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Former Latin American World & European champion. Open British, UK & International Latin American Champion. Professional dancer on Strictly Come Dancing with Diarmuid Gavin, Nicholas Owen & John Barnes.

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Thursday, 22 September 2011

Training Videos - How it all starts! PART ONE

Unfortunately these videos are more of a teaser than anything else and we don't get a real feel for what is happening in those first couple of training sessions.  Generally, I can assure you that there are nerves from both sides as you don't really have an idea until that first training day what your celeb is capable of or if anything at all. So it will either be relief or a sense of dread & this is pretty much what the celeb will be feeling too as they won't have a clue what to expect either. It is a very surreal situation to be in and not one you can really fully explain to anyone who hasn't been there & done it.

The first few days will be the building blocks for the rest of their time together.  If they get off to a good start that's great but you can usually tell pretty much straight away if you will get along with each other or not - just like any meeting of new people in the real world!

Baby steps - this is how it all starts, just like a baby learning to walk, your celeb has to learn a few basics of a dance first. Then how to count in time to the music (that is if they have a sense of rhythm) and also get used to a 'hands - on' approach by the Pro they are dancing with as this is generally unfamiliar to them in terms of the proximity you have with each other almost immediately & can make them feel rather intimidated and awkward.

On top of all that, there are cameras watching your every move, listening to your every word, ready to be edited and then you have to try and act and feel natural in a totally unnatural situation! That is why I often think that the celebs haven't really a clue what they have signed up for until they start their training.  All the glitz & glamour only happens once a week, the rest is a lot of hard work.  BUT... there is a lot of fun too.  There is a lot of laughter whilst teaching & learning to dance, quiet a few painful moments of either been accidentally kicked, punched, slapped, dropped, stood on, frustration on both sides and the list goes on.

BUT it is all worth it in the end for that 1 and a half minutes of dancing on a Saturday night to an audience of millions of people watching Strictly Come Dancing & everyone is rooting for and hoping that the celebs will do well & be entertaining. Now, that's entertainment!

So, let's see how they are getting on in the first weeks of training:

Lulu and Brendan Cole

Lulu seems to be very keen to learn and although I fear she may not be as natural a dancer as we somehow expect her to be, her enthusiasm and eagerness to learn & get it right will help a lot & I am sure this will please Brendan.  He loves a hard worker & appreciates that even if someone one doesn't have a natural talent for dancing, if they are a 'trier' - he's very happy!  Lulu does look very good in the shapes she makes, with her arms and body and has a natural awareness for what 'looks' good & this goes a long way towards making a dance look correct in the beginning. I am sure there will be a lot of people including the judges perhaps that will criticise their height difference however, this should not be a problem at all. I for one would know having been very successful with Matthew Cutler.  All Brendan needs to do is to be clever with choreography & the height difference will actually be a bonus. They will be able to do a lot of interesting choreography that a couple of the same height won't be able to do! I look forward to seeing this development in their partnership and, now that lifts aren't strictly prohibited, these two could be the King and Queen of lifts this year! Very exciting indeed.
Rory Bremner and Erin Boag

Wow, at first glance this looks very good! Erin is a fantastic Ballroom teacher and her Waltzes have always been very memorable for being so classic and sophisticated. This I am sure will be no different.  Rory has a great physique for Ballroom - tall & elegant and his posture isn't bad at all.  His shoulders 'pop' up from time to time but this is natural in the beginning and I am sure Erin will sort this out very quickly.  His movements look very fluid & smooth already which in a Waltz is very hard to achieve as a first dance for anyone so this is very promising indeed & shows that even if Rory doesn't understand rise & fall yet, this is something that is fairly natural to him! I can't wait to see their Waltz on the night as I think it will be a very beautiful, sophisticated and classy number.
Edwina Currie and Vincent Simone

Who would have thought Edwina has such natural hip action? (no jokes please!) Seriously, I was very pleasantly surprised with how natural she looks doing something that most women can look pretty awful doing if not done correctly! I hope she uses this asset to her advantage but not to 'overkill' it either.  Edwina is obviously a very clever woman and I like how she thinks about all the dance steps already -she seems to compartmentalise them which will help her learn them and remember them quickly as a lot of the same steps are present in different dances. Edwina looks to be a very natural mover and with Vincent's humorous charm ;-) I expect to see a rhythmical & cheeky Cha Cha Cha if that is in deed what they will be dancing in the first show. I hope so as it might actually be rather good!

Jason Donovan and Kristina Rihanoff

If there was a glitter ball for the celeb who is totally engrossed in learning to dance, Jason would get it! Yes he is a perfectionist, yes he works hard but I think he needs to relax just a little so that he doesn't stress himself out about this too much.  Dancing is a hard skill to learn but this is a long & hard road which I feel Kristina and Jason will be on for a good length of time & I don't want Jason to frustrate himself to early - plenty of time for that later! If they are doing the Cha Cha as their first dance, this is quite a difficult dance for a man to master initially as there should be good hip action and a cheeky & sexy character to the dance. Jason already seems to have the same natural talent for good hip action as Edwina which is very impressive. I hope that we get to see Jason's 'showman' personality come through as I am sure he can be a wonderful entertainer if he gets in character in each dance - I just don't want him to concentrate too much on making everything perfect & forget that he needs to be entertaining too. I'm looking forward to seeing Jason wiggle those hips on the dance floor!
Anita Dobson and Robin Windsor

I like Anita! She gets it... This IS hard work & she knows what she has signed up for - learning to dance in firstly a dance competition & secondly an entertainment competition. But there needs to be both elements in order to be successful & win Strictly Come Dancing.  Anita for me has a natural & graceful look when she dances and moves, whether it be with or without Robin - something not often seen so early in training and I like the way Anita's head moves naturally when changing positions. The actual pace of movement they seem to have looks very good & they look very suited together.  The only thing that immediately bothered me was Anita's left arm placement on Robin but it is early days & I am sure this will be remedied. I feel that perhaps Anita & Robin won't have a traditional and purist look about their choreography & their dancing but, they will be very watchable and Anita will be very elegant in terms of arm placement and movement on the dance floor. 

Robbie Savage and Ola Jordan

Another celeb who didn't think it was going to be so difficult! But... At least Ola has a sportsman & that is a tremendous advantage in the fact that they will not quit until they either get it right or physically cannot do anymore!  Unfortunately, I think Robbie is in the category that people will automatically think he will be a natural mover just because he is a sportsman & footballer however, I think that he's going to have to work extremely hard for us to believe this. He doesn't have a natural hip action YET and looks a little tentative & reliant on Ola but, on a positive note, he does have good posture, good neat footwork & straight knees where he should have.  I have been told (& it is true) that sportsmen are very good at repetition & copying things like body action & footwork & perhaps this approach would help a little.  Without a shadow of a doubt, Robbie & Ola will be the most glamorous couple of the floor & I hope that with his tenacity for repetition & hard work we will see that fancy footwork on the dance floor too.

Dan Lobb and Katya Virshalis

I didn't realise that there is quiet a big height difference between Dan & Katya & although I said earlier that just because there is a height difference, this shouldn't be a hindrance... it does however make a difference if it is the male celeb who is a lot taller than the pro dancer as it is a natural tendency when they are unsure to look towards or at their partner for assurance.  In a partnership of equal height this wouldn't be very noticeable as looking down but in this case it may pose a problem.  With Katya's persistence however, I am sure Dan's posture will improve & it was after all only the early stages of training.  I do think that Dan & Katya will be a very glamorous Ballroom couple though & look like they should have a good presence on the dance floor - I look forward to seeing what Katya can achieve with Dan as all the right tools are there to create a good dancer.

Still to come:

Nancy Dell’Olio and Anton Du Beke
Russell Grant and Flavia Cacace
Holly Valance and Artem Chigvintsev 
Harry Judd and Aliona Vilani
Chelsee Healey and Pasha Kovalev
Alex Jones and James Jordan
Audley Harrison and Natalie Lowe

As I said earlier, it is very difficult to make an accurate assessment of the couple's and the celeb's dancing after watching such a limited & edited amount of footage & I am sure that by the time we get to see everyone on the first show, they will be leaps & bounds from where they were in the beginning (well, we hope so anyway!) So, for now this is only my opinion on what we have been shown & I look forward to being proven wrong & right about some of my opinions - after all, that is what makes us tune in each week to watch Strictly Come Dancing isn't it?

Good luck to ALL pros & celebs for their final week in training before the first show - make it a good week and most of all enjoy the experience because come the first show, you'll be far to nervous to even think about enjoying it until it's all over!

Strictly Come Dancing - A Professional's Opinion!

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