Written by Emma Beatty
I’m a BIG fan of Strictly Come Dancing; I camped out at four in the morning in Elstree to get tickets. But, I didn’t think I knew much about ballroom. I thought I only liked Strictly for the drama, the judges, the sequins, the amateurs and the eliminations, like the lovely Debbie McGee.
So, when I got tickets to see Debbie’s partner, Giovanni Pernice, at the Kings I was a bit, unsure. A whole show with just one dancer? Won’t it be a bit samey? Isn’t he a bit of a show-off anyway?
I was, dear reader, very wrong. It was fab-U-lous. It turns out I like Strictly for the dancing. It was slick, spectacular and really quite sophisticated, running the gamut of the SCD repertoire from the cha-cha to the rumba, American Smooth to the foxtrot, jive and tango. I didn’t realise I’d picked up so much vocab from TV. I spotted a Samba Roll and the Pot Stirrer twirl that Brendan (now departed) inflicted on poor Charlotte Hawkins – little SCD references here and there woven into the choreography.
It was eye-opening to see just professionals. I’m used to the typical singer/dancer/actor on stage, but these were far superior movers – lithe, bendy and bouncy with spot-on precision and expression. They danced very together as a group too. His partner is Luba Mushtuk, assistant choreographer on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. Alongside were ‘Dancing with the Stars Ireland’ professionals Giulia Dotta, Kai Widdrington, Emily Barker, and Curtis Pritchard. Choreographed by SCD’s creative director, Jason Gilkison.
How did it fill the two hours? Giovanni narrated his life story in his singy-songy Italian accent with a pretty sharp wit and comic timing. Going from his birth in Sicily – and his love of his mama – to early years as a dancer in Spain – cue Paso Doble and rumba, to arriving in London – big Bob Fosse-inspired West-End musical numbers— to getting his job on Strictly.
This final third recreated big group dances from Strictly. Then three of his best dances with his last three partners – Georgia May Foote’s jive, Laura Whitmore’s waltz in that wafty yellow dress, Debbie McGee’s salsa with the dare-devil arm-between-the-crotch twirling lift (he explained that in some detail).
My only complaint really was the music, pre-recorded by big-name singers, was too loud and tinny. This show is touring lots of regional theatres for a few months, so I guess they’ll have to adjust the music at each.
Overall, Giovanni reminded me a bit of Gene Kelly – same broad smile and easy, relaxed style; he doesn’t look like he’s making any effort. But, my companion – a bit more knowledgeable about dance than me – said not; that Kelly was very ‘down in the knees’ and Giovanni is much lighter-toed and ‘naughtier’ (he did keep taking his top off).
Overall, I hate to gush, but it was a great show, and Giovanni’s surprisingly witty to boot. If you like Strictly, go see.
It’s at the Isle of Wight Medina Theatre on Wednesday, 27 June.