By Emma Cox
When one entertainment format proves a success, others understandably follow in their wake.
That’s why a raft of singing competitions dominated the schedules while X Factor was the biggest programme on telly; and why – now that Strictly Come Dancing is the nation’s favourite talent competition – we’re seeing an spike in dance-based shows on our screens.
There are three biggies to choose from in January: ITV1’s long-running Dancing On Ice; and two new ones, BBC One’s The Greatest Dancer and Channel 4’s Flirty Dancing.
Weirdly all three involve either Ashley or Jordan Banjo, the brothers from Diversity: but happily both Banjos are natural, funny and empathetic.
Ashley’s a judge on Dancing on Ice which remains as it has been for years: same hosts (Phil and Holly), same cast of ex-soap and reality stars with a few athletes thrown in. If you’re a Dancing on Ice fan, you’re in safe hands with this series.
The other Banjo crops up on The Greatest Dancer, along with a cast of millions. There are three ‘dance captains’ – Glee’s Matthew Morrison, Strictly’s Oti Mabuse, and Cheryl (who doesn’t need a surname these days). Alesha Dixon feels somewhat wasted as a barely-there presenter while Jordan floats around the audience getting reactions from friends and family. There’s also a ‘receptionist’: a sweet production girl called Amelia who chats to the dancers before they go on stage.
As if that wasn’t complicated enough, the audience are the ‘judges’, turning on a light if they like the dancer on screen: when 75 per cent of the audience have lit up, the dancer emerges from behind the screens and on to the stage.
It’s all a bit cluttered, borrowing elements from not just Strictly but Altogether Now (the 100 lights); Tattoo Fixers (the receptionist); and Britain’s Got Talent (homing in on audience conversations).
But, when they stop faffing there are some good acts, some moving back stories, and a nice energy.
Flirty Dancing is slicker. Two singletons learn a routine separately, under Ashley’s guidance. They dance together without saying a word before separating then deciding if they want to go on a proper date.
That’s it. No extra cast, no tricks. The simplicity – along with great locations and choreography for the dances – make this a hit.
It’s a shame the first couple, Hannah and James, took themselves so seriously and weren’t more likeable. The second couple, Dan and Luke, were profoundly moving. They weren’t the world’s greatest dancers, but by goodness they had fun together, and watching Dan find some confidence in himself was delightful.
So, take your pick, but there’s no getting away from dance shows this winter. And why do we love them so much?
I think Alesha summed it up on the Greatest Dancer: ‘This is why we love dance. Because it makes us feel so good.’