Dancing Cheek to Cheek: an Intimate History of Dance, BBC4 - TV review: Forget Miley and Beyoncé, Len'n'Lucy have all the right moves

 

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The Independent Culture

Strictly Come Dancing fans already know the uplifting effect dance can have. It's only a shame that, that show aside, dance no longer occupies the central place in entertainment that it once did, back in the days of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Enter Strictly judge Len Goodman and historian Lucy Worsley, the Fred and Ginger of BBC4, with their new series, Dancing Cheek to Cheek: an Intimate History of Dance.

You see, dance isn't only entertainment, it also happens to be a brilliant way into the sort of sexy social history that more po-faced documentaries can overlook. Ever wondered how people flirted with each other in more socially constrained times? How the workers in Victorian factories kept their minds occupied during their monotonous labour? And who invented twerking? (Clue: it definitely wasn't Miley Cyrus. Or Beyoncé). All this and more is covered over three excellent episodes, in which Len'n'Lucy explore the history of popular dance, before trying out the moves themselves.

This week we heard how 17th-century Puritans like Histriomastix author William Prynne condemned dancing as an incitement to "wantonnesse, whoredome and adultery", and saw our hosts attempt to master the minuet, as taught by Rada's historical dance teacher Darren Royston. Proto-feminist Ginger Rogers famously "did everything he did... only backwards and in high heels" and the same could be said here. Only in this case, it was Len wearing the high heels, white buckled numbers as worn by Charles II, while Lucy merely had to contend with a heavy powdered wig and a tightly strapped corset.

These two are already well-loved presenters, but there was something additionally charming about their willingness to look a little silly in the name of our edutainment. And it turns out that old prig Prynne was right about one thing, at least: the joy of dancing really is rather infectious.

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