DanceNorth East & YorkshireReview

Giovanni Pernice: This Is Me – Gala Theatre, Durham

Reviewer: Jonathan Cash

Direction and Choreography: Trent Whiddon & Gordana Grandosek Whiddon

Giovanni Pernice is one of the professional dancers on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing and a frequent finalist, though he has never held the winners’ glitterball. In this touring show, he has surrounded himself with a team of international dancers. Together they perform a number of group routines and duets to recorded tracks. Throughout, Pernice links the dances and flirts with the largely female audience whilst gently sending up his Latin lover persona, tongue firmly in cheek.  He sets the scene for this by opening the show in Italian flag boxer shorts before the other dancers dress him in white tie and tails.

The first couple of numbers are a gentle introduction to the dancers but the show really takes off with a jive routine, highlighting Pernice’s assured style and impeccable technique in one of his signature dances. He shows without question that he is, above all, a terrific dancer, at the height of his powers.

The show features two other dancers from Strictly Come Dancing: Nancy Xu, a world-class dancer with a dynamic stage presence, and Oksana Platero, who delivers one of the highlights in a scintillating show-dance with her husband, Jonathan.   The other dancers – all flawless across the range of dance styles- were Giulia Dotta, Simone Arena, Domenico Palmisano, Grace Cinque-White, Larisa Untila, Valerio La Pietra and Bethan Mitchell.

A sensuous Argentine tango section thrills the audience and the male dancers dance memorably with chairs. Pernice and Xu give the audience a sizzling rumba; on this occasion Xu showing her professionalism by dancing one-handed to prevent an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction. The male dancers display their physiques to the evident appreciation of the female audience members, in a stunning, Havana-themed section.

The show is aimed squarely at fans of the TV show, frequently referenced by Pernice, though he doesn’t actually reprise any of his actual routines from the show. The one exception to this was an entertaining audience participation section based on ‘Vogue’, which this reviewer can only judge from the audience reaction, since he found himself on stage at the time.

Some of the music tracks are a little idiosyncratic. One featured tap sounds in the track which, oddly, didn’t synchronise with the choreography and there were some problems with sound levels in the earlier numbers which generally settled down as the evening progressed.

The show is an entertaining mix of ballroom and Latin dance; it is slickly choreographed, performed by superb dancers and engagingly fronted by Pernice.   It ticks all the boxes with the audience, on this occasion bringing them to their feet in an exuberant standing ovation at the close.

Reviewed on 13th March 2020

Touring the UK

Slick Dance Spectacular

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