Strictly 2021 Week 2: Paso Doble and Tango

It’s only week two and I’m deeply impressed by everything the celebrities have already learnt! It’s testimony to what incredible teachers the pro dancers are and above all else to hard work.

Something I love about dance is that talent matters, sure. But talent is nothing without dedication and practise. In dance this is extremely evident and shows from the get go. Strictly Come Dancing celebrates the joy of dance. You get to see talent. But the show also brings home the importance of applying yourself, of honing your mindset and giving something your best go.

Surely those are learnings we can apply to our own lives in many different ways.

Dan Walker and Nadiya Bychkova: Paso Doble to Giant by Calvin Harris and Rag N Boneman

Dan Walker and Nadiya Bychkova: Paso Doble to Giant by Calvin Harris and Rag N Boneman BBC Strictly Come Dancing
Dan Walker and Nadiya Bychkova: Paso Doble to Giant by Calvin Harris and Rag N Boneman. Photo: BBC Strictly Come Dancing
Interpretation and staging of Nadiya’s and Dan’s Paso Doble

With each dance, the pro has a choice to stage a completely traditional choreography or to break with convention and choose a different setting. Of course the latter is a risk as some may like an unusual choice and others may find it doesn’t work. The Paso Doble is usually an interpretation of the relation between the Spanish bullfighter (lead/traditionally the man) and his cape (follower/traditionally the woman). Nadiya chose to take the Paso Doble into the gladiator arena.

Whereas the judges discussed the styling and didn’t agree on whether the staccato qualities of the gladiators worked with the Paso Doble, I think the fusion worked really well. I particularly loved that Nadiya departed from the idea that the follower embodies the bull fighter’s cape. Instead, she was a gladiator too!

The challenge of teaching dancers to lead

Nadiya seems to me an extremely intelligent teacher, who doesn’t just teach well, but also focuses on the most effective aspects first. She always manages to make her partners look good very early on, even when detailed technical and musical knowledge are still missing. Her partners’ performances are always extremely watchable.

One of her secrets, it seems to me, is that she prioritises key situations in which her partners need to offer a strong lead. It’s important to note that in addition to the challenge of learning to dance, learning to lead is a whole different ball game. Dan gives good signals to Nadiya and this helps make the Paso Doble look convincing and authentic.

The importance of focus and intention in the Paso Doble

Dan’s attention and focus are on point. I see him fully relinquishing to the moment and I salute him for his courage to do that. Often, dance beginners are held back by their concern over “looking silly”. The thing is, if you fully apply yourself, you won’t look silly. Even if the steps and technique aren’t perfect. But it’s hard to trust this without experience. Dan’s ability to overcome any self-consciousness, demonstrates his faith in Nadiya and her guidance. It’s the exact right mindset to have when trying something new. I find it very inspiring.

Opportunities for continued improvement

I noticed that Dan’s movement was slightly jumpy in a few places. As Dan gave the Paso Doble the attack and power, even aggression, it needs, but doesn’t yet have the full technical tool box available to him, it’s understandable that he’s lacking a refined ability to control movements. I look forward to seeing him develop his ability to put the strength, attack and power in the exact right parts of his body over the coming weeks.

I was also missing more breadth across the back and lift between the shoulders and upper arm. Steps, legs and feet are one major challenge in dance. The upper body is another. Each dance comes with its own unique articulation of the torso. Accomplishing it really brings a dance style to life. What Dan achieved in week two is tremendous. But I still can’t wait to see what else he will achieve with Nadiya’s support.

Robert Webb and Dianne Buswell: Tango to La Cumparsita by Machiko Ozawa

Robert Webb and Dianne Buswell: Tango BBC Strictly Come Dancing
Robert Webb and Dianne Buswell: Tango to La Cumparsita by Machiko Ozawa. Photo: BBC Strictly Come Dancing
For the love of dance, craft and music

This tango was a traditional, you could say simple, interpretation. No flashy stuff. No tricks. Just pure beautiful dance. It’s a big challenge, because you have nowhere to hide. All dance is a celebration, but each style provides a different nuance or emphasis. This performance embodied the love of dance, craft and music.

The challenge of dancing big and intimate at the same time

I first noticed the length and breadth of Robert’s strides and the fabulous intimate hip connection between him and Dianne. Dianne doesn’t look in any way held back. The dance doesn’t look compressed. The use of space is expansive. That is a huge accomplishment, because in Tango there’s a tension between the closeness of the dancers on the one hand and the need to cover great space and dance large on the other hand.

When focus, technique and expression come together

I could see the huuuuge amount of focus and thinking that seemed to go on in Robert’s head and I don’t mind it one bit. It was charming and made it feel like he was incredibly invested in the moment. It shows how much work and concentration you need to dance with such control. I thought Robert had a very good management of strength and attack. Neither him nor Dianne seemed to have any balance issues. It’s very hard to get the balance between power and attack and control and balance right.

Often people talk about putting on a face for the Tango. I’m not a fan of that expression, because I believe the facial expression should arise from within and not be put on from the outside. In this performance, I felt the expression resulted from the emotion deeply within. And the emotion came from a wonderful submission to the beauty of the music, the focus on Dianne and the dance. It was great to watch!

I could so understand Dianne’s outburst of happiness just after the end of the performance. She must’ve been so pleased with Robert’s incredibly accomplished performance. I burst out in applause from my sofa!

Week three is on BBC One tomorrow, Saturday 9th October 2021, at 6.45pm.


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