At least the uncomfortably and unseasonably warm weather on the opening night of Keep Dancing at the New Wimbledon Theatre complemented the heat of the sizzling performance. Clearly as much of the available budget has been spent on the show itself: when I was handed a programme, it consisted of a single piece of A4 paper with a barely readable list of credits. As an indication of the sheer influence on British dance on recent years, both principals and the ‘guest stars’ are all listed as having appeared on BBC Television’s Strictly Come Dancing. This amiable audience responded well to Jay McGuiness and Aliona Vilani, the former a member of ‘The Wanted’, a chart music band, and the latter a professional dancer largely based in the United States. I take it a good number in the audience voted for them, and the ‘Jay and Aliona’ dances, though brief, were of a competent standard.
Robin Windsor and Anya Garnis carry out their set pieces with flair and confidence, and for whatever reason they are not featured as heavily as they could have been. It is the team of ten ensemble members – Mason Boyce, Arron Brown, Florence Edge, Yanet Fuentes, Jordan Hinchliffe, Joshua Moore, Shane Sean, Jasmine Takács, Lisa Welham and Rose Wild – that carry the show through a very broad range of dances and dancing styles.
I was naturally inclined, being someone more accustomed to plays and musicals, to enjoy dances that had a clear narrative. Of particular note was a piece in which a newcomer to a community (Robin Windsor) was repeatedly pushed aside by established locals, but, continually grafting, he eventually wins everyone over. But, ultimately, this is not the sort of production to get too analytical about. Even when Windsor found himself losing his way part-way through what I will call a rapid hand jive (it may well be properly called something else), this served as a moment of amusement for the audience, and brought a warm touch of human fallacy to proceedings. Whether deliberate or not, and I personally think not, it demonstrated to all that this is indeed live theatre, and there’s no opportunity to repeat or edit what has already happened.
Spirit Productions has gone one better than a previous tour of theirs that I had the privilege of seeing at Churchill Theatre Bromley in 2015, Puttin’ On The Ritz. There were no musicians at all in that tour and everything was performed to backing tracks. There’s still no band let alone an orchestra, but here, percussionists Joelle Barker and Adam Green are given ample opportunity to demonstrate their skills, which for Green includes some skilful and soulful guitar playing.
The soloists, Adam Warmington, Lisa-Marie Holmes and Harriette Mullen, are also given their moments in the spotlight, and are equally at ease with stand-and- deliver numbers as well as executing the choreography of the more upbeat tunes. Presumably, these moments serve to provide the dancers a chance to catch their breath and change costumes – overall, this show is as smooth as silk, moving from tune to tune, dance to dance, with a spectacular fluidity.
There’s something for almost everyone. On one level, it lurches from ‘There’s No Business Like Showbusiness’ from Annie Get Your Gun to ‘I Want It That Way’ by the American boyband Backstreet Boys within minutes – which is sublime and which is ridiculous is debatable. But on another level, the show is well compiled, with considerable thought given to what sort of song and dance should be performed at any given moment. The mix and match was impressively fitting.
This highly energetic production is a fun-filled evening and an excellent opportunity to enjoy plenty of dancing and music – without the commentary and conversation of a certain television show.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Winners of Strictly Come Dancing 2015 Jay & Aliona join Keep Dancing.
The brand new dance show celebrating the world of Ballroom and Latin dance.
Featuring Robin Windsor and other professionals from Strictly Come Dancing alongside world-champion Ballroom and Latin Dancers, Keep Dancing features all of your favourite styles of dance in one fast paced, high intensity production.
With dazzling costumes, breath-taking choreography, Keep Dancing is guaranteed to have you dancing into the night and having a FAB-U-LOUS time.
Keep Dancing booking to Saturday 17th September 2016
New Wimbledon Theatre
93 The Broadway, London SW19 1QG
Keep Dancing, New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham
Tue 06 – Sat 10 December 2016
Book Tickets for New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham