Choreographer and Director: Gareth Walker
Having endured a very different socially distanced series of Strictly Come Dancing where they lived in bubbles with their celebrity partners, professional dancers and audience favourites Aljaž Škorjanec and Janette Manrara were forced to delay their Remembering the Oscars tour due to Covid restrictions and the closure of theatres. While the show has been rescheduled for 2022, Aljaž and Janette have filmed a 60-minute taster featuring some of their favourite movie-inspired routines.
Organised around the Oscar categories this compilation dance show choreographed and directed by Gareth Walker celebrates classic and modern movies that won or were nominated for an Oscar in any category. Introduced directly by the couple to camera, almost as soon as they set the parameters the show breaks them, performing a medley from Evita in the Best Actress Category (when it was only nominated for best song) and introducing a finale section with an Honorary Award for Disney because Janette loves the music.
One of the show’s more interesting propositions is in making the case for the return of the Best Choreography category last awarded in 1937 meaning some of the greatest dance sequences in film history from Singin’ in the Rain to An American in Paris, West Side Story to Moulin Rouge were never formally recognised. The segment here is the best in Remembering the Oscars with a charming group number celebrating Gene Kelly, two Fosse sequences – On Broadway and All That Jazz – as well as a lovely black, white and red styled sequence from La La Land in which the couple incorporate and expand on the leap-step choreography from the multi-Oscar winning contemporary musical.
Generally, however, Remembering the Oscars is really just a preview covering lots of films very quickly so many of the routines are short snippets rather than extended routines and the creative team clearly want to avoid spoiling the effect of the live show. The result feels a little haphazard, cutting between numbers staged and filmed separately so even where thematic connections exist this is not a continuous performance.
This is replicated in Ryan Howard’s camerawork that wants to build a sense of spectacle but frequently splices together shots taken from different angles that jump to different movements and, crucially in a dance film, doesn’t always capture that crucial footwork. It makes Remembering the Oscars feel like a long trailer rather than a show repurposed for digital release which is a shame given the extensive work, creativity and adherence to Covid safety measures that have gone into its creation.
Aljaž and Janette are charming hosts, they dance beautifully and their enthusiasm for dance, this show and movies in general is amplified. The creative vision, choreographic range and visual design are often beautiful, extending from set and video backdrops to costume and music – vocalist Janine Johnson is easily the star of this show – but fewer, more fully realised sequences would have made this 60-minute taster feel more coherent.
With a guaranteed audience for their 2022 tour already secured through their television work, this filmed version of Remembering the Oscars is really a labour of love from two performers eager to be back in the theatre doing what they love. With lockdown scuppering their plans, they have decided to do what they do best… to keep dancing.
Runs here until 17 April 2021