DanceNorth WestReview

Keep Dancing – Palace Theatre, Manchester

Director: Emma Rogers

Reviewer: Rebecca Cohen

Highly energetic Jives, smooth Waltzes, fiery Tangos and comedic Charleston routines are entertaining audiences up and down the country over the weekends with the much-anticipated return of Strictly Come Dancing. And now former pros Robin Windsor and Anya Garnis, along with 2012 winner and Olympian Louis Smith, are among a cast bringing the ballroom to the stage in a touring production, aptly named after the BBC show’s infamous catchphrase Keep Dancing.

This is a show that most certainly draws in the crowds off the back of the success of the award-winning television programme, andunfortunately, it isn’t enough to secure itself a glitterball trophy in the world of theatre. It exudes predicability throughout, not just in the routines, but in the nature of the set – two staircases either side of the stage with the obvious spotlight backdrop – the cheesy voiceover, and its cabaret-esque approach to show numbers. Formation of dancers, lighting rigs, and choreography also remain samey throughoutand need a real upheaval if they are to achieve the wow factor.

With an ensemble of pro dancers, huge show tunes such as There’s No Business Like Show Business and the Theme from New York, New York should be leaving the audience with goosebumps, but the performances lack the power needed to get them well and truly absorbed in the magic of dance. On the crescendo of these popular numbers, for example, there should be at least a twist on the conventional ‘kick step, kick step’ movements, to take it up a notch from an amateur dance school production and into the realms of professional performance.

Often, the singers, while good, can distract from the dancing, and in numbers such as Sax and Candyman they should not be at the front of the stage but entertaining in the background – in the same way as the sensational Strictly Come Dancing live band. In Act Two’s I Put a Spell on You the solo dancer is also often masked by the vocalist, which when combined with the amount of smoke and dark lighting on the stage, means she keeps magically disappearing during the whole routine.

That said, the production is entirely worth seeing on the basis of Windsor’s and Anya’s performances. The pair light up the stage when they enter, with their style, charisma and charm, but their perfections ultimately highlight the other dancers flaws and show just how much energy is needed in a routine to leave a lasting impression on an audience member. Ameska, an all male routine with Robin at the forefront, is one of the more gripping moments of show, with the leading duo’s interpretation of A Thousand Years also providing a captivating few minutes.

But while Windsor and Garnis do prove exactly why they have achieved television stardom, they do not feature heavily enough throughout the dance routines. Given they are at the forefront of all promotional materials, they should too be at the very heart of the production, and as such audiences may be left feeling Strictly shortchanged. A disappointing outcome for a show bursting with potential, and one that is need of a real makeover to give it the credos it desires.

Runs until 8 October 2016 | Image: Contributed


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