love with ballroom dancing again, now all we have to do is get them off the sofa and into the arms of each other. In order to do that they need the space in which to dance.”
And where better to start than Bolton, where the town’s former ballroom survives – albeit without a dancefloor and with a tacky nightclub façade. Upon arrival the 53-year-old Londoner brought together the people who’d once frequented the ballroom. Despite being in their 70s and 80s, none had lost their love of dance or their ability to jive. And in order to get a new generation excited about dance they performed at the place that draws the biggest crowd in the city – the Macron Stadium, home of Bolton Wanderers.
“Part of the fun aspect of it was ‘soft southerner Jack Murphy goes north’, but when we performed at the Macron the warmth that we received from the crowd was extraordinary. The problem was, when I got outside I only managed to get eight people to sign up to come and learn to dance. One guy walked past me and said, ‘No, I’m not a bender.’ Really? In 2015?
Ballroom dancers get moving at Bolton’s Palais de Danse
“I didn’t want to weigh into the Sports Personality debate – and this is a gay man speaking here – but it’s scary to think opinions like Tyson Fury’s exist. I support the BBC’s response; he was selected by an independent committee and it wasn’t the BBC’s position, but we need to promote positive role models.
“Billy Elliot and Strictly have done wonders for breaking down stereotypes. Darren Gough, who won Strictly, is a big lad from Yorkshire and danced like a dream! But I now realise we still have a way to go and education is key.
“I would love to go into primary schools because that’s where the genesis of those ideas start, with children discovering gender identity and the perception that it’s feminine to dance.”
You Make Me Feel Like Dancing is on BBC2 tonight (Tuesday 5th January) and Thursday at 9.00pm