Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly Come DancingStrictly Come Dancing is back for 2014! Judges Len Goodman, Darcey Bussell, Craig Revel Horwood and Bruno Tonioli will all be returning to the popular BBC1 show, ready to judge 15 celebrities on their ability to jump, jive and boogie.

The final line-up of celebrities for 2014 has recently been finalised and announced, and they are Frankie Bridge (of S Club Juniors and The Saturdays fame), Judy Murray (tennis coach), Alison Hammond, Thom Evans, Simon Webbe (of the boy band Blue), Mark Wright (former The Only Way is Essex star), Sunetra Sarker, Jake Wood (of Eastenders fame), Steve Backshall, Scott Mills (from BBC Radio 1), Pixie Lott (solo pop star), Caroline Flack (TV presenter), Jennifer Gibney, Gregg Wallace and Tim Wonnacott.

There have been many Strictly news stories ahead of the live shows this year, mostly because of the BBC’s decision to release the names of the celebrities one by one (with the exception of the last three names) in the run-up to the 2014 contest. There has also been some controversial discussion about how well-known the celebrities are compared with previous years when contestants included those such as newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky, model Kelly Brook and household names Russell Grant, Susanna Reid and Vanessa Feltz.

In presenting the show, long-time host and veteran Bruce Forsythe has handed the Strictly baton to Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman, who will welcome this year’s 15 celebrities to the Strictly studio for the very first time on Sunday 7 September. New for this year, there will also be a Strictly Come Dancing Red Carpet special, featuring the first interviews with the entire Strictly line-up debuting on the Red Button and BBC iPlayer at 7pm on Wednesday 3 September in order to give viewers at home a little more insight into the Strictly world.

Busby Berkeley: More Hollywood Treatment

Busby BerkeleyThe son of an actor and actress, Busby Berkeley became a Broadway dance director in the 1920s after serving in the army during World War I. He came to Hollywood to work on films like Eddie Cantor’s Whoopee! in 1930 and turned to directing with the 1933 She Had to Say Yes and then Gold Diggers. He continued to work throughout the 1940s and early 50s, aiming to help people escape the misery of those eras, full of breadlines, depression and wars.

Now Warner Bros. Pictures is giving iconic choreographer Busby Berkeley the chance to be reborn, with actor Ryan Gosling rumoured to play the famous director and choreographer of musicals from Hollywood’s golden age. Named “Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley” by Jeffrey Spivak, the adaptation is set to be produced by Marc Platt and Gosling.

Platt has musical experience in that he produced Broadway’s box-office hit Wicked, and is currently working on Disney’s adaptation of the Broadway musical Into the Woods, for release in December. He also produced the popular film Legally Blonde, which was turned into a Broadway and then West End musical.

Berkeley became famous for his elaborate dance routines in Hollywood musicals, such as the 1933 42nd Street and the 1935 Gold Diggers, two of the many movies he choreographed for Warners. He was especially famous for his overhead shots in which chorus girls performed shifting kaleidoscopic patterns, and he earned three Oscar nominations for best dance direction, a category that no longer exists. These overhead spectacles are awe-inspiring, the choreographic movement impeccable.

BBC’s ballet season

BBC2 LogoAs part of a major season of programmes on the BBC, which will also include rare footage of Margot Fonteyn in Sleeping Beauty from the 1950s, ex-Prima ballerina Darcey Bussell will reveal the ballerinas who have inspired her throughout her career and out the other side. BBC2 will present Darcey’s Ballerina Heroines, on 1 March in which she will discuss the dancers who were pivotal in her training and career. The programme will also explore the “history of the ballerina through the female ballet stars who came before her”.

The ballet season will be shown across BBC2 and BBC4 and will feature Fonteyn ’59 – Sleeping Beauty, an edited hour of highlights from Fonteyn’s appearance in Sleeping Beauty in 1959 which has rarely been seen since being filmed. It will be the first time viewers have seen extracts of the version of the ballet since its original screening, and will be broadcast on BBC4 on 7 March.

Meanwhile, Dancing in the Blitz – How WW2 Made British Ballet will be shown on BBC4 on 5 March and will see Birmingham Royal Ballet director David Bintley explore how the Second World War “was the making of British ballet”. It shows how the Sadler’s Wells Ballet, later the Royal Ballet, was formed during the war.

The season will conclude on 9 March with BBC4’s Good Swan, Bad Swan – Dancing Swan Lake, in which English National Ballet artistic director Tamara Rojo will take viewers behind the scenes as she prepares to perform one of the most challenging roles in classical ballet within Swan Lake. Rojo will reveal her insights on the role’s physical and psychological challenges while the season as a whole will give viewers a real glimpse behind the scenes of the ballet world.

Strictly Christmas Lineup Confirmed!

Strictly Come Dancing ChristmasThe Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special lineup has been confirmed with the show returning to Christmas Day again for 2013. Six brand new celebrities take part in a festive edition of the show.

The pairings are as follows:

Rochelle Humes & Ian Waite
Sara Cox & Robin Windsor
Elaine Paige & Pasha Kovalev
Matt Goss & Aliona Vilani
Ricky Norwood & Janette Manrara
Rufus Hound & Flavia Cacace

Star of The Saturdays Rochelle Humes, West End singing sensation Elaine Paige and radio DJ Sara Cox will be appearing, alongside the males, singer Matt Goss, actor Ricky Norwood and comedian and West End performer Rufus Hound. Professional dancers Robin Windsor, Pasha Kovalev and Ian Waite will partner the female celebrities, and Aliona Vilani, Janette Manrara and Flavia Cacace will partner the male celebrities.

All six celebrities are huge fans of Strictly, and two have even had a go at the BBC dance shows before in the name of charity. Rochelle took part in Strictly Come Dancing for Children in Need in 2010 against Harry Judd, before he went on to become Strictly champion in 2011. Rufus wowed audiences during Let’s Dance for Comic Relief in 2010, where he famously morphed into Cheryl Cole and performed her Fight For This Love routine. Elaine and Sara are both Strictly super fans, who both present shows on BBC Radio 2; singer Matt, famous for his part in boy band Bros has preciously performed on Strictly as a singer and Ricky will be trading the streets of Eastenders’ Albert Square for the Strictly dance floor.

The beautiful winter wonderland opening number will be filmed at LaplandUK, with Sir Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly presenting the show and its festivities, with judges Len Goodman, Darcey Bussell, Bruno Tonioli and Craig Revel Horwood ready to provide some Christmas scores.

Ben Tackles Ballet For Strictly

Ben CohenOne of the nations favourite evening entertainment television shows, Strictly Come Dancing, has already gone through the usual set of harsh critiques, soft touches and goodbyes for its contestants. Ex-prima ballerina Darcey Bussell – and President of the Royal Academy of Dance – is back on the hit show for a second series as judge, bringing a feminine and arguably more human touch to the panel, and that is discounting her more effeminate male counterparts!

Aside from the usual waltzing, jiving and cha-cha-ing, contestants have already found themselves subject to extra training. Former rugby star Ben Cohen has found himself at the ballet barre, having been sent to ballet lessons as part of last week’s training for Strictly. Cohen is one of the bulkier contestants, implying he must work doubly hard to achieve the expected lines and performance quality.

Cohen’s professional partner Kristina Rihanoff had previously voiced her concerns about how much weight training he had been doing, leaving him much too stiff and bulky for dancing. As a result Cohen has been attending ballet lessons in an attempt to make him more nimble. Cohen freely admits his lack of good posture, aiming to improve this, along with his overall dancing appearance.

It is hoped that Cohen’s ballet lesson stint lasted him through to his next performance, a waltz to What The World Needs Now – however in order to prolong the result of ballet Cohen must embark on a much longer commitment to ballet classes, rather than just those required by the cameras and public relations for the show itself. Cohen has commented on his extra stretch and improved poise for his waltz, ready for former Royal Ballet principal dancer Bussell’s eagle eye.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Pushy Parents?

Dance MomsIt has been the subject of much speculation over many years, however with the turn of the twenty-first century it seems that dancers will stop at nothing to achieve. Behind these dancers are their parents and dance teachers, encouraging and even directing these young students into a dance world they may not wish to be a part of. In addition to this, they not by physically ready for this kind of work either.

The work of subject is high pressure and high performance dance contests in which applying the same amount of make up and fake tan to a small child as a dancer on Strictly Come Dancing has been rather controversial. Whilst the child may enjoy the dancing, the music, and the social life that comes with dance classes and competitions, it must be noted that they do not have the knowledge of any alternative, and therefore the motivation to pursue another activity.

Whilst younger children are more flexible then their older counterparts, it is apparent that many dance teachers and parents abuse this, pushing the dancers to force their bodies to contort and lengthen before they are perhaps quite ready, substituting health and wellbeing for a leg up by the side of the head and a box jump greater than that in the hit movie Fame. Starting this work (too) early may be detrimental to the dancer’s future and is not a pre-requisite for a successful dancing life.

It is an assumption to label these parents and teachers as “pushy”, as seen on television programmes featuring dance phenomenons such as Baby Ballroom and Baby Disco: it is clear that overall each parent has the child’s interests at heart, however sometimes this gets lost on the way to our television and computer screens.

Game Changers

Sky Sports Game ChangersSky Sports has recently launched an initiative to get more children involved in sport by launching ‘Sky Sports Game Changers’ on Saturday mornings. An both an incentive and an inspiration, the show will feature regular appearances from a host of sports stars and Sky Ambassadors including David Beckham and Jessica Ennis-Hill to persuade children to get active and get involved.

The show also sees Olympic medallist and 2012 Strictly Come Dancing winner Louis Smith MBE learning a new skill: classical ballet. As the first of its kind, Game Changers followed Smith in his attempt to hone the pliés, jetés and even a small performance as part of his challenge, broadcast on Saturday 24 August.

The series began with a live skills session from Sky Sports Living for Sport mentor and inline skating world champion Jenna Downing. As well as live studio skills sessions that get the young audience involved, the sports stars will visit schools and sports clubs. The shows will be supported by downloadable Skill Sheets available from the Game Changers website to help young people learn the basics of a new sport.

Broadcast live in front of a live studio audience of young people, the shows are presented by Olympic Gold medallist Darren Campbell and Di Dougherty with Paralympic wheelchair rugby captain Steve Brown among the show’s reporters. Game Changers will draw on the expertise of many of the 75 athlete mentors who are part of Sky Sports Living for Sport, the free initiative that uses sports skills to inspire young people in a third of all UK secondary schools. Alongside Sky Sports Living for Sport, Sky Ride and the Sky Sports Scholarships scheme, Game Changers is another demonstration of commitment to all levels of sport following the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The Top Ten Dance Music Videos

Dance Music VideosNowadays, music isn’t all about the sound – it’s about the dance too. And some of the best music videos have got some real moves on display. We conducted a survey to find out which are the music videos that most put you in the mood for dancing, and showcase some of the best movers in the industry. So get yourself over to YouTube right now and check out these incredible music videos.

10. Billie Jean – Michael Jackson

You couldn’t have a list about dance music videos without mentioning the King of Pop at least once, so here’s MJ kicking off our survey results right away. A running theme of Michael Jackson’s videos was that feeling of watching a short film in its own right – and Billie Jean is no different. Lit paving stones, randomly appearing cats, a mysterious detective; what’s going on in this video is anyone’s guess. But Michael pulls off some of his most famous moves in this iconic video, and is well worth watching again and again.

9. Time Warp – The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Whether you’re a fan of Tim Curry in fishnets or not, there’s no denying that it’s a catchy dance. While it’s not the most complex of dances on this list, it’s one that can be picked up so quickly that it’s often performed by revellers on nights out!

8. Can’t Touch This – MC Hammer

Big tune, big glasses and absolutely huge cargo pants – what’s not to love about this iconic music video? As arguably MC Hammer’s signature song, U Can’t Touch This became one of the most popular singles ever made. That energetic dance is exhausting just to watch – and it really takes a talented dancer to have a go at some of Hammer’s moves, such as ‘The Running Man’ and the ‘Hammer Dance’.

7. Harlem Shake – Baauer

Not really a music video as such, but Baauer’s Harlem Shake didn’t need to spend thousands on production of a vid – thousands of Youtube users sorted that out instead. In early 2013, a fad of performing The Harlem Shake took hold, resulted in a wealth of videos of performers ‘dancing’ in the loosest sense of the word. There’s no denying it though – even if the dancers aren’t always up to scratch, they’re pretty amusing.

6. Vogue – Madonna

Released in 1990, Madonna was at the pinnacle of her career when Vogue hit the charts. The video itself was produced after hundreds of dancers appeared at a casting call in Los Angeles, and is filmed in homage to the Golden Age of Hollywood. That angular, smooth dance is now coined as ‘Vouging’, and requires a great deal of concentration to pull off properly!

5. Single Ladies – Beyonce

The look, the outfits, the hair, the film style and the dance – everything about Single Ladies is iconic. Coming in at number five on our list, this great chart-topper showcases some of the best dancing ever on a music video.

4. Macarena – Los del Rio

One of the most well-known one hit wonders ever the chart, Macarena was an international hit after its release in 1995 and continues to be one of the most iconic tracks of the 90s. Los del Rio were a lounge act who composed the song chorus ad hoc, and the remix which would become so popular included English lyrics sung by Carla Vanessa. And the dance – supposedly, it was devised by a local flamenco teacher!

3. Bad – Michael Jackson

As part of an 18-minute film written by Richard Price and directed by Martin Scorsese in 1987, Bad is one of Jackson’s most memorable dance offerings – not least because of that signature crotch grab. Many of the parts of the film actually make reference or homage to West Side Story.

2. Thriller – Michael Jackson

Easily one of the most iconic music videos of the 80s, everything about Thriller is quintessential Jackson, and it’s no wonder it got such a high place on this list. This video has got everything – zombies, werewolves, red leather jackets, memorable dance moves, shuffling – this is quintessential Jackson.

1. Gangnam – Style Psy

One of the biggest pop hits of 2012 – if not the biggest – Psy’s Gangnam Style broke all sorts of records. In fact, it would become YouTube’s most watching video, even more than Justin Bieber’s Baby. Our survey saw this vid come out on top. Quirky, strange, and with an easy to learn dance, we’re not surprised it ranked so high. What do you think?

The Top Ten Best Dance Film Scenes

Dance Films

Who doesn’t love a dance film? For uplifting moves and some real great tunes, you can always rely on a good dance film to perk you up. It’s no surprise that many dancers get their first interest in the world of movement from seeing an actor bust a move on the big screen. Everyone’s got a film that made them fall in love with dance.

To find out which dance film we are most in love with, we conducted a survey amongst dance film fans – and the results weren’t all that surprising! Read on to find out which dance films have the best dance scenes, and sit back and watch our favourite big screen heroes strut their stuff!

10. Fame (1980)

In at number ten is American musical classic Fame. With music by Michael Gore and choreography by MTV dance instructor Louis Falco, it’s no wonder this film has also been ranked in Entertainment Weekly’s top 50 Best High School Movies.

9. Step Up (2006)

Showcasing one of heartthrob Channing Tatum’s breakthrough roles, Step Up follows the story of two very different dancers in two very different social classes, and who must rely on each other to cement their professional futures.

8. Saturday Night Fever (1977)

Say what you like about John Travolta – the man has got some moves. In at number 8 on our list was his solo dance scene in Saturday Night Fever, in which he takes to a gloriously fabulous lighted stage in an equally fabulous pair of flares and dances the club to a standstill.

7. West Side Story (1961)

You can’t get more iconic than that opening scene – two rival gangs who ‘fight’ by pulling off some slick dance moves in front of each other. For style, grace and stone cold coolness, West Side Story is the quintessential retro dance film.

6. Footloose (1984)

It’s not great in the world of musical-drama Footloose – upbeat Chicago teen Ren has moved to a small town in which rock music and dancing have been banned under the order of a local minister.
There’s plenty of feel-good dance numbers in this, but of course what made number 7 was the dance to the film’s catchy theme tune. And it really is a toe-tapper!

5. Flashdance (1983)

Despite the fact that it opened to negative reviews by critics, Flashdance became a box-office hit and is now one of the best-loved dance films ever made. And the dance scene that made this list? It has to be that iconic finale, in which Alex dances for all she is worth. What a feeling!

4. Grease (1978)

It’s another appearance on this list for John Travolta – this time in 1978 classic Grease. There’s so many great dance scenes to choose from – but what made number four in our list was that toe-tapping classic Greased Lightning.

3. Pulp Fiction (1994)

Yet another film starring John Travolta! And it’s another iconic dance scene from the Tarantino blockbuster. Even though it’s not quite as complicated as some of the other dance scenes on this list, it’s still a favourite at weddings even now – and you can’t say it’s not memorable.

2. Singing in the Rain (1952)

You can’t have a list about the best dance scenes without Singing in the Rain – so here it is, in at number two. And the scene which everyone loves so much? Of course, it’s Gene Kelly singing – and dancing – in the rain!

1. Dirty Dancing (1987)

Don’t tell us you’re surprised – the most loved dance film scene comes from Patrick Swayze romance flick Dirty Dancing. The coming of age drama is one of the most loved dance films ever made – and who can’t fall in love with this final dance scene?

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Busby Berkeley

Busby BerkeleyBusby Berkeley, born November 29 1895 (died March 14 1976) was a highly influential Hollywood director and musical choreographer, famous for his elaborate musical production numbers that involved complex choreography through geometric patterns. Berkeley’s works used large numbers of showgirls and props as fantasy elements in on-screen performances which were both captivating and impressive.

Berkeley made his stage debut aged five, acting in the company of his performing family. Following his serving in World War I, during the 1920s Berkeley became a dance director for nearly 30 Broadway musicals. As a choreographer, Berkeley was more interested in his chorus girls’ ability to form attractive geometric patterns, creating an awe-inspiringly regimented display perhaps inspired by his army experiences. However, his audiences experiencing the Great Depression of America made Berkeley very popular, and he went on to choreograph four musicals back-to-back for Warner Bros.: 42nd Street, Footlight Parade, Gold Diggers of 1933 and Fashions of 1934.

For his choreographic work, Berkeley began to develop his theatrical techniques for the musical numbers of films, such as Samuel Goldwyn’s Eddie Cantor musicals. Here he trialled and extended techniques such as the “parade of faces” in which each chorus girl’s face was shot with an individual, loving close-up. He also began to move his dancers around the stage, and later beyond the stage in shooting highly cinematic shots containing as many kaleidoscopic patterns as possible. The ‘top shot’ filming technique, shot from above, became synonymous with Berkeley’s work, another kaleidoscope shot which also appeared in the Cantor films.

As a choreographer Berkeley was allowed much independence in his direction of musical numbers, yet they were often in great contrast to the narrative sections of the films, focusing on decoration and the aesthetics of dance and glamour. Many of his innovative creations have been heavily analysed, some critiqued for their display, or perhaps exploitation, of the female form as seen through the “male gaze”. However Berkeley always denied any significance of his work, arguing that his main professional goals were to constantly improve his work and never repeat his past accomplishments.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.