Alexi Sayle is a comedian with Marxist leanings. I like him a lot. The BBC is currently into the twelfth series of its hit show Strictly Come Dancing, which is a dance competition that pairs celebrities with professional dancing partners. I like it a lot.
Alexi does not like it, not one little bit, so he’s penned a column in the Guardian to explain why. And, to be fair, he makes some good points. He clearly doesn’t like Ballroom Dancing, because, as he says:
Ballroom dancing is an aesthetic pursuit, an art form, that has been turned into a competition the result of which is that everything is done to attract the attention of the judges. The competitors must try to fit within a set of rules and so a tawdry, flashy, kitsch aesthetic takes over.
I can see what he means. But on the other hand, there must be many people who go Ballroom Dancing purely for the pleasure it gives them. I remember my parents, back in the 1950s, were avid ballroom dancers. They didn’t do it in any competitive sense, but purely for the pleasure – for the chance of dressing up a bit and having a good night out with their friends.
And quite frequently, when the evening was over, they would return home with their ballroom dancing friends and carry on the party, using the large lounge (my parents owned a small hotel), the piano, and the gramophone stacked with a bunch of Victor Silvester records.
Despite my parents passion for ballroom dancing, I never learned to dance; something that I’ve often regretted. And while I can understand Alexi’s distaste for what the Argentinian Tango has become:
If you see a couple performing a proper Argentine tango, you are watching a dance created in the brothels of Buenos Aires that reeks of melancholy and sex and is accompanied by complex music that has grown alongside the dance and is inseparable from it. Then you watch the ballroom version, all gurning faces and robotic, angular, hideous movement, which on the show is generally accompanied by awful music that has absolutely nothing to do with the dance; you are seeing a great popular art reduced to a terrible travesty.
… I can also appreciate that it doesn’t have to be this way. It can be the most wonderful sensual dance: