Monday, January 04, 2010

Honking Box Review: So You Think You Can Dance / Got To Dance

Since the runaway success of Strictly Come Dancing, broadcasters have tried – and failed – to emulate it via a multitude of dance-based shows. The oafish Strictly Dance Fever with Graham Norton; the Frankenstein’s pop group catastrophe DanceX; the frankly chilling Baby Ballroom; and the shameless reproduction Dancing On Ice, which is inexplicably still garnering a place in the schedules.

However, it seems broadcasters have finally realised that dance shows need to be fresh, current and exciting – it’s just unfortunate that two of them had the exact same idea at the exact same time.

Two high-profile dance shows, each distancing themselves from the ballroom maturity of Strictly and heavily addressing street dance, each presided over by a trio of judges and helmed by a female host, each with a £100,000 cash prize. Notice any similarities? No, us neither. To be fair, BBC One’s So You Think You Can Dance also offers the ‘opportunity to dance in Hollywood’ alongside the £100k, which presumably means a performance on the US version (now, somehow, approaching its seventh season).

While judges Nigel Lythgoe and Arlene Phillips are both genuine experts in their field, a whole lot of self-absorbed conjecture and backslapping doesn’t make for great telly. Occasional third judge Priscilla Samuels failed to exhibit any of the awesomeness she displayed on many a behind-the-scenes Spice Girls shoot back in’t day, whilst alternative occasional third judge Sisqo Gomes generally sounded like a TV evangelist, telling one contestant – and this is a direct quote – “I live for you. You are the truth.” It’s therefore unsurprising that third-occasional-third-judge Louise Redknapp will be on board for the live shows.

The judging line-up of Sky One’s Got To Dance functions far better, enlisting the opinions of Broadway staple Adam Garcia, the marvellously-named Diversity choreographer Ashley Banjo, and Pussycat Doll mime-along Kimberley Wyatt, who seems to know her stuff rather well. (Somewhat surprisingly too, given that her career thus far has amounted to hoisting her leg over her head and unveiling her gusset to the world.)

Davina McCall, meanwhile, was infinitely less annoying on Got To Dance than she is on Big Brother, or the Garnier ads, or pretty much anything she’s done in the last five years. In fact, she evoked the long-forgotten Likeable Davina as previously displayed on Popstars: The Rivals way back in 2002, successfully playing both spirit-raiser and shit-stirrer to the many auditionees.

And the auditionees themselves were a far more interesting prospect on Got To Dance, playing the same delusional card that The X Factor managed so well before shifting proceedings to a packed arena. Highlights included what may still be the funniest wardrobe malfunction of 2010 come December, and a woman named Karen, who claimed ‘Karen’ and ‘dance’ sounded great together, and was therefore the source of her rhythmic prowess. However, in no accent do ‘Karen’ and ‘dance’ share any auditory traits, which might go some way to explaining why she moved like a krumping Foghorn Leghorn.

That’s not to say all auditionees were pure comedy – a selection of groups, duos and soloists made for an overall more varied mix, a serious number of which were jaw-droppingly talented. And while both shows played host to a high calibre of exceptional dancers, the general sense of So You Think You Can Dance lent itself more to jazz-handed, overtrained entitlement. Case in point being one dancer who spoke of his lack of confidence, then went on to perform in nothing but a near-diaphanous pair of lycra hotpants. Mincey, staged and theatrical is trumped by quirky, natural, progressive and charismatic. Another tick for Got To Dance.

That’s not to say So You Think You Can Dance is by any means a washout – for a start, kudos for what we assume was an accidental airing of the word ‘shit’ during the uncensored version of the Black Eyed Peas’ Pump It, which certainly livened up proceedings – but at this stage, Got To Dance seems to have made a much better dish with the same ingredients. It’ll be interesting to see how things fare when the live shows begin, given the BBC’s aptitude for big Saturday night events, but for now, Round One to Sky.

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