There’s a massive, sparkly question mark hanging over this year’s Strictly Come Dancing.
Everyone wants it to happen: the professional dancers, the judges and the BBC are all desperate to bring the nation a much-needed dose of glitz and glam this autumn. But how can it possibly work? Love Island has already been cancelled for 2020, Bake Off’s future is looking dicey and I’m A Celeb bosses have warned us to expect the show in December rather than November.
Even if you accept that the show would need to be filmed without a studio audience, there are still so many logistical issues to contend with. You can’t do a rumba while staying two metres apart for starters. Behind the scenes, the crew works in close proximity, moving props between dances and stitching costumes in a small workroom. The make-up room is packed, the gallery where shots are edited is tiny, and rehearsals take place in gyms that are currently closed.
While Have I Got News For You and Graham Norton can get away with virtual encounters, an Argentine Tango needs to be up close and personal with legs weaving round bodies and faces pressed against each other. Any Strictly performance lives or dies on the accompanying music from Dave Arch and his orchestra, while the oohs and aahs from the audience create more atmosphere than you would realise. Would the answer be the ripple of applause and whooping from the crew, as on It Takes Two? It’s fine for a sister show, not so much for Saturday night.
But there must be a way. September feels far enough away for a contingency plan to come into force and the goodwill is there. He’s not known for being the voice of optimism, but Craig Revel Horwood gave us some hope when talking about how Dancing with the Stars worked in Australia this year.
Airing in February and March, the show allowed couples to quarantine if necessary. One of the celebrities’ dads tested positive for COVID 19, so he isolated with his partner and they filmed one performance on a hotel rooftop as they couldn’t come to the studio. Craig called the routine “spectacular” and said the UK version should be taking notes. Although the grand final took place a week earlier than planned, the show still went on.
Quarantining measures would surely be key. How delightful to imagine Bruno, Craig, Motsi and Shirley living in lockdown quarters, like Big Brother but with more sequins. Of course if travel restrictions aren’t eased, we might even have to accept a different judging panel. Motsi lives in Germany and Bruno’s house is in LA. Perhaps Darcey Bussell could make a comeback? Or could this be Anton’s moment to switch roles?
It’s conceivable that the dancers and celebrities might be asked to stay in hotels away from their families, or at least perform their own mini-lockdowns, even if the rest of us are getting back to normal. Perhaps Friday rehearsals could involve a coronavirus test before dancers are allowed to step onto the dancefloor? It seems likely we can kiss goodbye to Sunday evening musical performances – visiting bands with their entourages might be a (quick)step too far even if the show is up and running. And the pre-dance VTs are likely to be pure rehearsal footage, rather than larking around at theme parks or on West End stages (of course this is no bad thing!).
If you’re looking for a silver lining in all of this, just remember that the nation’s celebrities are currently sitting at home, twiddling their thumbs, hoping the country remembers who they are. It would be no surprise if the current circumstances meant the show could attract some proper A Listers – actors, singers and presenters whose gigs and tours have been cancelled. They’ll be like coiled springs, ready to perform and finally able to commit to clearing three months in their diaries.
If nothing else, we do look forward to the inevitable professional group routine summing up the lockdown experience through contemporary dance. Fab-u-lous.
Strictly Come Dancing usually airs in September on BBC One. To find out what’s on this week, check out our TV Guide.