Katie Derham (presenter & dancer), Joanne Clifton, Karen Clifton, Kevin Clifton, Janette Manrara, Giovanni Pernice & Aljaž Škorjanec (dancers)
BBC Concert Orchestra
Jason Gilkison – Choreographer
Reviewed by: Michelle Spiteri
Reviewed: 21 July, 2016
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London
Strictly Come Dancing has reached the Proms and, to assist this unique event, a bigger stage had to be organised. The presence of the familiar glitter-ball added to the sparkle, while the programme matched the theme and the costumes.
It was good to see Katie Derham taking part and also joining the professionals on the dance floor. Unfortunately her Strictly partner Anton duBeke was elsewhere celebrating his birthday, but Katie had Aljaž Škorjanec to fill his shoes and he did so formidably. Both as presenter and performer Katie engaged the audience, not least with If I Can Dream by Walter Earl Brown, a hit for Elvis.
While the BBC Concert Orchestra opened with the Overture to Jule Styne’s Gypsy, one could see Aljaž and Janette Manrara appearing to gasps and applause from the audience, the music complementing the dancers as they took to the stage. The remaining dancers soon joined them.
The BBCCO continued with the ‘Waltz’ from Richard Rodgers’s Carousel, an excellent interpretation of this lovely number as orchestrated by Gavin Sutherland. The following Gymnopédie No.1 (Satie, orchestrated Debussy) continued the waltz theme, with the entrance of Joanne Clifton and Giovanni Pernice bringing gracefulness to the stage, however amusing one may have found the cameraman hurriedly following in their footsteps! The dancers, though, were in perfect harmony with the orchestra.
After a brief conversation with Giovanni, who sounded suitably overwhelmed, the orchestra played the lively ‘Farandole’ from Bizet’s L’Arlésienne music. In contrast a ‘Roaring Twenties Medley’ followed with Janette and Aljaž taking to the floor, starting with ‘Charleston’ and finishing on ‘Happy Feet’ – all carried out with charm as the quick succession of steps was executed meticulously and with real style.
Following the Overture to Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, it was the chance for Katie to relive her Strictly days with new partner Aljaž as they captured the music’s vivacious Viennese spirit. The programme continued with Richard Rodney Bennett’s music for Murder on the Orient Express, then the ‘Malambo’ from the ballet Estancia by Alberto Ginastera (his centenary is this year), traditionally a men-only dance; here Karen and her husband Kevin complemented the fiery Argentinean steps with their creative pasodoble, to our delight.
The second half opened with Katie and Aljaž for a vivacious quickstep from 42nd Street, after which the orchestra gave of its best in two numbers from Khachaturian’s music to Masquerade. Janette and Aljaž returned with John Barry’s Somewhere in Time, all-embracing romanticism. The orchestra then continued with the Cuban rhythms of George Antheil’s Archipelago, pervaded by a Samba beat. In Libertango, Astor Piazzolla fused tango with jazz and, as Len Goodman says, it has to have that “snap, crackle and pop” which Joanne and Giovanni executed with great appeal.
After the heady emotion of the ‘Pas de deux’ from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, the highlight of the evening was the Samba melody of ‘Aquarela do Brasil’ by Ary Barroso – finely executed with the charisma of Karen and Kevin joined by colleagues, the orchestra enhancing the carnival, and then gave a suitably ominous reading of the ‘Ritual Fire Dance’ from Falla’s El amor brujo. The concert ended with a medley from Top Hat by Irving Berlin, in which all dancers reappeared to captivate us with an enchanting ballroom routine, executed with real style and precision to round-off a great evening.