Saturday, 10 December 2016

The ‘Strictly’ Effect

Okay, so it’s going to be impossible to write a blog about dancing without once in a while mentioning the immensely popular, long running, prime time television programme ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. People always ask me whether I like it. Here are some thoughts.

‘Strictly’ has done huge amounts to boost interest and participation in partner dancing and is undoubtedly an extremely successful television programme. There are aspects of it open for criticism of course, but overall, the joys of dancing or being a member of the audience are very effectively broadcast to the nation. I would actually go so far as to say that the programme has altered the national psyche.

Before ‘Strictly’, in some people’s minds, the thinking was that dancing was just for girls, women, gay boys and gay men. In beginner level Salsa classes, for example, there were always more women than men. The men who did take part had often been pestered into doing so by their girlfriends or wives. Some were clearly petrified and thinking that they didn’t really want to be there, they weren’t going to be any good and that they might even turn gay by the end of the class. Thankfully, after several years of watching burly rugby players, athletes, gay and straight men of various shapes and sizes succeeding on the dance floor and enjoying every minute of it, the penny eventually dropped. These days, lots of men are keen to dance.
Hurray to that!

Now there’s even the opposite problem. Following skills can usually be learnt quicker than leading skills because leaders have to memorise a whole repertoire of sequences. So now there are more men than women in some dance classes!

When I was teaching A Level dance to begin with I was assigned all female classes with only occasionally one boy in the mix. With this age group I would combine The Strictly Effect together with Diversity winning ‘Britain’s Got Talent’. I would credit the two shows for jointly increasing the number of boys in A Level classes up to two or three each year. The indication being that more boys were planning a career in dance and more parents were accepting it as a career choice for their sons.

I have to say, I rather like the progress that’s been made. I’ll be discussing how we can go even further but I’m immensely grateful, to both shows, and the men who have courageously taken part for redressing the gender balance and getting more men into dancing.

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