Strictly Come Dancing… A force for good or bad?!

So it has been well known around the dancing community for a long while that Strictly Come Dancing has been one of the major catalysts in the nation’s new found love for dancing. With class numbers increasing dramatically when the show airs every year ‘The Strictly Period’ is a good time for dancers. But is Strictly starting to have a negative effect on the way we perceive dance classes and in particular salsa?

In 2006 Strictly and salsa itself were riding the crest of a wave, classes booming and figures soaring, with a peak of 13 million viewers switching on to watch the final. At this time Strictly was only in its 3rd year as a show but already on its 4th series. Strictly could do no wrong! Then just as we thought things couldn’t get any better, step up Mark Ramprakash. A man who single-handedly made it cool for men to do salsa. The Holy Grail!!!

The pre dance footage showed Mark in a cool club dancing and having a great time before killing it on the dance floor. I remember walking into school the next day and being like.. ‘You know that dance that you’ve ripped me for doing since I was 14?! Well check this out… pretty awesome huh?!’ …With this came some minor fame and a group of my friends decided salsa was the ‘it’ thing to do!

So what has gone wrong? Well this is what has gone wrong….

Having tried to watch this footage numerous times I still can’t bear watching it to the end… I realise that Strictly is all about entertainment but it also must represent what dancing is about now and not the negative stereotypes thrown at salsa. The constant use of cheesy Ricky Martin tracks and other dreadful choices of music makes me cringe. I physically can’t bare being in the room when salsa is on. I feel as though they are destroying something that I love and feel so passionately about. The dancers always seem awkward dancing salsa and then causes them to do that typical British thing when we feel awkward dancing… pulling stupid faces and making it look like something off a Carry On film. No wonder when I try and get my friends to come dancing they look at me and laugh.

We at Salsa Dance Leeds have worked hard to try and rid ourselves of these stereotypes. As can be seen below the searches for Salsa classes are decreasing and with this we as a community need to look at ourselves and go about changing our outlook on how we will market our community to a new crowd.
But also we rely on shows like Strictly to represent who we are and with the above video any good work that may have been done in winning people over has become undone. I mean who would want to be associated with that?!
Salsa Classes Searches
This is not just a problem with Salsa, speaking to a friend and fellow dance teacher about the show she noted that she was particulary upset with the portrayal of Ballroom dancers on the show. Citing a clip from the current series where one of the celebrities went to a class outside of the dance studio and it was full of people over the age of 60. Though I love this image as it shows dancing engages all ages and you can do it at any period of your life, it is not something that is going to inspire a generation to get into Ballroom dancing.

In summary, despite what it may seem I love Strictly! Nothing else inspires me more to improve as a dancer or gets me excited about teaching the next group of people who have been inspired by watching this show. It has done great things for salsa and dancing on a whole, but it needs to look to the future. We need to start engaging with younger people and getting them involved with partner dancing. As one of the BBC’s number one prime time shows Strictly is on the front line of this push and must put forward a positive representation of dancing. I just hope that someone will come and redeem the pride of salsa with something at least half decent this week or next…
So Strictly bosses if you do read this feel free to come check us out or any of the great nights in and around Leeds, we’d love to have you and show you what what salsa is truly about.

Anyway check us out below and feel free to comment and let us know your thoughts! We’d love to hear from you guys 🙂

About James

James is one of the co-founders and teachers at Salsa Dance Leeds. He regularly writes for the SDL blog, across a selection of salsa topics. Find James on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

3 comments on “Strictly Come Dancing… A force for good or bad?!

  1. Good post James, definitely thought provoking. I love watching Strictly but I totally agree that the show could be alienating the next generation of potential salsa or ballroom dancers. I think it’s hard for younger generations to see the relevance for them and they’re far more likely to seek out a street class somewhere and try and become the next Diversity or Flawless…

  2. I think Strictly shows how celebs of all dancing abilities can learn to dance a variety of ballroom and latin dances and each week we see them improve or not. The Ramprakash effect of seeing a naturally talented dancer perform a dance well is always going to inspire but I think there is always a place for the ‘Richard Arnold’ effect on a Saturday night. What he shows is that dancing can be fun even if you’re not that great and you don’t have to take yourself seriously. For those of us of a certain age – Club Tropicana is a classic and the salsa stereotype is just that – a stereotype – if you really want modern street dancing there are other shows that cater for that…Brucie doing a bit of street…now that would be offputting. I just wish they’d stop the funny joke minifilms and focus on the training techniques…that terrible attempt at ‘entertainment’ cheapens the show and has made me almost always watch it recorded so I can skip through it.

    • As with pretty much any of the shows of this ilk its all about viewing figures. when Strictly started it was all about technique strictly is now all about viewing figures its in a war with all the others and like all the others it has lead to a serious change in how the program is managed.look at xfactor this year thats is all about viewing figures which is actually probably gonna backfire on them .At the end of the day it is very hard to not stereotype if you want a successful tv program people want entertainment at what ever cost sadly. These programs still generate interest as is evident by increased no’s when said shows are on they may come with a slightly diff idea of what salsa etc etc is but how many leave when they have been show the real deal not that many therefore however bad an image they give in our eyes as “salsa dancers” they have still given people the erge to try it !!!

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