Week four of Strictly Come Dancing 2021 included one Paso Doble: a traditional interpretation by Tilly and Nikita.
Tilly Ramsay and Nikita Kuzmin Paso Doble to Diablo Rojo by Rodrigo y Gabriela
Why we dance the Paso Doble
With the Paso Doble there’s often lots of talk about the stern face and the difficulty of having a serious impression for the duration of the dance. Of course, it’s not like playing ‘who laughs first’ while staring at one another. There must be a good reason for the stern expression. The reason is the meaning of why we dance the Paso Doble in the first place. The challenge then, is not to hold the face, but to create the right atmosphere, the right story, the right relationship with your partner.
Why do we dance the Paso Doble? Dance is never just a display of technique to music. It must be more. Dance allows us to celebrate, to express emotions, to invest in partnerships, in short: to live deeply! With the Paso Doble it can be a range of things from pain and anger to willpower and resolution, as well as many other facets of intense, dark, strong emotions that are part of life. It’s up to each couple to decide.
If you dance the Paso Doble just as a series of steps, it will look naff. In addition to technical accomplishment, it needs emotional investment. You need to go all in to make it come alive and look good. With a piece of music as complicated and unfamiliar as this and a choreography as pure and sincere, you really need to put in lots of work both physically and emotionally.
Signs of a good Paso Doble
I could tell that this performance was extremely well rehearsed, because Tilly was fully invested. I felt that maybe at the beginning there were some nerves, but soon enough Tilly embodied the spirit of the dance.
The way Tilly danced showed that she had understood the Paso Doble, e.g. she called out with real emotion several times during the dance and the way she carried her torso was more than just a technical feat, it was a response to the intensity of the dance. For instance if you rewatch the very end, focus on the way her torso grows as she reaches out to embrace Nikita: that’s not a movement you can teach, that’s emotion, that’s dance.
Likewise, she created some beautiful strong shapes with her hands. Again, you can learn the shape, but to make it look truthful, it needs to be underpinned with drive from within.
I could also see that Tilly was an excellent partner to Nikita in that she gave him her weight to counterbalance with. In addition to practise, this requires trust, strength and courage. It’s very advanced and means that the couple can generate that tension between them which we need in a Paso Doble.
When we give to dance, we get back
Tilly said after the performance that she didn’t know she could be so serious and that she’s learning something new about herself every week. Not just with Tilly, but time and again on Strictly, we have the privilege of witnessing people go above and beyond what they thought possible. They discover aspects of themselves they didn’t know they had or didn’t allow to come out.
Dance requires courage and that you give yourself over to the choreography, the music, your partner, the moment. It’s scary. But if you’re well rehearsed, the reward is a tremendously exciting experience for the performers and the audience. This reward for hard work is a valuable lesson for many aspects in life: with the right preparation, hard work and good people around you, you can achieve great things.
I’m excited to follow Tilly’s development on the show. I can’t wait to see her expand her movement even further, eat the space even more and surprise herself again with what she’s capable off.
Watch week five on BBC One on Saturday 23rd October 2021, at 7.15pm.
PS: I feel that there are a million more things to say about the value of dance for dealing with life, with emotions. I made a start in this blog about the benefits of teaching Flamenco dance at primary schools, which I recommend if this topic interests you.
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