Strictly spin-off Keep Dancing is a glitzy show but lacks the sparkle of its TV original Strictly Come Dancing.
It’s a bit of a puzzle at first trying to work out exactly why the opening routines are failing to thrill. It’s not until Strictly ex-professionals Robin Windsor and Anya Garnis burst onto the stage a couple of numbers in, that the penny finally drops. Robin and Anya are good, really good, and the others are just, well, not.
Robin and Anya hit you first with a pow of sheer energy and oomph. After the impact of this has died down a little, the precision of the frantic footwork and the finesse with which they carry the whole thing off can really be appreciated. Unfortunately, these two only perform a handful of numbers, leaving the rest of the show in the less-experienced hands of the backing dancers, helped along a bit by the trio of live singers.
The two female singers have good voices and throw everything they’ve got into the performances. When you consider they’re covering such iconic hits as Stormy Weather and I Put a Spell on You, they really don’t half do a bad job. The male singer has perhaps a bigger mountain to climb, as he is called upon to emulate Sinatra in a rendition of New York New York and Elvis in a male version of Fever. There isn’t even any dancing during Fever to distract from the fact that he’s swallowing the words and writhing awkwardly, as he attempts to fill the stage with his presence. It is a bridge too far.
There’s an air of anticipation and delight as Jay and Aliona – current Strictly champions – perform two of their perhaps least memorable dances from last season’s show. Despite this, and despite being pregnant, Aliona’s dancing has the polish that provides further evidence of what is lacking in the other performers. In a Q&A session later in the show, Jay demonstrates that he is still the same self-effacing, ordinary guy he always has been, and the audience show they still love him for it.
All the Strictly signatures are here: there are sparkly costumes, there’s a glitter ball and the usual staircases are flanking the stage. But the costumes look like they’ve been dragged off the nearest cruise ship and the whole format just seems a bit tired. It appears to be a cheap and cheerful, yet cynical, attempt to milk a bit of money out of a popular TV show. It plays all the Strictly notes but most of them are off-key. Die-hard Strictly fans may just be happy to see a familiar format and a few familiar faces.
Runs 15th – 19th November