Only those who never stay in on Saturday nights will be surprised at the sequin fever currently sweeping theatres. Darren Bennett and Lilia Kopylova are the second pair of Strictly Come Dancing coaches to have capitalised on their sudden fame by touring their own shows.
But whereas Anton Du Beke and Erin Boag's Cheek to Cheek was all cheese, a sunken soufflé of old-school ballroom and bland patter that spoke only to fans of the BBC1 programme, Darren and Lilia's Latin Fever attempts to match more racy theatrical imports. However, a Latin showcase such as the recently triumphant Havana Rakatan is a hard act to follow, not least since, for Cubans, shaking your booty is as normal an activity as flossing teeth, and an all-over tan comes as standard. Yet what the Strictly pair lack in equatorial ease, they make up for in terrier attack. As for the bronzing, that's easy. Latin Fever is the first show I've seen that boasts an official tanning product.
It starts promisingly, with an explosive samba sequence that reminds you (not for the last time in this relentlessly energetic evening) of the African influence in Brazilian and Cuban dance. The costumes (designed by Vicky Barkess and Kopylova herself) are an ever-changing, gaudy marvel. For the samba, the girls' spangly swimsuits culminate in rumps of coloured feathers which shiver as they strut in that weird, accelerated way, their legs braced on tip-toe on already high heels in an exaggeration of sexualised femininity, like Disney-cartoon ostriches.
A tango, with the guys splay-legged on bentwood chairs and the nine-piece band doing the business on a breathy cover of "Fever", comes across like a lingerie ad (black, sheer, not for daytime), while the humalong "Quizàs", has the guys teasingly unwind the girls' orange-and-fuchsia sarongs and briefly wrap them around themselves in a brave David Beckham moment.
Kopylova and Bennett, as the putative star couple, are remarkable for their stamina more than for any illuminating quality. Kopylova's curvy, sturdy little body, and the way she manages to keep scraps of fabric attached to it, is mesmerising in itself. Bennett is a colourless backdrop as a partner, which kind of works. What's really laudable is their choreography for the supporting four other couples (among whom Tanya Perera is a bewitching standout). This is Latin reconceived for the stage, not just happening on it.
In a good week for the visibility of dance – what with Diversity sweeping the board on the box and the Royal Ballet on outdoor screens all over – Latin Fever can't help but enrich the mix.
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