Great dancing that makes you feel alive

Oti Mabuse says The Greatest Dancer is about entertaining and making people at home feel something.
Oti Mabuse says The Greatest Dancer is about entertaining and making people at home feel something.

Contestants on BBC TV show give us more than simple entertainment, writes Clarissa Brown

You have two minutes.

You have just two minutes to convince the audience and viewers that you’re The Greatest Dancer.

How many minutes, hours … years did it take to prepare for that performance, though?

Dancers train for years so that their bodies are capable of eloquence.

When you’re only eight or so, you haven’t had much time yet.

But the dainty youngest girls of Dancepoint don’t let that bother them.

They abandon themselves to their art and then the others join them, swirling, leaping and interweaving to perfection.

One wants to ask them to do it again in slow motion so that the mechanics of the movements can be seen.

Another performance you’ll want to replay slowly is that of Michael & Jowita; their Argentinian tango is brilliant. In every way. Brilliant.

Come to think of it, there’s an idea, BBC – how about inserting a few replays into your show?

Some of the other daring dancers who will take your breath away in season two of the BBC’s talent show The Greatest Dancer are contemporary dance teenager Harrison, the 16 compelling girls of Vale, the nine acrobatic Brothers of Dance, the stunning 24-year-old Ainsley Ricketts, 17-year-old rhythmic gymnastic dancer Hannah, and young dance friends Lily & Joseph (aged 11 and eight, respectively).

It’s wonderful to see so many types of people on the stage; girls and boys, women and men, black, brown and white, young and not-so-young.

Of course, this show is wonderful entertainment. But it’s more than that.

It may inspire a youngster who hasn’t found their passion yet, or further motivate one who already knows they love to dance.

Because there are no restrictions on style – you’ll see Latin, ballroom, jazz, ballet, contemporary, musical theatre, hip-hop, street – the dancers move the way their spirits dictate and the audience sees integrity in motion.

There’s something to learn about every aspect of aspiration: enthusiasm and hope; embracing necessary hard work; dealing with disappointment such as injury or relegation; and finding the determination to try again.

The participants also learn about fitting into society, working with others and complying with the requirements of an organisation.

In this case, the reward is motivating: £50 000 (R980 000) and the chance to perform on the popular celebrity competition show Strictly Come Dancing.

And now for the South African part. D’you know that we’re there? Did you watch season one and see Oti Mabuse among the dance captains?

D’you know that she’s a black South African woman dazzling the world with her moves?

In the most recent series of Strictly Come Dancing, she and her partner won the Glitterball trophy. Mabuse … no, everyone calls her Oti … Oti has been dancing since she was a child and expanded her horizons by going to Germany, where she first participated in a television talent show, Let’s Dance.

This Latin American and ballroom dancer has won many awards locally and in Europe, and continues to make us proud.

She says that, on the show, “it’s not about what you look like or where you’re from, it’s about people who love dancing”. It’s “about entertaining, making people at home feel something”.

Of the contestants, she says that, regardless of who you are, “you are accepted, loved and encouraged. It’s a massive opportunity. We [the dance captains] are there to mentor, encourage and inspire them. In any situation, whether it’s good or bad, they learn something.”

Oti emphasises the importance of work ethic and respect. The BBC looks for hard work, passion and talent: “With art, any performance, any dance … when you are watching a performance, you’re not really watching the person; it’s about how you feel, your own experience through art.”

On the subject of whether ballet training is an essential start to a dance career, she considers it important to try all styles of dance, none being more important than another, and then choose your preferred style.

You should enjoy it, and it makes you healthy and gives you discipline.

She mentions the Dynamic Dads from season one – they enjoyed dancing, and it brought them and their families together.

That’s another thing The Greatest Dancer does – it opens your mind to trying different things.

Among the dancers who Oti would describe as the greatest are her sister Motsi Mabuse, a judge on Strictly Come Dancing; ballroom and Latin American dance champion Tebogo Kgobokoe; and international Latin professional champion Bryan Watson.

They’re all South Africans. Nice.

The other dance captains are singer and dancer extraordinaire Cheryl; actor, dancer and singer Matthew Morrison, who has dazzled on Broadway and has performed in award-winning shows; and Todrick Hall, whose formidable footwork, voice and presence have taken him to Broadway and the West End.

The four dance stars offer their opinions after each performance, and the finalists have the thrill of dancing with them as the competition draws to a climax.

In this era of technological wizardry, it’s refreshing to see passionate people who are aware of their bodies, and are using them to their full extent as a means of expression.

And the enthusiastic response from the audience shows that we have not yet lost ourselves to the machines.

This is real reality, nothing virtual or artificial.

Would you like to join them?

“Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you/ Will you join the dance?” as Lewis Carroll wrote in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865.

Watch the dancing. It doesn’t matter who you are. It’s life being lived to its fullest.

Season two of The Greatest Dancer starts this evening on BBC Brit (DStv channel 120) at 6.59pm. If you miss it, you can catch it tomorrow at 9.03pm.

Brown was a guest of BBC Studios


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