Anton & Erin: Cheek to Cheek, Coliseum, London
Monday 27 April 2009
Billed as a celebration of ballroom dancing, Cheek to Cheek is an immensely cheesy experience. Between sequin-spangled numbers, Anton Du Beke and Erin Boag, the professional dancing stars from the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing, indulge in showbiz patter that might have fallen through a 1970s time warp. He ogles the chorus girls or complains about how many frocks Erin has. In some detail, they remind us of their previous television exploits.
The music, conducted by Gavin Sutherland, is bright and brassy. Richard Shelton ("You may know me from Emmerdale...") belts out standards, as a soloist or as backing for dance numbers by the stars, their guests and a small ballroom ensemble.
The strange thing is that Anton and Erin, despite years of experience in competitions and on stage, really do look better on television. With the celebrities on Strictly, they don't spend so much time on the odder refinements of ballroom style. Whether or not they get there, the learner dancers are trying to express emotion. That's often more fun than the professionals' display pieces. With ballroom champions, you often get a kind of passion in aspic.
Chris Marques and Jaclyn Spencer have won the Official World Professional Salsa Championships three times, but their version of Latin fever looks learned by rote. One or other of them will dip to the floor, sliding over the other's body, but there isn't any spark or flirtation. For all the wiggling hips and plunging necklines, it isn't sexy.
Boag and Du Beke do move with easy assurance. Their steps match effortlessly, sliding naturally into the same lines and angles. It's most fun when they glide through fast steps, upper bodies floating along while they scamper through neat, precise patterns. They're always tidy, but rarely warm. In the Viennese waltz, the big dance climax is a long spin, Boag circling Du Beke. Round and round they go, fast and steady – but there's no change of pace, little excitement.
The show's bigger numbers are eccentric. The women of the ensemble do their best to be a James Bond title sequence for Diamonds are Forever, posing around the singer. Then Du Beke and Boag dance a tango version of "O Fortuna" from Orff's Carmina Burana.
During the ensembles, my eye kept going to soloist Tanya Perera. She's a stylish, musical dancer, fluid in the ballroom numbers but with a swagger in swing or Latin dances. Her dancing has real flavour.
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