Strictly Come Dancing takes a lot of stick from salsa dancers… and I have to hold up my hands on this one. I have been as guilty as any of this. I even started a petition to try and improve the salsa in Strictly!
There are many reasons for salsa dancers to complain. Quite apart from Tess Daly’s mispronunciation of sAlsa as sOlsa, and the various dancers insistence on sticking “the” in front of salsa at every opportunity. These are minor quibbles really, and wouldn’t bother us too much if it wasn’t for the other glaring problems with salsa in the show.
– There is the absolute refusal of the program makers to have any music that even remotely resembles salsa music…
– The seeming complete absence of recognisable salsa moves for more than about 10 seconds of any given routine…
– The ignorance of the judges (specifically the head Judge Len Goodman) of any of the technicalities of salsa, and their continued reference of salsa as ‘just a party dance’ (which it is, but not ‘just’) and ‘not having much technique’ (which it does!).
Because if these points, many more experienced salsa dancers even go so far as to say that salsa should be taken off Strictly!
Putting all of this aside however…
Is Strictly Come Dancing good for salsa?
And I think that overall it is!
The main thing that I love about SCD is the sheer joy that the celebrities always have from dancing. Regardless of if they take to dancing like a duck to water (think Natalie Gumede), or like a duck to oil (think Dave Myers), the joy of dancing shines through. It is this pure passion and joy that I think drives people to get off their couches and try these dances for themselves! In fact, the fact that the celebrities who aren’t as good still have a great time doing it gives hope to the great British public, that they too can have a go!
I really don’t think that it matters that the ‘salsa’ dances that they do bear about as much resemblance to salsa as Vanessa Phelps bears to Abbey Clancey. Most viewers don’t realise that, all they know is that they can see someone who has never danced before in their life, putting on a show, and having a great amount of fun in the meantime!
I have to admit… one of the thinks that first convinced me to take up salsa was watching this performance by Mark Ramprakash back in 2006.
Maybe back then the established salsa dancers thought that was as bad an example of salsa as I consider the recent efforts to be… but that didn’t matter to me!
Really, we should be grateful as a community that SCD continues to support salsa. It is keeping the public perception of salsa current, and provides a continuous stream of new recruits to try dancing ‘like they saw on the telly’!
After that it is just up to us as a community, and the teachers as leaders of that community, to show them that although the stuff that they saw on the telly isn’t really good salsa, that they can have fun, and learn to dance, and learn to love dancing!