Dancing Cheek to Cheek – BBC 4

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The era in which I grew up can’t really be described as a golden age of dance. We’re talking the Time Warp dance, the Kylie Minogue version of The Loco Motion and, most cringeworthily of all, Agadoo. There was even “dancing round your handbag”, but people who did that were looked down on as being very uncool indeed. It was no better when I got a bit older: that was the era of the Whigfield dance and the Macarena. And it was even worse when I was very young – I hate to admit this, but I can still remember all the actions (I hesitate to call them “steps”) to the Birdie Dance.

I always rather envied my grandparents, who grew up at a time when everyone, regardless of their social class, seems to’ve mastered the art of “proper” dancing, and dance halls were the places to go. Last night’s first episode of Dancing Cheek to Cheek: An Intimate Era of Dance went back well before their time, though. Presented by historian Lucy Worsley and Strictly Come Dancing’s Len Goodman, it started off with the seventeenth century – the country dances of the early part of the century, the clampdown on dancing by Oliver Cromwell & co, who considered it sinful, and then the revival of dancing during the Restoration. It then moved on to the eighteenth century, when dancing became a crucial social accomplishment for the upper and upper middle classes, accompanied by a whole load of rules of etiquette and clothing designed more around the dances of the time than any other rules of fashion.

It could and should have been very interesting. Unfortunately, and this sort of thing does seem to happen with practically every single historical programme in which Lucy Worsley’s involved, it just degenerated into a depiction of two ill-matched people dressing up in Georgian clothes and making fools of themselves by trying to do a Georgian dance. It was the sort of thing which might have been a bit of fun to try on a family day out at a stately home, but which just didn’t work ‘n what was supposed to be a historical documentary. Please lose the dumbing down, BBC. You’re more than capable of making excellent historical documentaries which manage quite well to be thoroughly entertaining without including any of this rubbish. Leave the dressing up and messing about out of it in future, please? Thank you!

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