The myth of the advanced dancer

18th December 2010


"I still think it's a mark of an advanced dancer to be able to dance with anyone." ~ Captain Jack

"I believe that an advanced dancer is one who can make a beginner feel and look good and have fun on the dancefloor while being able to play with the step patterns and the rhythm." ~ Nikka Jones

At face value they both seem to be saying the same thing...

A Strict counter-example

Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, I present to you, Anton Du Beke!

And his lovely partner, Ann Widdicombe.

They gained standing ovations for 9 out of 10 of their dances. Despite being voted bottom every single week, they stayed in for 10 weeks. Anton clearly matches up to Nikka's standards.

Or does he?

Try getting David to say that Ann's dances were "good".

"I can't be bothered to watch tonight - the Flying Widdecombe has really put me off.
Plus, they're doing AT next week, which will probably go horribly wrong.
It's turning into a bit of a circus now
." ~ David Bailey

Strictly - what's the point?

In fact, let's take it a step further. What is the point of Strictly?

I mean, clearly the professionals are advanced dancers so they should be able to make their partners look good from day 1, right?

And what's with all this practicing lark?

Following or leading

I'm not bad at following tango, certainly not advanced, but I definitely make the grade as a beginner. I've had tango teachers lead giros and crosses perfectly on me. There was just one small pesky detail, I didn't follow them properly...

Now you can certainly make a beginner feel good. But whether someone else will agree that they looked good, much like Ann, is going to be very subjective. Someone might look at their smile and blissful expression and say "Yes, she looks good." And indeed Ann far and away seemed to be actually enjoying herself the most. Someone else might point out that their movement is in fact fairly awful (there's umpteen posts on the internet about Ann on this matter).

I think I would tweak Nikka's comment slightly, to say this:
"I believe that an advanced dancer is one who can make a anyone feel and look better than you would expect and have fun on the dancefloor while being able to play with the steps and the rhythm."

Now, Strictly - and Anton - start to make sense.

If you'd paired up Ann Widdecombe and Gavin Henson on the first episode, and sent them onto the stage, it wouldn't have looked anything like the dances they actually managed with their respective partners. But likewise if you put Anton with Katya, they would look better again.


Now have a look at this

I love this and I think it sums up what I'm saying. Some magicians actually do this with laymen and the point in that case is just to reinforce that there's one ball under each cup and that this is important for the rest of the trick.

And so the layman's experience of it is completely different to Teller's. There's no way for it to be otherwise and I don't think there's any actual point in trying to make it so. What's important is that it works for both the layman and Teller and that's what makes the magician advanced.

~ Christopher O' Shea, 18th December 2010

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