Sunday, 10 February 2013

Strictly Come Dancing - Strictly Fit


“Strictly Come Dancing” is a stupid name for a television series, isn’t it? I appreciate that the programme makers are paying homage to the classic ballroom dancing show “Come Dancing” while trying to funky it up a little with a Strictly Ballroom reference. It still makes no sense, though. I imagine someone scribbled the name on a whiteboard in one of the early development meetings with a cheery “Obviously, it’ll be something less lame than that. We’ll come back to it later.” Only they never did. And now we’re stuck with it.

Come Dancing. When it was done properly. By women who made their own dresses.
One of the many cash-in opportunities Strictly has provided us with, along with sellout tours, audio CDs and a Glitzy Glamour Sticker Book, are a bunch of Workout DVDs.

This one appears from the cover to be called “Strictly Come Dancing Strictly Fit Dance Fit” A catchy title and no mistake. It features three of the professional dancers from the show – Natalie Lowe, Ola Jordan and Artem Chigvintsev.
They divvy up the dance routines between them so that Natalie takes care of the Samba, Artem does the Paso Doble and Ola does the Cha Cha Cha. All three presenters band together for the Jive section and there is also a warm-up and cool-down. I appreciate that they are trying to link back to real dances that they do on the television shows. However, seeing Artem do the Paso Doble with a bunch of sullen looking extras just reminds you of him doing the same dance under happier circumstances.

One of the Artem’s backing guys really did seem to be giving him evils through the routine. I imagined there was some kind of messy break-up between them. To be honest, I assumed that all the performers in that section were entangled in some kind of complicated love pentagon.

Love's a Complicated Thing
The dance routines seem to be taking place in the foyer of an old theatre and there are a troupe of background dancers who have clearly been given instructions not to upstage or out-smile our main guys. (Natalie in particular is the smiliest person on the planet. It’s exhausting just looking at her.) These may be the only instructions the dancers were given as they don’t seem very clear on their moves a lot of the time and may be doing it for the first time here. Which I suppose put them in the same position as me. Only with talent. And grace. And a much lower BMI.

The DVD comes with no intros and no extras. Which was odd and certainly doesn’t make my life any easier. Even more disappointing was the complete absence of the ‘Studio Sessions’ segment mentioned on the box. We’re promised a ‘high intensity dance practise session’ to do once we’ve got the hang of the routines.
Make no mistake, I hadn’t got the hang of the routines at all, but I’m highly sceptical that the DVD actually knew that. This section was nowhere to be seen. Not in the Main Menu, Not in the Workout Menu and not under the Dance Glossary section. I even started clicking the arrow button around randomly in case it was hidden Easter-Egg style somewhere. I have a strong mind to write to the BBC and see what they have to say for themselves.

Best Bit
Ola’s delightful Polish accent. She has a wonderful sing-song inflection and counts along to the moves by saying “ta ta ta”. (Which sounds a lot lovelier than it looks written down.) Best of all, every so often her accent goes a little bit cockney. She’s like an Eastern European princess who’s been hanging around with the Slater sisters too much. Which I suppose is a pretty fair depiction of her life on Strictly.

Worst Bit.
I know I’m always going on about Plinky Plonky music but the half-hearted ring-tones that make up the soundtrack to this DVD deserve some kind of special award. Our dancers were clearly busting their moves in a silent studio and the muzak was added on post-production. Presumably by the tea boy after he had accidentally erased the original soundtrack in a comedy slapstick fashion. The soundtrack bears no relation to the rhythm of the dances or the type of dance being performed. Using Latin American music for the Cha Cha Cha is apparently so passé these days.

The menu gives you the option to do the work out without the presenter’s instructions and just the music. In case you really loathe yourself and feel you have to be punished for something. Incidentally, you can achieve the same effect with any of the DVDs in your collection by simply hitting the mute button and then phoning an organisation and asking to be put on hold.
Difficulty Level
To be fair, the dance moves are simply and patiently explained. It’s almost like they expect the viewer to be an incompetent idiot. Which I found very useful.

Would I do this Workout Again
Only to discover the secret of accessing that bloody Studio Session. Maybe there's a special cheat code. I may put the DVD back in the machine again just so I can start desperately pressing the up down buttons on the remote control in the forlorn hope that the Mythical Dance Session will be revealed. If it it ever is, there is a just the teeniest chance it may be a bit of an anti-climax.

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