That Alexei Sayle Ballroom Dancing Thing or Everybody Give Three Cheers, Except the BBC

Image by Graham Stratton
Alexei Sayle’s Marxist principles mean he doesn’t like Strictly Come Dancing, and by extension, all ballroom dancing.

Sayle doesn’t like SCD because it’s a dumbed-down popularity contest. This might be fair: the judges do have dancing knowledge, but the public get a say via a phone vote, and on the programme itself there’s lots of other bollocks which has little to do with art or skill, which is why I got bored with SCD.

Alas, Sayle seems to have falsely conflated the whole of ballroom dancing with SCD. tangokitty’s excellent comment at the Guardian points out that this neglects the large number of social dancers. One unfortunate effect of SCD is that it leaves people (including prospective and newbie ballroom dancers) with the impression that true ballroom dancing will culminate in fake tan and sequins.

Sayle likes the freedom of Northern Soul, which isn’t a partner dance, so is an odd choice for comparison with ballroom. There’s a limit to how much you can go crazy on the floor and also keep dancing with another person. (Neither was Nothern Soul “unselfconscious”, according to the Guardian’s expert commenters). Silly Sayle: improvisation and freedom is why lindyhop is better than ballroom, not why Northern Soul is. Naturally, you should also feel free to make up your own reason why ballroom is better than lindy.

Sayle goes on to say that ballroom tango is “robotic”. I say staccato, you say potato: Sayle’s free to prefer chocolate ice cream to strawberry, but it’s not clear what that has to do with our moral obligation to assist in Marxist class war. He adds that the music is terrible, but in fact, SCD’s music for tango (and paso doble) is often the wrong music for the dance, leading to horrors like this. Ballroom can in fact be sexy (previously), although Sayle’s assertion that a partner dance involving a man and a woman is always about sex is problematic and I’m tempted to set the Tumblr SJWs on him til he’s sorry.

tl;dr: Sayle’s at his best when talking about how crappy popular TV is, but knows bugger all about dance and/or is just trolling to drum up publicity for his new show.

Edit: Metafilter has some interesting discussion on the article.

2 Comments on "That Alexei Sayle Ballroom Dancing Thing or Everybody Give Three Cheers, Except the BBC"

  1. This isn’t my field at all, so I may be asking a really silly question, but I was intrigued by the sentence in tangokitty’s comment which contrasted two different kinds of tango by saying that one was extemporaneous whereas the other was improvised. I thought those two words were more or less synonymous. Is there a technical distinction between them (either specific to dance or in general), or was that just a thinko of some sort?


    1. Yes, I wondered about that too. I found the English language stackexchange makes a fine distinction between the two words, but it’s not one I’ve heard used to distinguish dance styles before.

      Northern Soul dancing looks to be “improvised” in the sense of being entirely responsive to the music without known figures/steps/moves. Apparently, Argentine tango does have recognisable figures, and TK should know that, going by their username, so it’s a bit confusing to apply the same word to that dance.

      I guess there’s a scale from contact improv to putting together recognisable figures and also improvising (lindy, say) to only using recognisable figures but making up the ordering of them on the fly (social ballroom, say) and on to doing a routine which never varies (a lot of competitive ballroom and even more the Aussies’ New Vogue stuff). I think Argentine tango is nearer to the contact improv end of that scale than social ballroom, and certainly nearer than competitive ballroom.


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