Tag Archive: Dance


Love is in the air, everywhere I look around.

That may be so, but wonderful dance is also on the stage in this musical version of Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom. Based on the 1992 film of the same name, itself adapted from Luhrmann’s original play, Strictly Ballroom tells of the love affair both on and off the dancefloor between talented amateur, Scott Hastings and beginner, Fran. When Scott loses his dance partner due to him wanting to pursue his own style, Fran persuades him to take her on and compete in the Pan-Atlantic Grand Prix Dancing Championships.

Strictly Ballroom — Birmingham Hippodrome — 31 October 2022

With the popularity of the another Strictly (Strictly Come Dancing), this musical can be equally well-received. But for that you need a strong script, good music, and most important in a dance themed show, brilliance on the dancefloor. Thankfully, we had all of that. The book by Luhrmann himself and Craig Pearce is sound in character development and funny. But it was dance along with excellent vocals which had the audience wowed right until the end. Choreographed and directed by Strictly Come Dancing’s Craig Revel-Horwood with co-choreography from Jason Gilkinson, even dancing ignoramuses like me were impressed. Then, under the musical supervision of Stuart Morley, we had excellent vocals from all involved.

In the lead roles of Scott and Fran we had Kevin Clifton and Maisie Smith respectively. Both excelled in song and dance, as you would expect and were equally supported by Nikki Belsher (Shirley Hastings), Mark Sangster (Doug Hastings), Gary Davis (Barry Fife), Quinn Patrick (Les Kendall), Oliver Brookes (JJ Silvers), Jose Agudo (Rico) and Karen Mann (Abuela) among over 20 cast members.

Best number of the night for me was the Paso Doble at the end of Act One, full of energy and breath-taking excellence, however, Beautiful Surprise ran a close second with amazing vocals from Clifton and Smith. I also had fondness for the Barry Fife comic number, Dance to Win, performed by Davis. In among the original score with offerings from Sia and Eddie Perfect, were retro classics in the form of Tequila, Time After Time and during the finale, a rousing and feelgood, Love is in the Air.

Strictly Ballroom — Birmingham Hippodrome — 31 October 2022

The whole show was not only a spectacle of dance though. Mark Walters colourful costumes were equally sparkling as was the impressive (and rather surreal) wooden curved panelled set. Add some great lighting from Richard G. Jones and you had the icing on the cake. At the end, most in the auditorium were on their feet and it was great to see the band on stage too for a bow.

This production; I loved it. The only criticism is a minor plot device with the cliché of Fran only considered attractive once she’d changed from unfashionable clothes and removed her glasses.

Strictly Ballroom is touring the UK the rest of the year and into next summer. Even if you are not a fan of dance, do not let this put you off. This is a fabulous show, darling.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

I’ve begun many recent reviews with comments about how hard it’s been during the numerous lockdowns for Performing Arts, and now it is the time for Dance Schools to have their say. Almost two years to the day that everyone was ordered to close their doors, Keeling School of Dance took to the stage with the aptly named, The Show Must Go On.

Keeling School of Dance was established in 1934 by Beatrice Keeling at the age of 14, operating from her parents’ house before continuing in the area, finally moving to Aldridge in 1976. Sadly, Miss Keeling passed away in 2014, having taught until 2012. It is good, though, that the school has continued, run by former pupils: Jane Eardley, Sarah Beckett, Elaine Wigfield and Clare Cooksey. Classes begin from age 2 right up to advanced level and adult beginners. Also on the teaching staff is former pupil, Fran Eardley, who performed widely in the show including Point Solo (Arabian Dance) and Lyrical Solo (You Will Be Found). And it’s great to see the more experienced pupils moving forward. Grace Chambers (Jazz Solo {Show Me How You Burlesque}) and Niamh Reynolds (Contemporary Solo {Godmanchester Chinese Bridge}) now teach the younger pupils while Natasha Evans (Contemporary Solo {Showstoppa}) oversees Street.

I last attended a Keeling showcase in 2019 and the positive progression of pupils was staggering to see. Several who were tots, some whom I’d worked with in Theatre before that time, were displaying quality and polished skills. How quickly three years have flown, but so much hard work has obviously happened during that time.

On show were examples from all classes Keeling provide: Ballet, Tap, Theatre Craft, Gym, Street, Contemporary, Jazz, Lyrical and Broadway. Yes, the little ones pulled the heartstrings in their Olaf costumes during When I Get Older, but it was the overall enthusiasm and determination to get everything right during all the dances which was the overriding memory of an emotional and exhilarating afternoon. In addition to the solos already mentioned, there was also Sax, an excellent tap solo from Nadia Fallouh. I cannot name everyone, the same I won’t single out more dances as this would be an overly long review and to be frank, I’d have to list them all.

There were two awards presented on the day. The Cooper Cup for progress was won by the previously mentioned Grace Chambers while the Keeling Cup for enthusiasm, commitment and improvement went jointly to siblings, Lizzie Powell-Heyworth and James Powell-Heyworth.

Grace Chambers, winner of the Cooper Cup with mum, Elaine Wigfield.
James & Lizzie Powell-Heyworth with the Keeling Cup.

This show wasn’t a vanity project for parents to see how good their kids were in a chosen field of the arts, it was to engage with the wider world and show that dance is an important part of culture and should not be ignored. Covid restrictions hit the arts badly and to bounce back fighting is a credit to the staff and pupils of Keeling. The students of today are stars of tomorrow and there were plenty on view during this showing.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

Three years ago, I attended and reviewed Brendan Cole’s All Night Long spectacular at Birmingham Symphony Hall. Now, I always notify parties of my reviews and on that occasion, I was overjoyed to be appreciated by Brendan with his thanks via Twitter. I said, although not particularly a fan of Strictly Come Dancing (It’s more girlfriend, Michelle’s thing), I had thoroughly enjoyed it and would return and review next time. And here I am …

We began with The Greatest Showman and from the same movie – Come Alive. This was to be expected as the event itself was titled, Brendan Cole Show Man. What I didn’t anticipate was the immediate appearance of about thirty or so children singing backing (with moves) to several segments of the show, courtesy of Stagecoach Performing Arts Solihull. It’s no secret, I love the inclusion of kids as they are the future. And what a joy it was to see genuinely elated faces with this possibly being the most magical moment of their lives so far and encouraging them to be stars of the future. Well done, Stagecoach.

But back to Brendan …

After that rousing start, we saw the full spectrum of dance from a waltz with the music of Send in the Clowns to a salsa during Despacito. Other personal favourites of mine were Another Day of Sun (Quickstep) and Purple Rain (Contemporary Rumba). However, my top moment was the beautiful Cinderella which is a lovely story dedicated to Brendan’s daughter, Aurelia, and featuring a member of the Stagecoach choir in Violet. What a moment, indeed, for this young lady. Ending the night with a rousing jive was the always popular, Footloose, and not only were feet moving on stage, just about everyone’s in the audience were too.

Supporting Brendan immensely were his team of dancers including the ever-brilliant Crystal Main along with Kallyanne Brown, Alexandra Busheva, Andrea De Angelis, Antonio Careri, Giancarlo Catenacci and Francesco Sasanelli. Musical Director and pianist was Barry Robinson who deserves much credit for merging these art forms with his excellent band which also included violinist, Brigitta Bognar. Again, like my previous Brendan experience the male vocals were delivered in fine form by Iain Mackenzie and complemented superbly this time by Jenna Lee-James.

And it wasn’t just song and dance. Brendan always engages well with the audience and shows just how much his fans mean to him. Of course, there were also mentions of Strictly, a show where (my opinion) Brendan is much missed now. Plus, the obligatory friendly digs at Anton Du Beke. And Brendan’s mum was in the audience too, which was nice.

I will admit, I still don’t often watch Strictly (I prefer The Greatest Dancer), but I do love a great night’s entertainment and Brendan Cole Show Man was certainly that.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

Great Wyrley was the setting for Keeling School of Dance’s showcase of talent. Titled, Dancing Through the Decades, the show was exactly that.

Keeling School of Dance was established in 1934 by Beatrice Keeling at the age of 14, operating from her parents’ house before continuing in the area, finally moving to Aldridge in 1976. Sadly, Miss Keeling passed away in 2014, having taught until 2012. It is great, though, that the school has continued, run by former pupils: Sarah Beckett, Elaine Wigfield, Clare Cooksey and Jane Eardley (whose daughter, Fran Eardley, is also a teacher at the school). Classes begin from age 2 up to advanced level and adult beginners. Now, I’ve a huge fondness for this dance school on two counts. One, it’s where I rehearse every week in my attempts at musical theatre. Two, Keeling is where my mom and dad attended during the 60s and 70s and were rather more proficient at dance than I’ll ever be.

I have a passion for musical theatre and dance features heavily in that. There is also nothing better than seeing youth with its potential for the future. And what talent we saw. Dance is a fantastic medium to develop confidence and skills, all within a friendly environment.

The audience were dazzled by groups of various ages and it was fascinating to witness the skills within each age band. It’s obvious to see, children currently seven and under will in a short time progress to where those eleven and beyond are now. Numbers from The Greatest Showman, Oliver and High School Musical were among nearly fifty performed with excellent choreography and well-chosen music which blended seamlessly.

I can’t praise enough the standards on view from all. I had also a great amount of pride watching the musical theatre group, many of whom did such a fantastic job for me in my 2018 pantomime, Sleeping Beauty, at the same theatre. And it was also particular pleasing to see the innagural star pupil award go to Rosie Harris, who was a pleasure to work with in that same panto of mine. Well done. It’s too long to list everyone on stage, so I’ll settle for a page of the programme.

I can’t recommend Keeling School of Dance enough. Dancing Through the Decades was a fabulous afternoon, and it was the commitment and spectacular performances from all which made this a truly remarkable event.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

I’ll admit it now. I know nothing about dance, as my society’s choreographer will testify. I can’t tell a Cha Cha from a Paso Doble. Therefore, you may wonder how I can comment on and review a dance show? Well, there must be others out there like me, so what’s in a show like this for the uneducated? The answer – plenty of entertainment.

Brendan Cole: All Night Long – Birmingham Symphony Hall – 24 March 2017

So, an evening with Strictly Come Dancing’s, Brendan Cole. We had a spectacular opening of a Samba to the song which titled the show – All Night Long. Then followed the Cha Cha with Love Potion Number 9. I was initially worried that being on a stage and not a dance floor, someone might fall off, which then promptly happened when Mr Cole slid at the end of a number and ended in the lap of a woman in the front row. Mind you, I don’t think she minded.

And it wasn’t just Brendan Cole. He was superbly supported by five dancers who went it alone in such routines like I Can’t Stand the Rain, of which the ladies costumes were, ahem, interesting. Certainly had the few men in the audience captivated.

And that’s another thing. About 90% of the audience were women, and of the males I could see, all were older than me. Now, being the youngest man at a gig isn’t something which happens to me a lot these days, but I didn’t feel left out. A Rumba (Fields of Gold), Quickstep (Nine to Five) and Jive (Tell Her About It). All captivated as did the spectacular Argentine Tango to Skyfall.

In between some routines were non-dance songs from singers and the band, the singers being, Iain Mackenzie and Julie Maguire. Musical arrangements were overseen by pianist, Barry Robinson. The cast of dancers for the tour were: Faye Huddleston, Crystal Main, Matt Harris, Craig Jones, Victoria Burke, Sallyrose Beardall and Michael Johnson.

But it wasn’t all about dancing. On the night, we heard tales of the Strictly show with many of the anecdotes referring to politician, Ed Balls, the surprise novelty hit of the previous series. Also, expected quips about fellow dancer and friend of Cole, Anton Du Beke.

So how did the show satisfy an ignoramus? Well, I loved it, and apart from worrying about the women’s dresses igniting during the Paso Doble, my entertainment lasted all night long.

Brendan Cole: All Night Long – Birmingham Symphony Hall – 24 March 2017

Cheers.

Nick

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